A Good Beer Blog


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."


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Chris -

It's something I nod at in acknowledgement.

"Oh, they make their beer at the Matt brewery? Neat."

Alan -

Who hasn't??

Pivní Filosof -

I think there are people who do care about those details, and I believe that labels should specify where there beer was brewed (and by whom, in the case of contract brewing), mainly because of the geographical location issue you mention.

That said, most people do not give a rat's ass about it, and won't, even if it was all well spelled on labels, just as they don't give a rat's ass about whether Blue Moon, Goose Island, etc. have BA approved ownership to be considered "Craft".

With all due respect to Koch, etc, their words sound a lot like those a big company would say to prevent new, smaller competitors break into their market.

Alan -

And to what end? If US craft is doing this well, why not recognize this as evidence of vitality and innovation? Unanticipated consequences of success and the eagerness to join in are good - especially for the consumer.

Nitch -

OCD Nitch talking here, but I like to know the who and what of my beer because I catalog everything.

In France I often have the darndest time pinning down the who and where of beers because they have this creative gimmick where they make a beer under someone's name in X location, brew it in Y location then label it's location as Z, being where it was sold. This exact issue happened here where I spend hours chasing my tail just wanting to know where in France the thing brew was made.

Main point, I want to know where (and to whom) my money is going when I purchase something.

Aleksei Saunders -

I think it matters to those to whom it matters - yes?

To others, like Chris and myself, it's just a footnote.

I know quite a few people who are cash activists - they support companies they like and avoid, almost religiously, companies they disagree with (think animal testing in cosmetics). For them this may be a very important topic - avoid Coors when they routinely kill fish in Clear Creek, etc, etc.

I think contract and "gypsy" brewing are both excellent ideas for brewers looking to get into the market - why wouldn't you avoid all that initial overlay and develop a market (and a track record) beforehand. After doing proof-of-concept you can get the loan and go legit. Going bankrupt isn't a mark of honor and this is capitalism (gasp) not flag-football. It can be a passion without putting everything you have and love at risk.

My biggest beef with the Slate article is this:

"A contract brewer is also more likely to spend more time marketing beer than brewing it —a fact that is frowned upon by businesses whose primary marketing assets are the sweat and tears expended by their founders"

Ugh. As Dennis Leary once said - "Life sucks, grab a helmet".

Kyle -

As Aleksei mentions, "cash activism" is the only thing I've actually seen or done in the real world (as opposed to theories about what consumers do and don't care about). I do care who gets my money. I don't give SAB or InBev money, because they already have enough, and because they're making a lot of decisions I don't like - decisions that save them money but make poorer beer. So the "would I buy from them / would I not" split here is only about the beer on the shelf being owned by a Major or not. Right or wrong, many (most?) craft beer buyers won't willingly buy Blue Moon etc knowing the money goes right to an already deep set of pockets, when someone like Allagash makes a much better beer and is a small company not actively engaged in aggregating market share back to the 2 majors.

But whether a beer is contract brewed (like at Mercury here in Mass) or brewed on gear that the guys on the label own... who cares. Using a mid-sized facility like Mercury to its fullest is just good capacity utilization. We don't all actually NEED our own full set of gear - not when someone close to you has excess capacity and good quality control procedures.

And finally, to paraphrase what Sam Koch once said in a homebrew magazine I read in the mid-90's, "if Julia Childs shows up at your house with 2 bags of groceries and uses your kitchen to make you dinner, who made dinner? You, or Julia Childs?"

Alan -

Just to be clear, however, the ethics and practices of craft brewers can suck, too, and should be equally discouraged in the marketplace of ideas.

Aleksei Saunders -

Oh, for sure Alan. I might have implied that in my comment by only mentioning Coors - but it was unintentional. I don't think size is a true indicator of moral superiority and ethic purity.

This is another reason why I've no problem with contract and "gypsy" brewing - hopefully the crappy beer (and crappy people) can get weeded out to some extent by the market place (or by other brewers just not wanting to deal with them).

I think everyone deserves some chance to brew their dream once - if they're good at what they do, and good to the people around them - hopefully we can support them to brew it again and again. Once they get enough money then they can brew whatever they want (whether we like it or not) - or sell to InBev.

Alan -

Good point on the dreams of anyone... which pops into my head when I read about the argument that some have less in the game. Nowhere is there the concurrent discussion about how many early craft breweries lived in an era with fewer cost or were funded by well off Mommy and Daddy. There are many ways to the end result.

Jeff Alworth -

There's an interesting Jungian collective unconscious thing going on here. Apropos of Bailey's post, I would like to urge writers and bloggers to never, NEVER get the opinion of a brewer about other brewers. I don't know why they think that's a great idea in beer. Of course Greg Koch is critical of contract breweries: they are his competitors. I don't care what Greg Koch thinks, and I damn sure don't care if a sycophantic writer thinks he's "legendary" or not. All of that is well beside the point.

(No brewery that was founded in the 1990s is legendary. That's an ignorant form of nationalism. Wheee, lots of beer geeks like Stone ... it's legendary.)

Knut -

Years ago, when I worked in the food safety field, I used to attend meetings where a representative of the Norwegian Farmers Union started all his interventions with "We consumers need to...."

When a producer claims to be a consumer, my alarm bell always goes off!