A Good Beer Blog

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Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


Comments

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Pivní Filosof -

It's what I've been saying for quite some time, "Craft" "Real", etc. are nothing but labels that at most define certain technical aspects of the beer, but not much else.

What really defines "good beer" is your taste, and that's it.

Bailey -

I keep being drawn back to a comment Hearty Goodfellow made on one of our posts: isn't this weird, tenuous, ever-shifting beer blogging/tweeting online beer 'thing' that we're all part of basically a global craft beer association, sans logo? It's not formalised, we don't have meetings, there's no committee, but still... a consensus emerges from the noise from time to time, and the crowd pulls one way or another, even as individuals resist it.

Much less messy and bureaucratic and more democratic, in a slightly anarchic way, than a big formalised organisation. (Even the founders of CAMRA now think it might be a bit middle-aged and bureaucratic.)

Gary Gillman -

That's an interesting article. It makes sense the organisation started in the way it did: it's unlikely that the founders would have had a detailed knowledge of beer production and dispense methods, but they knew what they liked. The statement that bitter was not gassy and had flavour is a good rough description of real ale, the the rest got filled in as the membership grew.

The comment that CAMRA may not have been needed had craft keg existed is interesting too, and I wonder if it foretells a possible interest by CAMRA to extend its coverage to those beers. I don't think so, I think he is just making a historical statement, that if things were like that then, maybe CAMRA would not have emerged. But as things turned it, CMRA was needed, and I think the distinction now between craft keg beer (good-tasting but fizzy and usually filtered) and real ale is too well-established to upset, but who knows?

Some may be puzzled by his statements about Guinness, but I believe draft Guinness in Ireland anyway at the time (circa 1970), was not pasteurized and likely was a tastier drink than it now is.

Are we post-craft? I'd say yes and no. Yes, or rather that the question is not meaningful, for the parts of the world which has always had high quality beer (Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, Britain) and where craft beer in U.S. terms was never really needed. Yes for the highly "crafted" parts of North American where it has become common currency and therefore the distinctions from other beer are less visible than 10 and 20 years ago. No for large swaths of North American where real craft beer is virtually unavailable. Even in Toronto this is so and especially the suburbs.

Gary

Sam -

Pivní Filosof is spot on - taste is key and everything else is just words.

Jeff Alworth -

I believe we're coming to an accord here. Which means we're leaping blithely from the frying pan of "craft" into the fire of "good." I have a sense there will be come disagreement on those grounds, as well.

Never mind! We take our agreements where we can find them.

Alan -

Not quite but I think we are near accord. I think we are moving from false objective of "craft" to true but subjective of "good".

Each of us is equally entitled to define their own good - which takes me back to my phrase "the theatre of the mouth" - as no one, not even the brewer, can tell me what I taste any more than the playwright or the actors can tell me how the play was.

Drinker focused drinking! Something of the idea I was working on back here, too.

Gary Gillman -

Alan, this is something I've said for years and sometimes to the derision of some, for whom craft was a mantra not to be abandoned at any time, i.e., that personal taste is the final arbiter.

First, a lot of the early craft beer was lousy. Some was malt concentrate stuff, a lot of the rest was mediocre or just not good in some other way. I am speaking of the 1980's. Since then, it has much improved and with the choice available in major metro areas, no one can complain.

Correlatively, some mass market beer was and is well made and is not to be disdained. Just because it's mass market doesn't mean it's bad although rarely will such a beer be my first choice.

That said, drinkers living in the huge swaths of North America where craft beer is hard to find don't have a level playing level from which to refine their taste. In that sense, the craft revolution has not revolved and has much work to do.

Gary

Stephen Beaumont -

The vast majority of beer drinkers don't give a rat's ass about craft or even post-craft. They care about: a) The brand and marketing (that would be the big brand drinkers, for the most part); and b) The taste and/or what they feel like having at the time (those who keep afloat bars like the Yard House and Flying Saucer chains, Lord Hobo in Boston, beerbistro in Toronto, etc.).

I've always been of the belief that "drink local" is a false ethos. If the beer is good, I will "support my local brewery," but it it's not, I don't care if it comes from around the block or the other side of the world. I also find it amusing that people who use "craft" as a defining label or encourage the support of a given brewery simply because it is local are engaging in the exact same "beer as a badge" marketing that has been employed for decades by marketers of the very beers they disdain, such as Bud and Blue, Coors Light and Canadian.

Craig -

http://drinkdrank1.blogspot.com/2011/06/i-dont-like-craft-beer.html

...and that's what I have to say about that.

vasili -

I agree with what Stephen said (aside Stephen, I am a fan) regarding local drinking and quality. I would say that one of the things craft has given us is the opportunity, for better or in some cases worse, to drink local. I also agree that this is; as a brewer I use to work for would say "picking fly shit from the pepper" argument in the eyes of the majority of beer drinkers.

