This isn’t a problem in Portland, but with the new Monday theme I’m doing, I am SO glad I have the option to get short pours almost anywhere I go.
So while the website this article is hosted on has a design of hot garbage, the content is interesting. Craft brewers are in a unique position to transform their workspaces in ways that we haven’t seen in a long time, or at all, because the industry is still an emerging space and full of younger people who have a better understanding of how older economic systems have damaged their futures.
I have no idea if any of this will come to pass, but that the ideas are being circulated is really exciting.
As someone who is into some pretty nerdy things, I have had a short trip but long journey when it comes to things that I like.
Essentially it went: I like this and I don’t get why nobody cares about it.
Then it was: I like this and I don’t get why everyone else is into all this stupid stuff.
Then, I like this and I want people to get into the thing I like.
Finally, I’ve come around to: I like this, and it’s totally ok if you want to join me but if you have something you like and want to share, let’s hear it!
Which is why stories like this are a little disheartening. There are going to be people who are new, or who want to get into something, every day. Why make it difficult for them by making jokes they don’t or can’t understand, or make them unwelcome?
The whole tone is set off by being upset that ‘these kids just don’t know their history’ and my first question is: What does history have to do with whether or not a beer is good? It makes the author seem as if they are more concerned with the history than the quality of the beverage in their hands.
And I’m sorry but with beer, it’s always, always, going to be about what’s in your hands right now. So instead of asking why these people don’t appreciate where the roots of the craft beer they’re drinking comes from, why not ask, ‘why aren’t brewers doing a better job promoting what they’re about’ or, just as relevantly, ‘why aren’t other craft beer drinkers doing a better job of putting things in context’?
Because of course a new craft beer drinker, given the chance to drink the Abyss or Pliny the Elder for the first time, is going to be underwhelmed. They’ve spent how many days or weeks or maybe even years, hearing about HOW GREAT this beer is. Nothing can live up to the hype that you build up yourself.
But where they really lose me is where they compare comic book geek knowledge, or film director knowledge, to the knowledge that an average beer drinker has.
Comic book geeks and film directors have specialized. They know more about the art form because that’s what they’ve spent their time investing in.
The better comparison is to brewers, but that comparison never gets made. And I promise you that the younger generation of brewers knows who Sam Koch is (founder of Sam Adams brewing), why Fritz Maytag is important (he rescued Anchor Steam beer from bankruptcy), and why Garrett Oliver matters (chef as brewer bringing new perspective to beer and food, elevating the status of beer).
It isn’t on the person drinking the beer to know this though: the only questions they need to answer are: do I like this? Why?
First, we have this fascinating essay on the brewing scene in North Korea. Knowing so little about the country, I still find this to be a cool window into a place I will likely never get to visit. (Also,I would like to learn how to say “maekju” because the term “maekju roulette” is amazing).
By contrast, I present this article on Japan’s craft beer scene. I’m not exactly sure you can call it craft, since a chunk of the article is about how the major players have reacted quickly to changing trends, and started developing a variety of ales, but it is an example about how things are different from the USA.
I wrote not too long ago about about how I think breweries might be well served to focus on a few styles and have those always there, then branch out into other stuff.
Zoiglhaus is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about and this article on the Beervana blog talks about the potato ale they’re making, along with other obscure styles from history.
I like this for multiple reasons; First, the rotating schedule allows for those seasonal ales to be on long enough that the process can be refined and honed. As a consumer, that means I get better beer. Second, seeing revival styles is always a thrill for me and as an aficionado, valuing the history of beer and brewing is important to me.
But, you know….getting better beer is where it’s at and having those standard ale be the centerpiece of it is exactly what I like.
I’ve seen this conversation happen a little more and finally someone decided to write out one of the detriments to the craft brewing industry.
Now, I’m going to set aside the “but the youths” element from that essay-because every craft beer drinker I know, myself included, has looked at a menu, seen something they never saw before and said, ‘that, please’ instead of beers they know and have had before.
And I am no longer a spring chicken. I’ve been legally drinking for almost as long as the craft beer industry has been a thing.
However, I would agree that too many breweries, especially new ones, try to give customers too many options, instead of focusing on 5 or 7 styles and doing them really well.
Are IPAs necessary in this market? Sure. Make two of them, because the demand is there. But is a lager, stout or amber ale going to be unwise? Heck no; those are styles customers, even customers who aren’t incredibly savvy to the beer market, are going to recognize.
That leaves a couple taps left over and there are a lot of options; from seasonal rotators (that means 3-4 months of one beer, so brewers can refine the recipe and customers can get used to the product) to just some different options; hefes or saisons or brown ales. Whatever; just get a set of beers locked in, with some options for the brewers to experiment as well!
This, I want to note, is one reason why I do the “Common Ales” series. Picking up a beer at a Fred Meyer or Safeway means that my options narrow down. Plus, it let’s be come back to beers that are tried and true, so I don’t lose sight of the history.