My Argument Against "Craft" Beer

Ok, ok. Just hear me out. It isn't what it sounds like. If you know me, you know I'm obsessed with craft beer. If you don't know me, that's pretty odd that you are reading this... BUT THANK YOU!!! I hope you come back!

I recently got my BJCP tasting exam results back and I'm preparing for the written, as well as planning on taking the Certified Cicerone Exam within the next couple of months. So I'm getting deep into every aspect moreso than ever before.

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A few years ago, I was just one of those happy kids who was first getting into craft beer and I chased down every new release from all of my favorite breweries. I still do that with my number one favorite, but how could I not support them?

In all of my research and studying, I was taken back. I began to think about where we are today and all of the changes I've seen in this very short 5 year span in the grand history of beer. Things I didn't even begin to notice until about my third year in beer. So, just think about everything I still have to learn and experience.

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Where we sit now is the greatest time that has ever existed for Craft Beer. Thinking about that, was it not common to hear Microbrew when referred to "our" beers not that long ago? To my understanding "craft beer" first began it's usage in the 1980's. And it wasn't even a commonality at that time. "Craft Brewing" was how it was referred. It was about the movement that was happening in America. The way our beer was hand crafted vs the industrial methods that were sadly sweeping the country. Recently it has been used to describe the new generation of beer around the world but it's origins seem to be with the early pioneers that were tired of what they were tasting, and for that, we praise today.

Now I understand that we want to differentiate ourselves. Make the market distinction obvious to those casual consumers, especially the ones that don't know any better. But as one who is well versed in our community, and flipping back through a little history, why can't we simply call it beer?

Do you see what I mean, now? I don't go around telling people I drink craft beer. Or that I'm going out for a few craft beers. I just use "Beer". I'm going to "X Brewery", "X Bar". I feel at a point, the thing speaks for itself.  It becomes quite obvious. I make sure to know who, to the best of my ability, makes a profit off of each pour I purchase. This is something the majority of consumers don't think about... but then again, maybe it's the appeal of the word craft, that people love.

Before the time of the microbrew, was it not just a pint of Ale or Lager? In 1516, do you think they had fancy names for the beers being created at that time? In today's beer world, the distinction between craft and not so is being blurred. Crafty is a thing. Big business tactics are happening in the wake of the little guys. Certain aspects are still about the joy and community, but others quickly pull you back in to realize beer is a business. First & foremost. So where is the point where you quit acting like a little guy and accept that you are in fact in another league?

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I don't mean like the big three. That is a whole different ball game. But the way a business operates and sells across the country. The number of barrels that are produce and sold each year. There is a difference between those just scraping by and those who can essentially rely on their consumers for years to come. This isn't a bad thing. It's just the way things are.

To me, craft isn't about a definition. It's about the way you treat your product and care about your community. While a company may try to separate themselves from corporate beer, does the scale of your brewery not introduce you into that world? The number of breweries or specific off shoot locations you own, do they not paint that picture?

Even with the Brewers Association defining craft beer and then adjusting the definition to keep the biggest brewers from losing the distinction, I wonder, why does it matter? Even if my favorite brewery went above that line, their beers, again, speak for themselves. No if, ands, or butts about it. Everything they do for the beer community as well as the charitable events and support they offer, really goes to show their passion. A side of their character you wouldn't see from those that we do not label with the craft name. And surprisingly enough, at the end of the day, they still need to worry about their profit margin.

These breweries are machines, filled with passionate people. Creating experiences that we all share. Ones we look far into the future for. While I'm not saying they don't deserve to use the title craft, I just feel we are at a point in time where it is not necessary.



Draught Beer Problems

Whenever I go out to a bar, or growler filling station, I always give the brewer the benefit of the doubt that their beer is well made. Even if I don't particularly have a good track record with a specific brewery, I feel that the beer-unknown or an old favorite-is one that will meet certain standards from the production to my glass.

I would assume that we have all experienced that pint that was just not right. I know the enjoyment of a beer is a combination of many factors; mood, environment, and service to name a few. But there are times when everything you get makes you wonder... "Is this really how it's supposed to taste?" Maybe, but there are other avenues to consider before you just write off a particular beer or brewery forever.

Depending on the flavors you sense, you could possibly find issues with old and dirty beer lines.

