The emotional connection of people to "their beer" can be very strong. As a result anything that bumps into the notion of what their beer is can be taken as invitation for everything from snark, insult or all out mobilization of forces. This winter, there has been a bit of an increase in this pushing and shoving and it has made me wonder what is afoot. Consider these examples:
- Lew (whose advice I take on all things) posts today about some beer geeks dump on craft brewers who advertise and notes:
Geeks are the reminder to the brewer of the kinds of beers they should be making to stay true to their passion. They are the voice of conscience, that may, at times, go over the top, but is always there to remind you of what you want to be.Me: does any other business have this sort of conscience in its client base in this way? Does everyone get to be the Ralph Nader of passion?
- Comment makers at the BeerAdvocate (whose magazine I apparently contribute to) complain about people who call themselves a "connoisseur" but the day is saved [Ed.: hooray!] when an Alstrom decides the right term for "geek" is actually their own copyrighted if not trademarked term: beer advocate. Me: brilliant!
- When pointing out the ratings of their beer, Brewer A at Flossmoor (prize givers hereabouts) asks:
Most people my age will acknowledge that everything on the internet is true regardless of the source or how outlandish the claim is. If information comes out of those tubes and into your eyes, who are you to question it?Me: you know, the borg is really us so aren't we obeying already?
- Stan (who is a to this place and all of us indeed) makes a new rule: always take beer more seriously than yourself which is all fine and good but ain't I more important than beer? Me: it's not like beer gets the lawn mowed or the bath scrubbed?
- J Wilson (prize winner extraordinaire) makes the point:
When it comes down to it, we beer geeks are getting a little selfish. Presumptuous. Spoiled. This isn’t good for the scene, and in many cases, our desires wouldn’t be good for the businesses we say we love.Me: but what kind of scene (...or culture...or community...) is it if it can't stand open debate?
- Pete Brown (my friend according to Facebook) tells us we beer fans are losing our perspective and that beer should never take itself too seriously. Me: isn't being an aficionado all about loss of perspective? I mean "fan" is short for "fanatic" after all.
One thing that I think is going on is there really isn't that much to talk about. How many times can the story of IPA or porter really be rewritten? How many points of view can there be on the buyout of Scottish & Newcastle? How many reviews of Dogfish Head 90? Another might be that there are too many jostling for the carrot of the dollar that accompanies beer commentary. I mentioned it to Lew a long time ago now that, for an industry worth so many billions, there is very little money in the discussion of its product. And there is the related question of whether the seemingly pre-ordained pecking order of beer scribes will be maintained. Does one have to prove that the title of authority is deserved? Does the promise of Web 2.0's take on Beer 101 mean that some retirement plans or capital investment schemes are now having to be re-evaluated? You know, we all have our dreams but what if yours are bumping into mine? Are these the questions underlying this winter of our discontent?
Or is it just Janufeb? Grab yourself a beer and, as that other world's beer authority might say, relax. But think about it, wouldja? You're bumming the rest of us out.