I read this article profiling Garrett Oliver a couple times, trying to figure out what to make of it.
He wants to praise people taking risks and wants people who write about beer to talk about those people; to tell the story behind the beer that is being made. As someone who likes to tell stories, I can completely get behind this, so long as it’s not ‘marketing’ driven.
Human beings like stories; I’d even go so far as to say that we need them, on some level that I could not explain. To have that need exploited by marketing is…not something I can get down with.
That said: tell those stories!
On the other hand, later in the article he wants to suggest that homebrewing bears no resemblance to commercial brewing, because there’s no risk involved.
The thing is: where do you think those commercial brewers get ideas to take risks on? Why does Widmer have a pilot system they can make tiny batches on or take around to events like ‘Teach A Friend To Homebrew Day’? Why do breweries like Laurelwood and Hopworks offer yeast to homebrewers, or Coalition offer opportunities for homebrewers to come in and brew on their system?
The only conclusion I can draw is that Mr. Oliver doesn’t understand how critical a lively, active homebrew community is to a lively, active craft brewing industry, despite insisting that creativity is the soul of craft brewing. That community allows for the talent to rise and connections to be made so that risks like starting your own brewery from your garage can be taken; an industry can be formed and grown.
It’s true: he’s right that if a batch is bad, a homebrewer can just pour it out but that doesn’t mean it’s without consequence! I don’t really have the money to pour out the beers I make. I live on a reasonable budget but if a batch of beer goes wrong, I don’t have the finances to just shrug my shoulders and replace it. It costs me time and money, just like it would if I was a commercial brewer, even if it is on a smaller scale. It’s important that I get things right, so I take actions like going to OBC meetings and learning from experts wherever I can, so that I can afford my hobby.
And my hobby is part of a hobby that has allowed a whole industry to start taking risks that they never could before, telling stories that never would have existed without that hobby.
Just something to consider.