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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Jeff Alworth -

Yeah, the premise is badly flawed, truth be told--but I land where you do. Who cares how weak the premise is when it gives Martyn Cornell the excuse to write about 20 really important beers and invite everyone to join in?

Alan -

It's a "pile on" now, a cacophony of points of view laden with interest and partiality. Best sort of comments thread. My favourite is the snarky one that is completely ignored.

Zac -

When one asks a musician who their greatest influences are, they name those who came before and inspired them as they composed their own work. I think the same can be said for brewers. Sure, there's a fine line between influence and imitation, but what's the big deal is it's all good? Maybe the difference between influence and imitation is that influence still depends on an interpretation or other influences in cooperation. Those who simply do no reinterpretation or only apply one influence may be your copycats, I guess.

Alan -

You reversed the chronology. It asks what has been influential, not who has been influenced. This makes it much more about implication. Imagine the dreary answers from those asked what influenced them, the revisionism, the post hoc propter hoc. The rocks stars would rate tops again!

Zac -

You know, your'e right. Interesting that's how I interpreted this debate. But isn't that more truthful than who/what a historian claims to be the influence? A rock critic can claim that Pavement was most influenced by the Velvet Underground because he's a so-called expert in such matters, but Pavement claims the Replacements or the Fall were their biggest influences. Brewers know better what made them use that hop or include Brett with a certain beer than historians. Historians can point to a lineage or president, but do they really know what's influential?

I generally agree with where Martyn is coming from on this, but this thread has me looking at it a bit differently. Thanks for pointing out my reversal of chronology.

Alan -

I once worked with a bunch of software guys as their legal counsel and once in a while they just sat me down and watched me work my way through a certain set of steps on a web application. I asked if they had a set of instructions but was told, no, that they wanted to see me actually do what I would do, that this would be more instructive.

So, when I look at this list and the discussion I see a lot of people doing what they would do and wondering what that means to them. There is nothing wrong with your interpretation but it speak to where you come from as much as what Martyn suggested. That all being said, I am not sure that the list actually captures influence as the most influential beer by far is the mass market industrial beer. The others do not deserve to be on the same list as Bud as Bud represents all of that popular low priced beer.

But maybe influence can operate in different ways at the same time in the same list. Maybe some influences are those triggered in a brewer, others triggered in the drinking population and others triggered in the observers of the industry. Maybe these are "directions of influence" but each is as valid as the other if the effect of change is observable.

Alan -

Not to mention the question whether influence only operates towards the positive. What beers have been a negative influence?

Zac -

I absolutely agree. Influence on brewers, drinkers, industry, etc. should be qualified. When I think of influence, I first go to the creators. In this case, I looked at the influence these beers have had on brewers, but a case can be made for those other segments. What influences a brewer will have a different effect on drinkers or marketers. The one thing I appreciate about Martyn's list is that I believe it covers all these areas of influence.

Still, I'd rather hear what influences a brewer to do what he does more than what someone thinks is influential from a historic perspective. I know there are plenty who disagree with me, but that's what makes this kind of thing so fun. That and it's more interesting than my work right now. ;)

Zac -

I missed your negative influence comment. I suppose a negative influence is debatable. Many of us may point toward prohibition or the growth of corporate beer, but prohibitionists and big beer producers might disagree.

Jeff Alworth -

The music analogy is wonderful, because it illustrates a divide we make naturally when considering that form. No one sits around and tries to ponder the antecedents of Justin Bieber. We're much more interested to learn who influenced important bands like Nirvana. The difference is that there has always been a stratosphere in which bubblegum crackled, and we don't really care where it came from. Nirvana, on the other hand, had a profound effect on the direction of pop music, so it becomes an interesting question to fans: who begat Curt Cobain. (The Pixies.)

The question of influence rests on an earlier question--what do we consider important about beer? If we're talking commercial success, barely any of the beer geeks' loves are worth mentioning. But if we're talking about those beers that helped shape styles and trends, we're talking about an entirely different set of beers.

Alan -

Vancouver begat Cobain, no?

Not to continue the "Canada Created Pop Culture" theme but much of craft beer is Justin Bieber and not Nirvana. It is simply not that profound and is indivisible form the commercial as a whole. Sure a few like Dragonmead in Detroit are punk-esque but for the most part craft beer is "Hooray for Everything" that it is indistinguishable from other aspects of pop entertainment like the Beebster... even if it likes to hold itself out as pretend punk.

Craig -

It could be said that the first beer to gain popularity after the invention of both the hydrometer and thermometer—essentially the first beer produced through scientific brewing—was, and still is, the most influential beer ever made.

It has to be said that "to gain of popularity" is important. Gallons upon gallons of beer made after the invention of those tools may have been made; but it's that one beer that was both imitated and it's technique perfected, by other brewers which made it the most influential.

Anybody have any idea what beer that was?

Zac -

I don't know the answer to that question, but hasn't Dogfish Head recreated it at some point?

Zac -

Also, it could be argued that the Beatles had a larger influence over Cobain than any punk band ever did except maybe the Melvins.

Jeff Alworth -

Alan, I think the analogy is tighter than that. Music and beer both have smash commercial successes and critical darlings, but mostly they have lots and lots of midrange stuff. The ten thousand IPAs come from a thousand breweries stuck in the anonymous middle, just like the ten thousand songs about cheatin' hearts come from a thousand bands plying their music online and in front of small audiences in venues in the bad part of towns. I love Occidental's great German-style beers, but even in Portland, almost no one knows they exist. That brewery's like a lot of local bands I know.

Alan -

Fair enough and my understanding of the Beebster is a bit different in that he is from my in-laws town and used to busk on the street so it is more like the rags to riches story than just the plasticized pop culture object he has become and will soon fall back from when the genes kick in a bit more. Maybe he is Pete's Wicked Ale... but then again IPA will be that by 2020, too.