Sort of an odd article over at a Canuckistanian news service about branding and a few given breweries' histories, all of which is wrapped around this observation:
...beer companies, especially Canadian ones, seem to stand alone in the frequency and consistency of how they use their heritage in marketing. It’s so common that last year Sleeman ran a tongue-in-cheek campaign that sent up the approach – even as it celebrated its “five generations of infamous family brewing heritage in every case.” Still, as brewers reach back to their early years in an attempt to differentiate themselves, could there be a danger of their similar origin stories – and therefore their brands – becoming blurred in the minds of drinkers?
Don't mind the "...especially Canadian ones..." foolishness. It's a national disorder that ain't going away anytime soon. If the article was about bread crusts, some Canadians would find a way to determine that bread crusts are crustier in Canada. But the rest of the observation is interesting. In a market like beer - whether we are talking macro or craft - beer is pretty much from the same place if you go back far enough. Farmers, coopers, brewers, carters, drinkers. The last group included Farmers, coopers, brewers and carters.
Making any special claim to history misses the point that beer is a millennia-long continuum dictated by the cloning of the one single cell that controls it all - yeast. That brewer X knew investor Y and tapped into aquifer Z at one date or another fails to appreciate that it was all pretty much in the bag when historical notation came along to start taking records down about what was going on. Which made me think of Jeff Alworth's interesting hypothesis that has received much comment. He suggested: "Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a foundational beer in American brewing and was instrumental in setting the course for craft brewing." For me, this suggestion is not so much wrong as it presupposes an question that is an antecedent: "is there anything foundational about anything in brewing?"
There is something foundational, of course, only if you need a foundation for something. Midstream, whether in one's life or in any topic, foundations are back there and might be up ahead, too. In a craft beer based reality, there was once something like a garage, once a conversation and only the bud of an idea there just as there were a thousand others. A million others, more like it if you think of every drinker's daydream. Some took a step. And, in eastern and northern North America, other young brewers other than Sierra Nevada sparked and even led in their own markets for a time. Some died quick. Some died slowly. A few continued through a combination of luck, market savvy and a lot more luck. Some of those went regional. But, like the 1977 punk band whose members made great solo careers for themselves in the 80s and then retired to the estate southern France where they now play sweetly with their grandchildren, there is a disconnect unassociated with the exercise of the will between the youthful dream of selling enough to pay for the equipment and seeing how trends shifted in retrospect.
Is it worth while to look back now and say what remains was the best of what was, defines what has become whether it's a Canadian macro or a US craft brewer? Probably not. While it is great to celebrate perseverance and good fortune, rarely has success been a hallmark of quality. All the tastiest beers may be extinct for all we know. Besides, we never knows when we are being sidetracked in life. You only see that it happened once you are on the next precarious leg of the journey.