In response to Mr. B's comment the other day, I bought a number of books about taste, smell and food including In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan which I brought with me to read at the squirt softball game this evening. One can only watch so many walks, you know.
Anyway, it is a fairly good read, trotting through slightly familiar territory but placing it all into a very useful argument pitting, in the bit I have read so far, the forces of food (yea!) against the forces of nutritionism (boo!). This bit early on particularly stuck out for me.
The 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act imposed strict rules requiring that the word "imitation" appear on any food product that was, well, imitation. Read today, the official rationale behind the imitation rule seems at once commonsensical and quaint:" ....there are certain traditional foods that everyone knows, such as bread, milk and cheese, and that when consumer buy these foods, they should get the foods they are expecting... [and] if a food resembles a standard food but does not comply with the standard, that food must be labeled as an "imitation." Hard to argue with that...but the food industry did, strenuously for decades, and in 1973 it finally succeeded in getting the imitation rule tossed out, a little-noticed but momentous step that helped speed America down the path to nutritionism.
You can see where we are going with this. When we think of moving from the real, to the embrace of additives and processes of consumables, beer made by the big brewers has to be one of the greatest success stories in servicing imitation in the guise of a traditional. So why don't we call it what it is - imitation beer.
Put it this way - we can all agree that scale in itself is not definitive of what makes beer real or authentic. It is not the macro that makes for macro beer but the processes used by the macro. It's all that science tweaking a molecule here and a compound there to make what does not go into beer appear something like beer. So, just like we think of processed cheese food product or imitation cheery pie filling like substances, so too should we be talking about "imitation beer" for all that chemically gak that the scientists and industrialists put on the shelves. Your thought for the day.