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Would beers from the past be highly regarded today?

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Cass
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Would beers from the past be highly regarded today?

Post by Cass »

Here's something I think about from time to time but not sure I ever brought it up on the forum.

Would beers we enjoyed in the past that are no longer around be thought of as highly today?

Here's an example. During my formative beer years in the 90s, Niagara Eisbock was considered one of Canada's best beers. Hard to find, expensive (for the time), extra strength, nicely packaged, all that. And I remember loving it. And even more so the "Eisbock Gold" version that came in a fancy box. But sometimes I wonder if it stood out in the context of not much around, or if it was truly good.

Same thing with the Upper Canada beers of those days - I have a fondness for that slate at the time - Rebellion, True Bock, Dark, etc. but again wonder if they would hold up today or if I liked them just because they were different at the time. The original Denison's Weissbier is one that I think is safe to say would still be amazing if it was still around.

There are some beers out there that have stood the test of time - SNPA comes to mind - which makes me think that a good beer is a good beer. Others such have Tank House are recent enough to fairly confidently say they would have held up, but as talked about in another thread the beer has definitely changed post-acquisition.

Kind of a fun thing to ponder!

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Post by Craig »

There are plenty of examples of beers that have been largely unchanged for decades that are still excellent. Heck, many of my favourite beers fall in that category. Rochefort 10 is and always will be outstanding. So anything made back then that stacked up against those things I think you have to conclude would still be highly regarded. Denison's Weis is a great example of that. So for traditional styles, I'm giving this a general Yup.

But modern styles? That's a very different question. Even a beer like SNPA, which is still very good, I think has lost a lot of it's shine compared to when it was newly released. These days it's still a good beer, but it's not exactly something people line up for. I don't actually know, but I suspect sales were disappointing when it was brought back to Ontario a few years back. I figure this is because the modern styles have grown and changed over time. The standard for "hoppy" has changed dramatically since SNPA was first released, and the general standards for brewing PAs and IPAs has gone up across the board. SNPA is still good, but it's closer to a baseline for a good Pale Ale now, where it used to be the gold standard. And that's SNPA, other pale ales from the time I think probably don't hold up that well.

Tankhouse, for example, I don't think would stand up at all. Sure it changed over the years, but I don't ever remember a version of it that I think would stack up to my modern expectations from the style. If I blind tasted it today, I think I would end up calling it muddied and overly sweet. It's gone from something I'd be happy to see on tap in a restaurant to something I will begrudgingly settle for if I'm stuck in a Labatt Bar.

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Post by matt7215 »

Craig wrote: Thu Jun 30, 2022 9:12 am There are plenty of examples of beers that have been largely unchanged for decades that are still excellent. Heck, many of my favourite beers fall in that category. Rochefort 10 is and always will be outstanding. So anything made back then that stacked up against those things I think you have to conclude would still be highly regarded. Denison's Weis is a great example of that. So for traditional styles, I'm giving this a general Yup.

But modern styles? That's a very different question. Even a beer like SNPA, which is still very good, I think has lost a lot of it's shine compared to when it was newly released. These days it's still a good beer, but it's not exactly something people line up for. I don't actually know, but I suspect sales were disappointing when it was brought back to Ontario a few years back. I figure this is because the modern styles have grown and changed over time. The standard for "hoppy" has changed dramatically since SNPA was first released, and the general standards for brewing PAs and IPAs has gone up across the board. SNPA is still good, but it's closer to a baseline for a good Pale Ale now, where it used to be the gold standard. And that's SNPA, other pale ales from the time I think probably don't hold up that well.

Tankhouse, for example, I don't think would stand up at all. Sure it changed over the years, but I don't ever remember a version of it that I think would stack up to my modern expectations from the style. If I blind tasted it today, I think I would end up calling it muddied and overly sweet. It's gone from something I'd be happy to see on tap in a restaurant to something I will begrudgingly settle for if I'm stuck in a Labatt Bar.
Craig is spot on

Also, weve completely lost some styles of beer in the current beer landscape. modern Berliner Weisse and Gose are nothing like the styles were traditionally, and they didnt change for the better

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Post by seangm »

matt7215 wrote: Thu Jun 30, 2022 10:01 am
Craig wrote: Thu Jun 30, 2022 9:12 am There are plenty of examples of beers that have been largely unchanged for decades that are still excellent. Heck, many of my favourite beers fall in that category. Rochefort 10 is and always will be outstanding. So anything made back then that stacked up against those things I think you have to conclude would still be highly regarded. Denison's Weis is a great example of that. So for traditional styles, I'm giving this a general Yup.

But modern styles? That's a very different question. Even a beer like SNPA, which is still very good, I think has lost a lot of it's shine compared to when it was newly released. These days it's still a good beer, but it's not exactly something people line up for. I don't actually know, but I suspect sales were disappointing when it was brought back to Ontario a few years back. I figure this is because the modern styles have grown and changed over time. The standard for "hoppy" has changed dramatically since SNPA was first released, and the general standards for brewing PAs and IPAs has gone up across the board. SNPA is still good, but it's closer to a baseline for a good Pale Ale now, where it used to be the gold standard. And that's SNPA, other pale ales from the time I think probably don't hold up that well.