A lot of these issues are avoidable if the company knows what to look for or if they conduct regular maintenance of their equipment. While some states have laws stating the lines are to be cleaned every two weeks, others don't. In some states, it's the bars responsibility to assure the lines are clean. In others, the distributors. But even with regular cleaning, improper service can cause issues in the flavor of your beer.

One of my biggest peeves while out drinking, (when I can see the beer poured), is watching the faucet touch the glass and then proceeding to be dipped into the beer. While there may not be issues immediately that's an unhygenic practice and promotes the growth of bacteria; namely Pediococcus and Lactobacillus.

Pediococcus is typically the bacteria that is associated with a buttery or butterscotch flavor in draught beer, known as diacetyl. Lactobacillus, on the other hand, typically produces sour & acidic flavors in your beer.

There is another source of bacteria that can sour draught beer, Acetobactor. The difference in life cycle between acetobactor  and the two above mentioned bacteria, is that acetobactor is an aerobic bacteria. While Lactobacillus & Pediococcus are both anaerobic.

Acetobactor grows in disgusting conditions to begin with. So other than the effects it has on the beer, it's not something a company would want in their draught lines. The main places that acetobactor is found are dirty drains, spill trays, bar tops, & used bar rags... which then make their way onto faucets... and into your beer, through a number of methods.

I've had people ask me before, I've even contemplated this myself; Should we tell someone that their beers lines are possibly dirty? Should we send the beer back?

Before, I was not sure. Maybe I was scared of something... I don't know, but you should never be afraid to send a beer back and tell them about the issue you are experiencing. It can help prevent the problem in the future and some may be excited to hear about it. It could be an issue they had no idea about... But that brings up a whole different set of issues. Though, that more than likely falls on the establishment's policies.

There are other things that can go wrong with beer and not everything comes from the point of consumption. These are just a few of the common issues you might, (hopefully not), experience. But if you do, you might want to ask how often the beer lines, faucets, & couplers are disassembled and cleaned.



The Session: The Beer Book That Isn't Written

It's been a while since I've posted here. 2013 was a pretty good year on my blog but 2014 was a total wash. What happened? Who knows. A lot of incomplete stories I told from the experiences I lived but what became of them?

2014 was a great year in beer for me, & 2015 looks like it should shape up quite a bit better. Really, only time will tell but the story needs to start somewhere. Where is that you might ask? Within the pages of the newest book... that isn't written.

The book doesn't have a name. It doesn't even have a single topic. The only common thread is beer. It's more about what is missing from our community. But this causes a few issues. What is missing for me, may not be missing for you. How is that possible? A story about community that isn't equal across the board? Sounds about like life.

In the pages of my chapter in this book, one thing I find that is missing is the common thread between beers.

What exactly do I mean? We all share the same love for beer; just at varying degrees. Even a beer that would be considered technically or stylistically bad is loved by someone. Beers that were once considered the best in the portfolio are looked at as overrated. What happened?

Have we forgotten what beer was like? The constant evolution of styles and ingredients have lead to the same in the beers we drink. If we can remember their roots, we will not get lost in the world as some have. Though, forgetting where these new and improved beers originated has created a gap that a certain percentage of us see, while the majority of the community doesn't even realize that it exist. Eliminating the thread between past and present.

I feel that the major craft breweries have noticed this too; getting back to their roots. One thing I predicted for 2015, which we will see if it comes to pass in the next 12 months, seems to already be getting it's feet off the ground.

While everyone is still trying to get their hands on rare and exotic beers or those brewed with ingredients of the same vein, a few of the more popular craft breweries are taking a step back. They are taking what some might consider a huge risk. They are adding classic, even historic, beer styles to their catalog; Porters & Pilsners.

Unnecessary risk? Basic innovation? With the stigma of lagers in our world, and the track record of lagers that were added to portfolios in the past, only those who study and understand beer styles would be likely candidates to initially flock to try these beers... while the uninitiated may pass over them because there is nothing magical about the beers. By holding onto the common beer threads, we can rediscover the passion and ingenuity that sparked the revolution we see today.

So what is this beer book that isn't written about? What is my chapter within the text or maybe even just a single volume about? The past, present, & future of beer? The missing link in our community? Or the need to sit back, and relax, while we appreciate what simplicity can bring us...