In Portland, it is not difficult to be a cheerleader for local breweries, since there is so much density of breweries and since it is basically a crucible of brewing knowlage, but in the end it is and always will be quality which will be the sink/swim test. I also agree with him that craft is most useful as a narritive device then an actual denotation.

Alan -

I hate to slightly disagree with Mr. B but "craft" is now a brand and marketing term being used to shift interest away from big bad macro to the allegedly universally swell elf made micro. We all admit that there is bad craft but there is no action taken by trade association to kick them out. CAMRA hugs them. The Beer Association places them under its wing.

And, of course, most of what is sold as micro is regional or national craft which is itself more like small industrial. So, with all respect to the brewer, it is not a small thing but the very point of the discussion. We can each only determine what is great ourselves... which is actually what the majority of beer drinkers do - and most stay away from craft.

Ethan -

1) My masters thesis was on the McGurk effect; psycholinguistics is everywhere, including this post more directly, as this is really a discussion of semantics. I could talk about this kind of stuff all day; also beer.

2) "craft" really just means the illusion that your business puts profits somewhere after "quality," or "experimentation," or "localism" or "artisanal brewing" or whatever image you're rocking. Of course, your business will likely fail if your eyes aren't on the bottom line, but so long as you don't make it sound like that, you're craft. AB-InBev is only "bad" because they have embraced profit-making too much; their market share suggests people kind of like the way their beers taste, frankly- I don't believe all those people drinking that much beer are just victims of marketing: food science is as real as any other branch.

Alan -

Remind me to move my lips in opposition to what I am saying next time I see you.

Steve Gates -

I hope this means I don't have to have a PhD to participate in this blog.... I think that the word Craft is a tag adopted by the smallest of commercial retailers with the hope that this will somehow separate themselves from the larger retailer with positive commercial results. This tag does not guarantee that the beer is any good but it is going to lure some poor unsuspecting stooge into giving it a go. In the end, taste is the only thing that is important and oftentimes peoples tastes are different. If the beer tastes good, buy it! C'est ca!

The Beer Nut -

Draught Guinness has been pasteurised since it was first kegged, AFAIK, back in the late 1950s. I think what Michael Hardman is saying is that there might have been no CAMRA if the breweries had gone straight from cask to selling smooth. Just like Guinness did, in fact.

Jeff Alworth -

"We all admit that there is bad craft but there is no action taken by trade association to kick them out. CAMRA hugs them. The Beer Association places them under its wing."

As a long-time labor guy (union rep, bargainer), I have long observed that the BA functions like a union--as it must. (It's a trade organization, which means it promotes the interest of its members in getting favorable tax breaks, regulations, and so on, as well as having a marketing and PR arm.) What's confusing to most people is that the BA isn't a trade organization for brewers of good beer, it represents small, independent breweries. The criteria to get in has nothing to do with the quality of your product. When BA promotes "craft" beer as superior, it's doing what any respectable trade organization does--bang the drum for its members. But that's just boosterism and astute watchers should know the difference. As I know everyone here does.

(I am ALL in favor of the BA's mission, btw. One of the reasons the US market got so perverted was because of the might of the large breweries in making law favorable to their business. These are the morally neutral rules of engagement in a healthy free market.)

Alan -

Well, it represents small, independent breweries which meet its own definition of "small" and "independent". I am as aware that there are as many opportunities for the consumer to be left to its own devices by any sort of trade association.

This may be morally acceptable as a 2 buck premium for any beer that brands itself cleverly is not a moral question but I do no see it as economically neutral.

Ethan -

Heh. I'm feeling cynical lately. But I don't think a term like "craft" (or "kraphtt") can have but one, agreed-upon definition, really. And that's especially true of bridging the gap between how manufacturers use it and consumers understand it.

Steve Gates -

Alan,Have you examined why the Quebec micro brewery scene seems to possess alot more potential for greatness than that of Ontario? The brewers of Quebec appear to have alot more interesting beers available to the consumer, a recent visit to Old Quebec had me reeling when I visited a micro beer festival on the waterfront market. Ontario seems to be always playing it safe with their beer selections. What is your opinion?

Alan -

At the risk of offending Ontarians, swap "beer" for any other created thing and you might have the answer.

Velky Al -

Having drunk many a time with PF, the only qualification of what makes a beer good, is that it is good in the moment. Bollocks to publicly traded, privately owned or any other form of corporate structure - you you make something I want to drink? Ab-InBev do, SABMiller do, Victory do, Sierra Nevada do.

Does every pokey brewpub in Virginia??? Nope, not in the slightest - in fact some are downright awful and the sooner we bloggers start to fess up to that fact the better all round. Mind you, the sooner we bloggers own up to the fact that we are all, every single man jack of us, drinkers first and foremost, also the better.

Alan -

Mr. B undertakes an empirical study of his own.