My Dad once told me about an interview on NPR he heard where two guys were talking about rock music and making decisions about what was or wasn’t included in that. As though they could be the arbiters of what is or isn’t ‘rock’. What standard they were using doesn’t really matter because rock music is like pornography: You know it when you see it.
So when someone comes along and tries to define ‘craft beer’ I am exceedingly wary. It often comes with a mentality that says that bigger is always worse and smaller is always better (unless of course, it isn’t because it is/is not making money or ‘reasons’). But it’s exceedingly silly for us, as consumers, to be involved in or made aware of this conversation because it is a crock of shit.
You know what I want? Good beer. The best beer I can afford. If Budweiser produced a better lager than Hopworks, I would buy Budweiser. You know why? Because it’s better. That’s really the only reason I need. I have nothing against buying local and everybody loves to cheer for the home team but when push comes to shove I want the best thing I can afford.
Widmer and Sam Adams are some of the largest, if not most recognizable small brewery brands in the country and they still make great beer. Including or excluding them from the term ‘craft’ is strictly useful for trade organizations: it doesn’t help the consumer at all. And this is what the argument tends to devolve towards; how to promote ‘craft’ because the public has been lead to believe that craft beer equals good beer.
I can name three breweries off the top of my head local to Portland that I think produce awful beer. Should their product escape this city, then I would advise destroying it. I mean, maybe if they were really thirsty, sure but since water still exists… My point is, the term ‘craft’ isn’t going to help someone find really good beer, just breweries of a particular size. The sooner we advocate for that definition, the better.
I appreciate definitions and I know that these terms can be helpful to people. How do you describe music or art or movies or anything without setting it up in relationship to the other things around it? What is the difference between Metallica and AC/DC to someone who hasn’t heard those bands? Between IPAs and stouts, to someone who hasn’t yet drank them? There had best be some defined terms, yes?
But let’s not start confusing our terms. At some point, you want me to tell you if a beer is good and who makes it isn’t really relevant.