One of the fun things about beer blogging is reading blogs written by other craft beer fanatics. You quickly learn that there are many different perspectives on beer, brought on by a myriad of experiences and backgrounds from the bloggers themselves. Probably one of the more interesting perspectives you can come across are the citizens of Great Britain who for whatever reason, find themselves transplanted into our country.
One such blog that I come across often is DINGSBEERBLOG. An English citizen currently “marooned in the beer culture desert that is ‘The South’ of the USA”, he brings an interesting perspective to what can obviously seem like a beer scene running out of control due to American excess. Back in December he posted an article entitled, ‘Top 10′ myths that the US craft beer fad has perpetuated amongst the newbs, and (most disappointingly), even…amongst those that should know better. I found his list an interesting summation of current (and sometimes misguided) trends in the craft beer scene and thought I’d add some of my own (unsolicited) thoughts to it.
10. All craft (non-macro) beer is good, and all local beer is good.
HIM: “Simply put, it isn’t. This of course comes partly out of the general, green mantra surrounding ‘local is always better’ (and as such is not confined to beer), but it is something the newish beer crowd has latched on to and won’t let go.”
ME : I have to agree. The quality of beer has no bearing on its proximity to your location. And as awesome as it is to have a local brewery that you can call your own, don’t automatically assume that beer coming out of it is good. One of the best examples by me was the now defunct Brandywine Brewing. Area beer peeps would beam with pride about this brewery. But their beer sometimes didn’t taste any better than bad malt extract home brew, and when you went to the brewery there would be more people drinking cocktails than beer. tDoB TRUISM #7 – if there are more martini glasses than beer glasses on the bar at your local brewery, it’s probably not making good beer.
9. It’s wonderful to have more beer in cans.
HIM :”In short, the container should not overrule the contents – it seems as though too often recently that’s exactly what happens, as people settle for lesser beer simply because it’s canned.”
ME: Disagree. It IS wonderful to have more beer in cans. In my mind, Oskar Blues. 21st Amendment, Sierra Nevada and others have greatly increased the availability of GOOD beer in cans. If people out there are choosing a “lesser beer” just because it’s canned that’s the fault of the people picking the beer, not the canning movement. Let them pick a better beer, which they can probably still find – in a can.
8. It’s limited, it must be great!
HIM: “Obviously this has been going on for years, but I believe it’s now totally out of control. Hype has reached new levels for countless numbers of beers, that can be replicated and bettered, by simply walking down to your local store and taking something comparable off the shelf.”
ME: I call these “buzz beers”, beers that create an instant buzz among craft beer drinkers when the brewer announces a release date. And none of the ones I’ve had have ever really blown me away because let’s face it, at the end of the day, it’s just a beer. The machine runs well because its got two drive chains behind the hype: the select few who get to gloat that they got one of these beers, and the hoards who are jealous that they did not. Let the trading begin.
7. Session beer is now gaining popularity in the USA.
HIM: “Errrrrrr, no it isn’t. There’s STILL virtually no, 4% and under beer that you can buy on a regular basis in the USA.”
ME: As I’ve said in comments on other blogs, I’m a little shocked at the recent “war” this topic has started. CAMRA defines a session beer as anything with an ABV of 4% and under [EDIT: Read DING’s comment below and his post on his thoughts on the definition of session beer]. And (probably sadly) here in America we’re going the “bigger is better” route with our beers. Lew Bryson in his SessionBeerProject wants to redefine session beers in America as anything with 4.5% or less. Muddying the issue further is the GABF who, in an act that I believe is pure stupidity, actually defined “session beers” as a beer style – with a top ABV of 5%! America seems more interested in changing the definition of beer terms rather than brewing good beers that fit within the already existing ones.
6. More is always better (number of breweries and number of beers).
HIM: “The level of growth in the craft industry in the US is simply unsustainable. It’s flooding the market with mediocre and poor beer and shelf space is at a premium more than ever.”
