Tag Archives: misc

Sticking To My Guns

After last week’s essay on what constitutes craft beer, a commenter pointed out that my definition would exclude Deschutes and Boneyard, as they entered into a “partnership”.

And here’s the thing: I’m OK with that. I like Deschutes, and I like Boneyard but the fact of the matter is, Deschutes effectively owns another brewery. They have distribution, which means that maybe not today, but eventually, Deschutes can and will turn to Boneyard and say: your beer needs to be like this in order to sell.

And since Deschutes distributes, Boneyard will comply. They’re no longer an independent entity. Neither is Deschutes, as their business model now relies on the ownership of a second brewery.

If Boneyard just got absorbed by Deschutes, then I’d say that Deschutes would still count as a craft brewery: they aren’t telling anyone who built their brand on a distinctly different model (very hoppy, very AVB intense beers) what works. Deschutes would just be incorporating the recipes and equipment under their brewery and continue making Deschutes beer, perhaps with new styles under offer.

All of which, however, is a way to dance around a larger point that I didn’t get to until that commenter pushed back on it.

It is, as Don Younger has said, not about the beer. It’s about the beer.
We shouldn’t live in a world where 5 breweries (or five of any business entity, see also: internet, food, banks, etc) are the only providers of what we want or need.

There should be space for small and mid-tier businesses to do their thing, too.

Because then, we can start having conversations about what matters; is this any good?

I don’t mention it too often, but ABInBev makes an incredible product, given what they do. I can have a Budweiser anywhere in the world, and it will taste like a Budweiser. I can have a Guinness anywhere in the world, and it will taste like Guinness.

That’s really hard to do.

If I can’t respect the effort that it takes, the skill-the craft-of making a beer taste the same anywhere in the world, then why even critique beer at all?

That those styles of beer are ones I’m not fond of isn’t the point. This is just about the skill it takes to do that. Plus, I won’t say I’m above a Bud sometimes. If that’s what I’m being offered, I’m not going to be snooty about it.

Because we have, at last count, close to nine thousand breweries in America. Do you honestly believe that every single one of those breweries are making excellent product? Hell, even good product?

The important thing about having smaller breweries is that we can just ask ourselves: is this good?

And good can mean multiple things! Is it a good beer? Is it good for the community? Are the employers good for their workers? Is the atmosphere a healthy one for anyone to walk into? Are the business practices as good as they can be from an environmental or social justice view? Etcetera, etcetera; we don’t, and shouldn’t, just focus on the one thing: is this product good?

Although I will admit that it is probably the most relevant question, even if it isn’t always the most important one.

Because part of why I avoid ABInBev’s products is because their business practices look skeevy as fuck to me from a “we’re corporate overlords who should get our way” perspective. They don’t want to just make a great product (and I don’t know that they want that, it’s just a by-product), they want all the money and do things accordingly. However, this is also why I don’t drink products from Melvin (sexism), Founders (racism) , or BrewDog (transphobia).

I had a friend in the industry tell me about shitty business practices of Old Town and Mt Tabor here in Portland. I don’t buy their product. It doesn’t matter if they’re ‘craft beer’ or not. I have the ability to choose, so I will. Not everyone does and I don’t judge them. Should I hear that Melvin or Mt Tabor have fixed their issues, then I’m happy to give them money for something I like!

But the badge of ‘craft beer’ shouldn’t be the determining factor-and maybe it never should have been.

A Little Problem

I was honored to assist with the Oregon Beer Awards again this year-delayed and restructured due to the pandemic.

Part of that meant that fewer people worked on providing services this year…but there was still the same amount of beer. Which needed to go somewhere.

Leading me to having this:

Boxes full of beer

That is too much beer. And that is after I’ve given much of it away! (I am still giving beer away.)

So the upside to this is first: free beer.

Second: I can use this opportunity to sanitize my gear: mix up a bleach solution and run it through my carboys and hoses, and start running my bottles through the dishwasher. There’s never a bad time to spend some time making sure your gear is clean.

So, you know; making the best of it!

N O P E

Not long ago, I had an IPA made with Norwegian Kveik yeast. This yeast has been getting a lot of hype lately, because of its unique fermenting properties-able to operate at very high temps without throwing off unwanted flavors.

Except the IPA tasted awful. So bad that I immediately messaged a friend to tell him how bad it was. It was a hazy IPA that had the finishing notes of burnt paper. Grapefruit + burnt paper. That was not appetizing.

Little Beast belgian ale in glass, with can, on table

But maybe it’s the brewery, right? It was a beer that was brand new to me (Hyper Scream from Dekker brewing) and maybe they just suck.

One month later, I’m drinking a Folkvanger from Little Beast brewing, a brewery I know is solid. The Folkvanger is a dark ale made with the Norwegian yeast and…it tastes like singed butthair. It was so bad that I wanted other people to try it, just so I didn’t feel insane for thinking that something a professional brewery made could taste this bad.

I feel like there’s a massive joke being played on people right now; that this thing which, admittedly, does something cool and unique, is touted as also being tasty and…it really just isn’t.

Not at all.

2020 Things

I acquired Ale Apothecary’s Sahalie {a wild fermented ale with honey, spruce and aged in wine barrels. Flowery nose, very white wine oriented, dry finish} back in February during the judging for the Oregon Beer Awards. A wild ale generally isn’t my style, but I got one for a friend who visits me and loves these beers.

He isn’t coming to visit this year. The border is closed.

I was supposed to go to Spokane and Seattle this year. Have drinks with friends, see my family. Discussions to get on a plane to see other friends. That didn’t happen, either. And it isn’t going to, looks like.

Generally, I try not to drink alone: there’s writing to do, people to visit. I know it’s not healthy for me-or anyone, really-, so being around people, even if I’m just in a bar doing some work, is better than sitting at home by myself.

But I have sat home alone a lot this year, in order to help protect other people. It doesn’t feel right to have bartenders risk their lives for me, so I can have a beer. Hell, it doesn’t feel right to have anyone risk their lives for me, but especially just so I can go out to eat or drink.
I know it has been the right decision.

We don’t always get the thrill of being righteous, just because we are right. Since this year has been hard, I think it’s important to acknowledge why it has been hard and who is responsible for the increased difficulty we have had to face.

There are, by my count, at least two men who bear a lot of responsibility for the position we find ourselves in. There’s an opportunity to take power away from them and I think we should take it.

Beers made by walking

I found this to be a neat concept, one that, in many ways harkens back to how beers were brewed over a century ago: Go out, find edible things, steep them in (soon to be) alcohol. I’ll be out of town on October 20th but maybe someone else will go and return with tidings of interesting beers.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Willamette Week’s President of Beers event going on. Looks like they ‘overlooked’ the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico (if Puerto Rico has as brewing scene that would be awesome) but a fun exercise nevertheless.

 

Edit: title said ‘Bears’. Don’t know what I was on.