Craft Brewing Is Going Crazy for Sweet Beer

Introducing Pintlandia, our new beer column.

Craft beer used to be the province of D&D nerds and the future Zuckerbergs of the world, excited to have discovered something both delicious and niche. Eccentricity and geeking out over yeast strains and hop varieties was a plus.

But the extreme beer trend of high-alcohol barleywines, bourbon barrel-aged stouts and triple IPAs made craft beer cool for bros who used to sip on Long Island iced teas. This broadening of the craft beer world helped the reception of the juicy-citrusy-tropical hazy New England-style IPAs welcomed into Portland via Northeast Alberta Street's Great Notion Brewing. They eschew IPAs' traditional bitterness for sweet fruit juice flavors, and led the way toward sweet flavors not normally associated with beer.

The beer world has lately been overrun by novelty-seeking fads that have caused both beer traditionalists and outsiders to wonder what the fuck is going on. But two of the biggest ones have a common element: The beer is getting sweeter.

Dessert beers, also called pastry stouts, are not new. But they are having a moment. These often (but not always) dark beers are made to taste like other popular treats such as desserts, candies and ice cream. Again, Great Notion Brewing is in on the fad, pushing a Peanut Brother imperial milk stout that tastes like sweetened peanut butter, while Eugene's Claim 52 made an IPA called Jolly AF brewed with sugar cookies.

That Claim 52 IPA is also called a milkshake IPA because it was made using lactose—sugar derived from milk that is unfermentable and thus adds a sweetness and slick creamy mouthfeel. Not only are milkshake IPAs cloudy, they're also even sweeter and fruited. It's as if dessert beer and hazy IPA had a baby with the worst attributes of both. Still, if you want to give them a try for yourself, check out Riverbend Brewing's grocery-store beer Hawaiian Crunk (made with passionfruit, orange and guava) or Everybody's Brewing's Takes 2 to Mango.

Finally, there's glitter beer, which is apparently what happens when you put breweries in close proximity to strip clubs—the brewing equivalent of unicorn desserts. Technically, edible glitter should add nothing to the experience except catch your eye and leave some sparkles in your teeth. Look for Sasquatch Brewing's Gold Dust Woman, or find Glitter Bomb Session IPA at Loowit Brewing in the 'Couv on May 10.

My suspicion is that the novelty of these beers will wear off pretty quickly. I'm not saying they can't be fun, but I am also worried craft beer is jumping the shark by brewing for an audience who normally would be enjoying a cotton candy-flavored vodka. Like those nightclub liquors, many of these "craft" beers are using artificial flavorings and extracts—the absence of which was the exact sort of thing that used to distinguish craft brewing from the megabreweries. I remember Arnold Schwarzenegger's wise words: "Milk is for babies. When you grow up, you have to drink beer."

Now excuse me while I sip on my kettle-soured strawberry gose while yelling at the kids to get off my lawn.

Pintlandia is a biweekly beer column. Ezra Johnson-Greenough is a beer geek, artist and festival organizer with a semi-professional drinking problem.

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