When I do I sometimes post them here; it’s a way to help balance the stream of news posts that you see here promoting the new wares of craft breweries. These private conversations are probably common but public statements are usually guarded behind political correctness (generally wise for anyone operating or representing a business in the year, 2011). So this blog remains remains pretty imbalanced for the most part…
The snippet below is one of the only instances of candor that I’ve seen recently. It comes courtesy of an interview with Salem Beer Works’ Head Brewer, Nate Heck at the Clown Shoes Beer blog back in August. Though it was published a few months earlier, this follows the same theme as a blog post from Four Peaks Brewing published recently. It’s presented here only for awareness and discussion and doesn’t represent my opinion one way or the other…
With the inevitable tipping point somewhere off in the distance, I can’t help but wonder whether there will be more public statements by brewers that not all is peachy in the world of craft beer. I encourage you to read the rest of the interview and comments at the original link.
You call yourself a bit of a cynic in regards to the craft beer industry. Why? BEGIN RANT:
It’s really hard to answer this question, for some reason. It feels a bit like trying to reply to “Have you stopped beating your wife?” But, I’ll give it a shot, nonetheless. I have spent most of my adult life making beer. I love what I do and of course, I love beer. However, it seems like over the past few years, something has changed and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what it is exactly.
I guess I’m cynical because I see a lack of appreciation for the history of brewing. Lots of people seem to think that craft brewing started when Sam Calagione started DFH, and believe that “Beer Wars” are the gospel truth about the beer industry and that Stone Brewing doesn’t market their beer.
And that is also something I’m cynical about…the evangelical aspect of craft beer. People feel they have to convert the unwashed Bud drinking masses. Beer is not some binary thing. You can enjoy an ice cold PBR AND like Russian Imperial Stouts…at the same time! *Gasp!* The blasphemy!!!
There’s also a nouveau riche thing going on with craft beer. It seems to be all about ostentatious display of IBU’s, ABV, etc., etc. It’s the whole Double Black Barrel-Aged IPA, beer mad lib thing that is completely boring to me. Communities like Beer Advocate advocate that phenomenon more than they advocate the full spectrum of beer appreciation. And just like the arms race brewers have to out “extreme” each other, dudes who review beers do the same thing. No longer is it good enough to say that a beer has a citrusy aroma or a grapefruit hop nose. Now, it’s grapefruit “pith.” Really?! Pith?! Come on….save the pretentious “notes of vine-ripened figs, off-set by a pumpernickel bread crust and grapefruit pith” for the wine world! It’s friggin’ beer, people! ”I hand wash my chalice with spring water, an Indian cotton wash cloth and handmade soap and and store it on a pillow made of the finest crushed velvet between my tasting sessions.” Beer is social and beer is fun and sometimes drinking one out of a red plastic cup is perfectly awesome!
I’m also cynical about the whole “celebrity brewer” thing. And I know quite a few wanna-be celebrities in this area and they make my stomach turn and my eyes roll!
The whole beer-food pairing thing is pretty lame, as well. Beer isn’t wine! Don’t have a geuze with nachos. “Ah…but I find that the notes of figs and grapefruit pith are the perfect complement to a braised leg of lamb and fingerling potatoes.” Give me a break… As a pub brewer, I suppose I should be more into the pairing thing, but I think it’s pretentious, ridiculous and adds nothing to the beer culture, except for pushing it ever closer to the wine world.
Let’s see…what else am I cynical about? Craft fans seem to ascribe a false virtue to the small brewers and false vice to the big brewers out there. We laud some brewers’ success and vilify others for theirs. And the argument usually, and ignorantly, falls along the lines of “the big guys don’t care about beer, only profit.” And, “I know Sam Calagione and/or Greg Koch makes beer because he’s passionate about it.” Try opening a brewery in San Diego or Wilmington and see just what a couple of swell guys Sam and Greg are! Craft fans have taken up the mantel that they are fighting the big guys out there. In reality, however, Mercury Brewing is competing more fiercely with the likes of Wachusett than they are with Anheuser-Busch. But, David versus Goliath is a much easier and intriguing tale to tell if you’re a small brewer, even if it’s not entirely correct.