Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why the Craft Beer Community is Heading in the Wrong Direction

I took this picture in the historic Miller pub after touring the Miller brewery and cellars on Miller street in Milwaukee, WI.

Before I drop my unpopular rant let me clarify a few points.

  1. I love craft (anything), if you are putting time, thought, and skill into making anything that is awesome keep doing it. Whether it is craft beer, knit dick socks, or engine tuning... more power to you. 
  2. I am an amateur homebrewer, and I don't make great beer. 
  3. I enjoy drinking wine (any and all of it) 
  4. I have met some really awesome (actually mostly awesome) people through both communities.
5 years ago I was fearful that the craft beer community would pick up some of the negative points of the wine community:
  1. Inaccessibility and exclusion due to high prices and rarity
  2. Snobbishness towards those with different subjective tastes
  3. Bandwagoning (Merlot? really? Pinot Noirs are so in this year!) 
  4. Intimidating for newbies (wait, is the Riesling sweeter than a Chardonnay? or the other way? If I ask they are going to think I'm dumb... I'll just order whatever and just drink what they bring. ) 
And fuck me sideways with a growler; the beer community has done those exact 4 things.

These beer snobs are killing me.

Scenario 1:
Normal Human: Hey, I'm at this BBQ drinking Miller Lite! It's hot outside today, huh?
Typical Beer Snob: OMGWWTBBQ how can you drink that PISS, I would literally rather drink piss than than American adjunct lager you are enjoying. Don't you feel better about life now that I have told you what to like? You're welcome. 

Scenario 2:
Typical Beer Snob at gathering: What?! you only have Bud Light? You have good food, why not good beer! I cannot drink this, I'd rather pout in the corner with a diet cola and tell everyone about the things they are missing out on in beer life. I have it all figured out!

Scenario 3:
Newbie at craft beer store: "I've heard a lot about this store but I'm not much of a beer drinker. Can you give me something like bud light to get me started?"
Snob: snicker one of those, huh? Why don't you go drink a "blue moon" you can pretend that is craft, OK?

Scenario 4:
Brewery makes super limited edition bourbon barrel aged maple infused imperial stout (of course I am very OK with this). But then the beer is a limited release, $20 for a 22oz bomber, and has cute name.  The community lusts over it simply because of its rarity without even tasting it themselves. In small quantities this is OK, but it is becoming more and more common which increases exclusivity.

There is nothing wrong with a special occasion beer. 

There is also nothing wrong with lawnmower beers. There is also nothing wrong with malt liquor.  There is nothing wrong with a beer because it's owner is a larger company. They all serve a purpose.

Make beer, charge a reasonable price, and enjoy. I understand there is costs in aging, cellaring, and  ingredients; but many of these exotic beers are high priced only due to the 'black market'. That market exists due to limited supply and the hype. I mostly blame the community, not the breweries. It's the community that rants and raves and builds hype about exclusivity. More importantly it is the community  that  is willing to pay these prices.

That attitude may work in the wine industry, I don't know, maybe it is their schtick (I blame the French). But beer isn't like that. Beer is the everyman drink. Beer is inclusive, not exclusive. Everyone can enjoy whatever the fuck they want (weather it is triple IPAs or American adjunct lager) without being ostracized by the community. I do not blame (most) breweries in this situation, many are set up as businesses (as they should) and want to make money. Many breweries are not put in place to make the world a better place (even if they do). It is all the bandwagon fans that jump on whatever latest trend is, and scoff at people who think different. The same vile fanboy-ism that plagues Android vs. Apple.

It's like craft beer is becoming a Religion, or a political view, or a mindset. Luckily these snobs are still very much the minority of beer people. We can still stop it from spreading! 

I propose we abolish of the term "craft beer". 

It has gotten watered down over the years anyways. A criteria for defining a craft brewery is added every year, and half the 'criteria' are based on the companies majority ownership or quantity of production (Wait, so is Goose Island still craft? What about Sam Adams... Sierra Nevada? I can't even keep track). The criteria isn't completely based off the quality or care put into the product. Beer is beer. Some taste better to others depending on your personal subjective tastes, Some beers are higher in ABV, some use special ingredients, some pair well with cheese, and some taste amazing in a boat. All of those beers are better than a not-beer.

Remember: Just fucking drink what you enjoy, have an open mind, and don't criticize other's personal choices based on subjective measurements. Educate if you want (in a positive way), but leave it at that.

Relax, don't worry, have any beer!