Does it matter if a style/variety/type of beer vanishes, does it matter if, say, Burton is no longer made or if it becomes known under another name? Do we ask if this beer in the glass is really a Burton or is it something else — and should we care? Can one feel a sense of sadness if a cherished style of beer is subverted and converted into something else and how would this metamorphosis take place?
A brown ale becomes a mild and then goes on to be a rootless subject in the world of beer, wandering and clambering around the steps of this world, an Ancient Ale Mariner, an eternal refugee from its original identity, unknowing, bellowing its anguish and throwing no shadow when the sun comes up. Gone before we knew it was going, expect it’s not really gone, it’s invisible and might as well be gone.
But let’s have context: it’s not the tragedy of the fall of the African elephant or the end of a tribe whose language might have turned a key and opened a door onto the origins of early human discourse. Its passing is rarely noted by many. However, on the other hand the end of a style/variety/type of beer is the end of one small part of the way we map the lives we live, the way we order the food and drink and place it in the place from whence it came, the way we give our food and drink an identity, a relationship with a city, a town, a region, a country. London and Porter, Burton and IPA, pale lager beer and Pilsen; or maybe it’s a history with which a beer style can be associated, such as IPA and the Victorian age, Porter and Georgian London. So all of this does and should matter.
Sure, the death of a style/variety/type of beer is part of the forces that the market thrives on and a death in the family can come from no one wanting to drink a beer anymore, be seen with it, quit of it, but styles/varieties/types of beer (or whatever you want to call a variation in the beer brewed) bounce back, reanimate, reappear, and take a life out of the pages in the book that Porter wrote.
And with this in mind I take a break from an article I’m writing about the English-style IPA and what I see as its submersion in a sea of bright coloured, boldly hopped, briskly carbonated, Carmen Miranda-ed and occasionally unbalanced beers that call themselves IPA. I like subversion in beer (and submersion), but I also have a fondness for the English-style IPA and would hate to see it go the way of Burton, but as we see with Porter and IPA, yesterday never really dies.