Tankhouse, for example, I don't think would stand up at all. Sure it changed over the years, but I don't ever remember a version of it that I think would stack up to my modern expectations from the style. If I blind tasted it today, I think I would end up calling it muddied and overly sweet. It's gone from something I'd be happy to see on tap in a restaurant to something I will begrudgingly settle for if I'm stuck in a Labatt Bar.
Craig is spot on

Also, weve completely lost some styles of beer in the current beer landscape. modern Berliner Weisse and Gose are nothing like the styles were traditionally, and they didnt change for the better
When the LCBO brought in Ritterguts Gose a couple years back it was almost a revelation compared to the tangy fruit juices that are passed off as gose these days. I'd say to a degree we're losing proper west coast IPAs to the haze and juice craze, and I find even some of the mainstays like Boneshaker have had their hop profiles softened and seem to be a more contemporary light colour. Luckily there's been a bit of a resurgence and I've seen more west coasts that taste like I remember, but they're often one-offs.

Tankhouse is/was definitely the big one for me that hasn't held up. Mill Street was my first foray into craft some 15ish years ago and I remember it being almost a revelation. I'd gained a taste for Belgian beers by that point, but that was my first foray into hoppy North American styles.

I'd be curious to revisit a lot of the highly regarded US beers too. I used to go down to Buffalo a fair bit before we had the variety we have now, but haven't done so for years. Alesmith IPA, Green Flash, Bell's Two Hearted, Sierra Nevada Torpedo all come to mind, those were favourites of mine back in the day. Granted these all still exist, now I'm trying to think of some old favourites that aren't around anymore. Denison's is a good example, I think it'd still hold up since I still like Side Launch Wheat.

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Post by Craig »

I just happen to have had a Two Hearted in the last month or so, and it's still great. I do wonder if it's been tweaked a little bit though, it didn't quite have the hop bite I remember from many moons ago. That could just be me and my memory, of course. I wonder how it's rep is holding up in the US, or how it would do introduced here? I suspect it's faring not that differently than SNPA, still a great beer but not the standout it used to be. I had a Side Launch Wheat yesterday, still terrific if you get it fresh. Has that recipe been tweaked? I have no clue.

I agree so much about Gose and Ritterguts in particular. It was so nice to have that around, I hope it comes back. These days I can't tell the difference between a Gose and these quickie kettle sours that everyone is making. We've talked about those before, but let's just say that's not a compliment to the local variants of the style.

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Post by BartOwl »

I agree with much that has been said here. Regarding Canadian beer, we had some good ones in days gone by (Dragon's Breath Pale Ale, Gritstone, Conners Best Bitter, ....). However, I remember that the now dead famous beer author Michael Jackson (not the singer) never gave Canada a five star beer. At the time, he was probably right to do so. Nowadays, we would probably score some five stars for some of our better brews.

The Europeans have been brewing consistently up to five star beers, for a long time now. So, I think the situation is different in beer countries like Belgium, Germany, Czech, UK, etc. Their higher quality has been more stable over a longer period of time.

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Post by S. St. Jeb »

BartOwl wrote: Thu Jun 30, 2022 7:06 pm I agree with much that has been said here. Regarding Canadian beer, we had some good ones in days gone by (Dragon's Breath Pale Ale, Gritstone, Conners Best Bitter, ....). However, I remember that the now dead famous beer author Michael Jackson (not the singer) never gave Canada a five star beer. At the time, he was probably right to do so. Nowadays, we would probably score some five stars for some of our better brews.

The Europeans have been brewing consistently up to five star beers, for a long time now. So, I think the situation is different in beer countries like Belgium, Germany, Czech, UK, etc. Their higher quality has been more stable over a longer period of time.
LOL, you beat me to it. Gritstone and Connors both came to my mind. I had forgotten about Dragon's Breath, but liked it too.

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Post by S. St. Jeb »

I have often thought about this in the reverse sense. What beers are there today that are fine, but don't necessarily stand out. But had they been available 10 or more years ago would have blown you away.

Consider IPAs for which there are sooooo many available today, and in a few different sub-styles. The choice is huge. It's not unusual for me to try a new one, and while I like it fine, I am not left with any unique memory. But had I been able to try the same beer a few years ago, I'm sure I would have been amazed.

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Post by Cass »

BartOwl wrote: Thu Jun 30, 2022 7:06 pm However, I remember that the now dead famous beer author Michael Jackson (not the singer) never gave Canada a five star beer. At the time, he was probably right to do so. Nowadays, we would probably score some five stars for some of our better brews.
I used to analyze Michael Jackson's beer ratings guide and imagine about all the stuff to try around the world when I was younger. I cherished those guides, and still look at the ones that I have, the 4th and 6th editions.

