We’ve got extreme sports, extreme makeovers, and now: extreme beer.
A six pack for over 90 bucks? A beer you can only buy on one day a year? A stout with a dizzying 50 percent alcohol? These examples — and many more — are just a few of the mug-tipping exploits of extreme-beer brewing, the latest craze to hit the craft beer market.
“The guy who really coined the term was Sam Calagione, the owner and brewer of Delaware-based craft brewery, Dogfish Head,” explains Mark Zappasodi, a hop farmer in Merrimac, Mass. “He started taking huge risks with beers, beyond what people were doing on the small scale. He was doing it on a large scale on the East Coast. He was one of the first here to stick his head out and do something different than others had been doing,”
So what makes a beer extreme? Simply put, it’s a brew that pushes brewing beyond the normal parameters of your average ale. “Winemakers might make 40 wines across 40 vintages – that sucks! Your entire life you might have only 40 chances to get it right,” reasons Dave Flaherty, beer director for Hearth restaurant in New York City. “But brewers can be more like chefs and brew every day; they can make 365 different beers in a year. And one thing that’s happening: Brewing is looking to be more progressive.”