Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).
Before we get into it today, some notes:
Homebrew Update: My Brooklyn Brew Shop Everyday IPA has been in bottles carbonating for just over a week now. Bottling wasn’t so bad, but I don’t know how much I’d enjoy doing it on a regular basis with larger batches of beer. They’ll be going into my fridge next Thursday night for consumption starting Friday — if I stay patient. If not, well, you’ll be getting a report on the results sooner than anticipated. Either way, I’m already plotting a Porter or Stout brew next.
Articles of note: The increasingly must-read Craft Brewing Business has a great piece up about distribution contracts. CBB’s Candace Moon lays out the intricacies, fine print, and pitfalls of the legalese involved in the alcohol industry in a way that is accessible without being dumbed-down.
Also, check out Esquire picking up on Dann Paquette of Pretty Things going H.A.M. (look it up, kids) on “pay to play” practices in Boston. Paquette started calling out breweries, distributors, and bars/restaurants for engaging in illegal payments/gifting in exchange for securing tap lines, and revived an ages-old, extremely contentious running argument in the process. If you’re a Beer Advocate member, there’s a refreshingly reasonable and open forum thread on the topic that makes for great reading.
Onto the topic this week: The truth is, this is my second pass at this week’s column. Earlier in the week I’d been reading everything from the stuff I linked above, along with a great piece by Craig Gravina at DrinkDrank that addressed some of the concerns being raised about quality control in new breweries; whether drinking “local” would actually harm the growing beer industry.
I’ve been seeing some of the planned releases and strategies from so-called Big Craft breweries for 2015; taken as a whole, I just rambled about reconciling the business aspect of beer with the very passion we have for it as fans. What came out was, frankly, depressing; no one here wants to read about me being a sad panda.
I wanted to get to the heart of what I was trying to say — get to the point. Then a couple funny things happened: I tried a couple standout beers, and a lot of media outlets started talking about beer. First up was the New York Times Editorial Board itself, weighing in with concerns over the potential AB/InBev and SABMiller merger that’s been on again/off again for years now. Then chef David Chang took an oddly emphatic swing at what he derisively terms “fancy beer” in GQ, and something in my brain went “pop.”
I stopped being able to be “outraged” or whatever it is I’m supposed to feel when my hobby (and my profession) is being “attacked.” Looking at it one way, Chang pulls off an impressive troll job, judging by the online reaction to the column. Beyond that, however, is the fact that this is simply one man’s opinion: Chang isn’t limiting the beer options in his restaurants; you’ll find offerings like Stillwater Stateside Saison, Left Hand Good Juju, Fritz Briem Berlinerweisse, and Rodenbach — he’s even done a collaboration beer with Evil Twin. The guy’s just expressing a preference; the only issue I’d take is with the “neckbeard” and “hipster” cracks, which just strike me as unnecessarily antagonistic, but then again, it gets the clicks.
The important thing to remember is that this was always going to happen. “Craft” beer is on the mainstream social radar after nearly 40 years of build-up in the U.S. and abroad. More people with less experience in and knowledge of the industry, and of beer itself are going to be weighing in. Many of them won’t understand why anyone cares about beer at all, which is no different than wondering why anyone would demand organic produce; or care about how the animals are raised that we get our meat and eggs from; or why anyone would be really into coffee, or wine, sports, cigars, needlepoint — you get the idea. It’s just beer’s turn in the barrel (yeah I meant to do that).
If you feel the need to “defend” beer, send out links to Chris O’Leary’s post on Brew York this week that calmly takes down some of the chatter against beer and beer drinkers — in particular focusing on deconstructing the use of the word “hipster,” which is a pet peeve of mine. Or, do what I’ve been doing most of the week: recommend great beers that anyone can pick up and enjoy without feeling like they have to work to “get.”
My wife and I hosted a cookout over the weekend and had cans of Devils Backbone’s outstanding Gold Leaf Lager and the new Bravo Four Point out for guests. Both are lower ABV (4.5 and 4.4 percent ABV respectively) and neither is out to intimidate or overwhelm the drinker. I got to try the draft-only Hardywood Bohemian Pils (5 percent ABV) this week; that is a beer that can make even the most ardently anti-hipster-non-fancy-beer person realize that it’s not about “fancy,” or being “better” than anyone because of what you drink — it’s about good beer made by good people who give a damn.
Oh, and in all of these cases, it also happens to be about being “local” (or at least in-state). There’s no point in getting worked up about the opinions and speculation of people who weren’t with beer as it was starting out, and won’t stick around when/if the industry ever hits a slide. I’ll snag a can of Gold Leaf this weekend and thank it for the reminder. Until next time.
Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money-saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
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