You're right in that memory - Canada had no four star beers. The 4th edition gave 4 stars to Big Rock's XO Lager, which was most certainly a typo. Both the 4th and 6th gave a 3->4 star rating to Niagara's Eisbock, the only beer that came close.
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A bit of speculation here, but in the special thanks in the book lists Stephen Beaumont - I wonder if he had a hand in not giving a perfect score from anyone in Canada. He was pretty vocal about the quality of the beer in Canada being sub par back then.

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Post by S. St. Jeb »

To the original question "Would beers we enjoyed in the past that are no longer around be thought of as highly today?"

I've been enjoying craft beer to some degree or another since it first became available in Ontario with Brick Lager. (yes, it's true, I started drinking beer when I was two years old :D ) I remember it having an enjoyable bitterness that wasn't found in mainstream beer at the time. How would I like it today? Impossible to say, of course. I'm sure I would still find it good, but it certainly wouldn't be as unique.

I had a bit of a renaissance in focusing on craft beer around maybe 2006/2007. One thing that triggered that was going to a party and having Tankhouse. That beer has been commented on a lot already and I agree the version of it that has been available for the last 10 years or more doesn't match with my memory of first having it.

Also around that time, I made a stop at Scotch Irish / Heritage when they were in Carleton Place. I'm sure you can search this forum and find negative comments about them as they had some problems with packaging and keeping the beer from spoiling, but I must say I really liked every single beer I had from them. Again, part of this was because they were new and different, so it's hard to say how much I would like them now, but it sure would be nice to try them again. Are you listening Kichesippi? You must still have the recipes.

As I was writing this, one other beer came to mind that had an impact when I first had it many years ago, and that was Neustadt 10W30. I think they still make it; I'll have to look for it sometime.

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Post by Cass »

S. St. Jeb wrote: Fri Jul 01, 2022 9:15 am I have often thought about this in the reverse sense. What beers are there today that are fine, but don't necessarily stand out. But had they been available 10 or more years ago would have blown you away.
Totally agree - a bunch of years ago before the beer revolution here I used to drive to Buffalo regularly to get stuff like HopDevil, and when 60 Minute IPA came out here it was a sensation. It was always puzzling why nobody (and I don't think that's an exaggeration, nobody) did anything similar, b/c if they did it would be huge. Now there's a million IPAs virtually indistinguishable from each other.

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Post by Craig »

I got some 10W30 not that long ago:
Craig wrote: Wed Dec 22, 2021 4:05 pm I snagged a 10w30 (and a 666) for old times sake when I was in the LCBO recently. I wonder if they've tweaked this over the years? It's pretty darn good, I could drink more of these.
I went in with muted expectations but came away very pleased.

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Post by Tapsucker »

S. St. Jeb wrote: Fri Jul 01, 2022 9:10 am
LOL, you beat me to it. Gritstone and Connors both came to my mind. I had forgotten about Dragon's Breath, but liked it too.
+1 on the Gritstone and Conners Bitter. Also the aforementioned early Upper Canada efforts. I also used to really enjoy the Formosa Springs draft lager.

It would be pretty hard to tell if any of these, brewed to their original recipes, would be considered as competitive today. I suspect they would. Especially in the light that so much of the craft beer offerings have trended into gimmicky adjuncts, reducing the number of solid non-goofy beers to compare with.

I think a good bellwether would be Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It seems just as good and modern today as it did decades ago. From my recollection, there has been no change or possibly such slow incremental change I didn't notice. I drink it quite often when in the US as it tends to be a widely available option in 'non-craft' bars and restaurants.
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Post by Wheatsheaf »

matt7215 wrote: Thu Jun 30, 2022 10:01 am Also, weve completely lost some styles of beer in the current beer landscape. modern Berliner Weisse and Gose are nothing like the styles were traditionally, and they didnt change for the better
I had the same thought when I started reading this thread. I'm sure I've said this before, but Schultheiss Berliner Weisse--the best of the two remaining 'original' examples--blew my mind when I had it. Supposedly rarely exported, and uncommon in Germany itself (or Berlin, even) it inexplicably showed up at the LCBO 20 years ago. Nothing I've had since has come close to that beer, not even in the same ballpark.
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Post by BartOwl »

I remember going to a home brew conference with Stephen Beaumont and Michael Jackson were guest speakers there. (I got to meet both of them later on.) As I recall, Stephen mentioned at the time (in the 90s), Canada had a twice bigger per capita craft beer market than the states. This has of course changed since then, but I bet it was because the price differential between macro and micro beer was smaller in Canada, due to a number of reasons. I think this is why we also got some more mediocre beers for a while, since the price gap wasn't so big you could justify selling a mediocre beer at a micro price point. Ever since then, we've been playing catch up to the innovation south of the border. Is there a uniquely Canadian beer style, that we have a world class example of?

Cass, thanks for reminding me that MJ used a four star system and not a five, as I said. I still have those old books too.

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