You know I like Andy Crouch. I like Andy. He and I agree on so many things that I can't believe it. Then he goes and writes this and I get all pffttwzzatchamacallit!!!
With all of this said, many great breweries, including Dogfish Head, started on an extremely small scale and there are many nanos that make quality beers. But as with many homebrews, there is no replacing professionally brewed beers. The introduction of fresh, energized talent into the craft brewing scene is certainly exciting. I’m just not sold on the concept or products the nanos represent just yet. Getting into the craft brewing business should be hard and not every homebrewer has what it takes to go pro. It’s a good thing that dreams don’t always come true.
I have to be honest. I think that being a good craft brewer is about as rare as being a baker that hasn't gone out of business for, say, five years. It's not that I can't place them on a pedestal so much as I have way more respect than pedestal makers. Why? Because throughout history and across the nations brewing is an incredibly common occupation. And it should be. The tools are commonplace, the skills are fairly reasonably earned and the output should be modestly priced.
But don't get me wrong - Andy makes good observations. Like these:
- "One New England nano has released as few as three dozen bottles per batch... with prices exceeding twenty bucks a bottle." This is insane. Anyone who bought one of these is a fool. Pretty hard to find a beer that is over ten bucks that should make you question your values even if you go and buy the bottle because of those values of yours - but buying one of a home brewer with attitude for that price is nuts.
- "Often big, boozy or hop bomb in character, these Pollock-esque offerings provide not ready for prime-time players plenty of cover to hide brewing flaws..." is a very good idea but the same applies to craft brewers generally. There is no cheaper fix for a bad brewer than a lot of this and then a lot of that. And it's not just the bad brewers. As if Dogfish hasn't made a bad beer. Or any number of other good brewers. As we all know, there are more than our fair share of bad beers out there.
- "...as craft beer drinkers become more savvy, poorly produced beers from any brewery can give craft beer everywhere a bad name...." Again, well observed but also universally applicable. It doesn't matter the scale of the joint - if it sucks it sucks. If craft beer fans had any sense of themselves, we would riot in the streets over this - stop making indulgent overpriced beer. But we fret about things giving "craft beer everywhere a bad name" instead. Why? What other purchase in my life gets that treatment?
What have we learned? It's not whether something is nano therefore neato or its nano therefore dangerous. It's whether the beer is tasty good value. Give me a sub-buck Utica Club any day over a questionable, overpriced corked bomber of some guys idea of precious nectar. It is only, after all, beer for frig's sake. You want brain surgery or rocket science get into brain surgery or rocket science where, at least in the first case, we can all agree really don't want the nano approach.