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Extreme Beer

by: BeerAdvocate on 10-08-2003
Often style defying - from beers with alcohol contents that rival spirits, beers aged in bourbon barrels, beers made with enough hops to rip your tongue from your mouth, beers from yore and beers employing exotic ingredients that make one ponder - there's a bold new concept of brewing in America, and it's called Extreme Beer.

Extreme literally means that which exceeds the ordinary, usual or expected. And as such is a great way to describe these types of brews when approaching them from a mainstream point of view, where most beers that aren't fizzy, yellow and bland are indeed extreme to mainstream palates. And despite the media's recent usage of the term as a buzzword to solely describe high alcohol beers, many brewers and consumers have embraced Extreme Beer as something that pushes the boundaries of brewing and the palates of beer lovers.

We see it as the continuing evolution of the US beer industry and perhaps the second shot heard round the world for the American craft beer revolution. It's not just a pissing contest to see who can make the world's strongest beer; it's a movement - a movement to showcase the craft and how complex and versatile beer can actually be.

What are we talking about?

- Beers made with no hops but plenty of heather and lavender.
- Beers aged in Jack Daniels oak barrels with an alcohol by volume of 20 percent or more.
- Traditional beer styles, but with double, triple or more hops or malt.
- Beers brewed with chocolate, peanut butter or espresso beans.
- Strong Porters brewed with Chinese candied ginger.
- Ales brewed with oysters or seaweed.
- Sharp tasting beers inoculated with various wild bacteria and yeast strains.

These aren't fancy imports from faraway lands, but rather handcrafted examples of beer being brewed right here in the US. They are highly artisanal and diverse, obtainable in many markets, and they tweak the minds and palates of not only beer drinkers, but appreciators of wine and spirits - a positive crossover conversion for the beer industry.

And no, this is not a new beer trend. The concept of Extreme Beer, although new to many, has actually been around for quite a few years. Although it's been documented that Jim Koch of the Boston Beer Co. first used the term to describe the release of Sam Adams Triple Bock in 1994 (then the strongest beer at 17.5% ABV), home- and pro-brewers have been testing the limits of their craft since the '70s. We can only assume that adventurous brewers have been doing the same since the discovery of brewing beer.

To bring more awareness to Extreme Beer, on January 29, 2005, we'll be hosting the BeerAdvocate.com Extreme Beer Fest at the Cyclorama (Boston Center for the Arts). The day will include two sessions (1-5pm and 6-10pm), guest speakers, thoughtful food, and plenty of beer education. Checkout beeradvocate.com/fests/ for more info.

Respect beer.
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