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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Deep Thoughts: Novelty Fatigue

Bill went to the Beermongers' second anniversary bash, rich with rare specialty beers, and was surprised at how low the attendance was. He posed an open question (with probes, like any good researcher should) about why that would be. With 24 hours of consideration under my belt, I have a hypothesis: we're suffering from novelty fatigue.

Used to be (like, five years ago) that specialty, one-off beers were rare birds. Most breweries hadn't started a barrel-aging program, and seasonal releases were good for variety, but they weren't particularly exotic beers. When a brewery did release something strange and special, beer geeks flocked to check it out. Beer fests accelerated the phenomenon by giving breweries an opportunity to highlight rarities and special beers. Breweries started developing barrel programs.

Fast forward to 2011. There has been an event like the one at Beermongers nearly every weekend of the spring and summer (sometimes more than one), and breweries are the font of dozens of one-off beers every month. The thing is, mostly these appeal to beer geeks. And, while there are lots of beer geeks, there aren't an infinite supply. We can only drink so many new beers. I know from my own habits that this is a process of selection. Devonshire White Ale, yes. Double gin-barrel aged wit, no. This fest, yes; that one, no. It's not that I'm not interested in all these beers and fests, it's that I can't enjoy them all. So I skip some--and in truth, most.

One other observation. While I do like one-off beers, I actually like beers that stay around even more. I like to get to know a beer over time, and I still mix up new beers with old standbys in my rotation. When I try new beers, there's something satisfying in knowing that it won't be the last time I get to drink it. One-offs have their place, but ephemera begs to be considered dispensable, and I succumb to that impulse.


  1. "If a little is good, A lot must be better," doesn't work for beer, just like everything else.

    The landslide is coming. Lets see who comes out from under the rubble.

  2. While in general I agree about event exhaustion, I think the sparse attendance at this particular event was due to:
    1. 93F weather makes going to the beach/river/coast alot more appealing than standing in a parking lot
    2. MFNW and TBA events all weekend left people needing a recovery day on Sunday
    3. There was a pretty good crowd on Saturday, and not many of the kegs changed so there wasn't a huge reason to return for day 2.

  3. Totally agree about liking beers that stick around longer. The whole ultra-rare beer thing got old after I had tried about 75% of the beers on the BeerAdvocate top 100.

    It just isn't worth the digging anymore when there is so much good beer to be had easily. Bragging rights got old very fast as well.

  4. I wish I lived near a bar that held rare/specialy beer releases so often! :-) While I too see the benefit to year-round beers, I think its these one-offs that get non-craft drinkers attention.

    In my office I am the only craft beer drinker and I regularly post on Facebook and Twitter what it is that I'm enjoying at that moment. I can speak from experience that its the specialties, collaborations, and rarities that people are asking me about the following day and usually followed up by a "I'd like to try that sometime."

    They may end up hating it, as the palate needs to adjust to sours, DIPAs, etc, but at least the interest is piqued. A co-worker took interest one time after she heard I was drinking Abita's Strawberry Harvest. She was so curious at the idea of a strawberry beer that she asked me to take her to our local brewpub to try some of these other "strange brews."

    Us beer nerds are a finnicky bunch and the rate that craft beer is growing isnt really helping. Trends come and go month by month and what we complain about is a product of this explosive growth and companies trying to profit off of it. Give me my Allagash Frankenstein (aged on bugs) and I'll gladly follow it up with their Wit.

    Cant we have the best of both worlds?

  5. The heat. Definitely the heat. If they held it this weekend, they'd get more people attending. Though Biketobeerfest is this weekend, so maybe not (though they are close to each other, so maybe it would have helped them out).

  6. @Shawn: Perhaps somewhat ridiculously, Beermongers *is* holding an event this weekend on the same day as BikeToBeerFest. It's a -- wait for it -- bicycle scavenger hunt.

  7. It's event fatigue. When you're getting a daily barrage of special releases and events, it eventually wears you out. This social media blitz is a thing to behold.

    This summer has been a blur, and I attended a fraction of the countless great events. I'm okay with things slowing down a bit for fall. Not much chance of that, I suppose. It's crazy.

  8. We must be getting close to the point where any given weekend from Spring to early Fall is more likely than not to have at least one beer event scheduled. In Portland, a beer event is far from "can't miss."