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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Reg O'Leary -

Sorry to disagree Alan, but there are more than just a few of these newbies that suck on quality. And while they might deserve my patience, they don't deserve my money until I start getting what I pay for...consistently good tasting beer.

Maureen Ogle -

Fascinating. I was at the keynote where these remarks were made (they got huge applause, as you might imagine). Your take is worth spreading around. Thanks!

Ethan -

I can't disagree with your takeaway, but I am not at all sure I understand how you got there. Strange. But I will start with two points of contention.

I think that one hardly needs a 40K analytical machine to ensure consistency; a trained sensory panel will do. Such panels are trained, among other things, to detect "on- or off-brand", not saleable/unsaleable or plus/minus diacetyl. Your panelists need to know descriptors, but obviously they're not always flaws. I mean, diacetyl? Buy some Middle Ages or Cooperstown, both use Ringwood and are laden with it, and have their fans. I don't personally enjoy that flavor, for whatever reason you want to ascribe--I like butter plenty in other contexts--butI know far better than to consider those beers flawed.

(I'd note that this also underscores the desire for educated customers and the need for something called "style" on some level, but thats a woods I'm not sure I want to get lost in here & now.)

Back on-point, a sensory panel is superior to a machine; at one presentation I attended on exactly that topic, the presenter was asked about what happens when the machine-analytical and the sensory-analytical results were in contrast, and she said "Sensory wins." Admittedly, she was talking about sensory panels with extensive training and data-driven outcomes, the sort of fairly sophisticated tool that only bigger breweries have the manpower or budget for. Still, I am sure you could have a pretty good panel on-the-cheap if you have a little stats and perception/sensation/sensory analysis background. I can't wait for us to get slightly larger and get it set up, but I can also make a crude lab for about $700 bucks, so I'm sure that'll be first.

Also, I disagree that newer brewers undersell established ones, as a broad description. (I know you're not saying every small one < every bigger one). Simply due to the economies of scale for labor, it's not always easy or possible to undersell the biger micros on their core brands, though they may also be throwing out many of the over-priced beers in the market as well. Take Stone- I can buy a $7.99 22oz of Enjoy By at Wegmans, which I consider an excellent value, but I can also buy a $18 bottle of Crime or Punishment 650mls cork/cage fancy-pants Sucker Beer at the specialty beer store. So, you know... one company, many price points across different beers.

(And don't forget that two other tiers contribute to pricing, typically- the wholesaler and the retailer.)

So yeah... long term, I hope "local & small" can survive as MacroCraft (see what I did there?) increases their production and market share in the segment. But "local" probably can't generally mean a one-city distribution footprint and "small" can't probably mean under 20 or 30K bbl/year, I'm guessing, maybe as much as 50k. Long-term. The fallout from this "bubble," and I don't know if it's even going to be as dramatic as last time, will be the guys who couldn't hit 5k bbl in their first 4-5 years, maybe less.

Alan -

Good thoughts. Remember this is as much about the PR spin as any thing.

Patrick R. -

This topic came up in a thread at Guys Drinking Beer about Illinois's Craft Brewers Guild opposing the filling of growlers by retail locations.

With expansion comes protectionism. Obviously some larger craft brewers such as Bell's and Stone do not want rogue actors undermining their product. For them it's a question of revenue as opposed to experimentation.

My question is the following: will a two-tier system develop between the Boston Beer Companies/Stones of the nation and the smaller craft brewers? One that values expansion, while the other values experimentation?

Here's that post: http://www.guysdrinkingbeer.com/no-bar-restaraunt-growlers

Alan -

As (i) big craft benefits from not having newbies undermining value and (ii) newbies may get quickly tired of taking irrelevant direction, the schism may well be soon upon us as the majority of breweries lose connection with the big craft board members.

Alan McLeod -

Sorry if you are chomping at the bit. Spam attacks again. Like a solar flare.

Alan McLeod -

Could this beer small brewing pushing back at big craft?