If given the opportunity to drink beer 40 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago or today, I would choose today every single time. Our choices right now are an embarrassment of riches. Sure, some beers are way overboard, but please don’t talk about the “good ol’ days of craft beer”. We are in them, and they are getting better all the time. Drinking craft beer isn’t about fitting in or IPA’s equaling Bud. People drink craft beer because, for the most part, craft beer is reallly #!!*^!! good. I agree completely. I also think beer quality is higher than ever. There's more knowledge easily available now than ever, and more quality equipment (to my limited knowledge). At this point, even homebrewers have access to professional beer analysis, ibu measurements, water analysis, etc. There are homebrewers that have and test for DO (far and few between, but that would've been unimaginable 10 years ago). More breweries does mean there's more of a spread in quality, but I do believe the median quality is higher than it's ever been.
You know, Andy Rooney never understood Rock and Roll.
I do think access has changed in mid level markets as the big boys (SN, New Belgium, Goose Island, etc.) push other breweries out on price/shelf space. On the other hand, go into any GAS STATION in Wisconsin and you can find 2-3 New Glarus offerings (No IPAs).
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One the one hand, I agree with all of these points to some degree. I love hop bomb IPA's, and if I'm bringing a sixer to a buddy's house or going out to eat there is no shortage of decent-to-excellent local, regional, or national options to choose from. There are countless nano breweries in my area, and the majority are producing good beer.
On the flip side, the signal-to-noise ratio is pretty high. There are too many new breweries to keep track of, and the majority of them are just selling another "me too" IPA unless I go to the brewery and drink on-site. And many beers are one-offs or seasonal. When I first started drinking Microbrew in the 90's, there were fewer breweries, and they almost always had a diverse, stable line of beers available. It was easy to find your favorite beers, styles, and breweries, even though there were fewer stores that sold a wide selection of craft beer. I like trying new beers or breweries from time to time, but now it seems like the majority of the time that's all I have to choose from.
So many of the beers and breweries that I grew up on, are either long gone or a chore to find fresh examples. For example, Otter Creek was my favorite brewery until Harpoon took over. I could drink their Copper Ale, Pale Ale and Stovepipe Porter year-round, I looked forward to their Octoberfest each fall, and I could find them cold and fresh locally. Their current beer list on their website consists solely of 4 year-round IPA's and one seasonal sour. Gone are the ubiquitous amber ales, porters and APA's that used to be a staple of every brewery's lineup.
I guess the most telling thing is my own homebrewing. When I started 10 years ago, I brewed IPA's more than half the time. NEIPA's weren't all over the place, and I was chasing something similar. Fast forward 7 or 8 years, and now I rarely brew IPA. I still enjoy IPA and drink it just as often, it's just that that almost every commercial beer I drink is an IPA. My homebrewing is mainly bitters, brown ales and lagers. It's not necessarily that I prefer those styles, but it's mainly because I'm always drinking IPA's everywhere else.