ME: I want to disagree. I want to. I want to. I want to. I dream of a world where craft beer owns 95% of the market share. Where every city, town, and village has a brewery they can call “their own”. And I wanted a pony for Christmas one year. And I didn’t get that either. The only thing I’ll argue with in the above statement is that it’s not poor or mediocre beer that’s making shelf space limited where I shop. It’s all these people that prefer alcohol lemonades, ice teas, juices and waters.
5. More is always better (taps in bars).
HIM: “Sure, if you want low turnover, and indiscriminate selections. Another old myth that is hanging on, and really says as much about the US psyche of ‘more is always better’ as it says about the beer scene here.”
ME: It says “always” so I have to agree but let’s focus the blame where it belongs – at the people who run the bars. One of my favorite bars, Max’s Taphouse in Baltimore has 100+ taps and I’ve never had a bad beer there. That’s because they take their beer very seriously. Lines are frequently cleaned and if a beer has been on the line too long, they either special it to move it, or remove it if they can’t. And if they can do it there’s no excuse for a bar with 25 taps not to be able to do the same, especially in the craft beer scene where many beers come in 1/6 kegs, so slow turnover should not be a problem. Indiscriminate selections? Again, let’s blame the guy stocking the cellar not the number of taps.
4. Imperial and highly hopped = better.
HIM: “An old, old, old myth in US beer circles that just won’t go away.”
ME: God I hate the whole “Imperial” crap. I recently had an Imperial Helles that tasted like hop tea. No depth, no nuance, just hops. If in fact it is the brewers who are selling this notion to beer drinkers is far more a testament to their marketing skills, not their brewing skills. However, having said that I sometimes wonder which tail is wagging which dog. Are brewers pitching that highly hopped beers are better, or just responding to craft beer drinkers demand for hoppier beers?
3. British beer is undergoing a massive revolution inspired by American brewers.
HIM: “the overwhelming majority of magnificent beer drunk in the UK is traditional in its style, ABV and brewed by low-key brewers that still put substance over style.”
ME : From this side of the pond it must be easy to see a brewery like Brewdog and think, “Man, breweries like that must be popping up all over the UK!” In truth, on a recent trip to Scotland I only recall Brewdog being predominantly featured in one pub. In the rest, I found the normal array of traditional beers brewed by traditional breweries like Caledonian and Belhaven; along with well known smaller breweries like Harviestoun.
2. If it’s from a country with a (relatively) new brewing tradition, it MUST be great.
HIM: “First it was Italy, then it was the Scandinavian countries now it’s New Zealand. The fawning over incredibly expensive, ordinary beer is a really only a symptom of the lack of discrimination mentioned above.”
ME: ???? What is this you speak of? I guess I’ve fallen out of the foreign beer loop because I’m totally unaware of this. New Zealand? Really? I got nothing….
1. You can put ANY beer in a cask and get a good result.
HIM: “No, no, no, no. NO! The whole POINT of cask presentation is to accentuate the subtle, gentle nuances that occur over a 1, 2 or 3 day period. This relies upon beers being low-hopped, malt forward and relatively low ABV. If you put a 10% Imperial IPA in a cask, you’re missing the WHOLE point.”
ME: I love cask beer. And I’ve had some nice ones here in America, several of which I’m sure DING would say do NOT belong in a cask. But, have they been cask beers like you can get in England – no. And I would say, few people in American who have not traveled outside the states have experienced the awesomeness of true cask beer. The closest thing I’ve ever had was at the now defunct Highlander Brewery in Manhattan. When the city told them they couldn’t put brewing equipment in the old building they purchased, they got their beer from Middle Ages Brewing. They had three beers on cask, a bitter, an OSB and a brown ale. The bitter just took me back across the pond. The best example of cask beer I’ve had in America, and most probably as DING points out, because it was a beer who’s profile allows it to work well in a cask. That all being said, Dogfish Head’s 75 Minute IPA is something I love on cask, and that isn’t going to change.
Well that’s it. Just some thoughts on another man’s thoughts. I find DING’s perspective on the American beer scene interesting. I encourage you to seek out him and other beer bloggers (especially if they’ve come from other countries) to gain a better perspective on how others view the US world of craft beer.
Time for another beer….