I’ve been taking a break from blogging, and indeed writing in general lately. I don’t really know why. I’ve just struggled to find something that hasn’t already been said, and usually more eloquently than I could say it. I’m not averse to some deceased equine beating, I just think that it pays to have something to add to a debate before saying something.
The old “what makes beer craft beer” debate has been bubbling up from under again of late. Unlike some, I’m not tired of this debate. I’m glad it keeps coming up. This post is in part a way to continue it and I hope that enough people still bother checking in here that it will get some discussion.
Historically I have weighed in on the side of the debate that says craft beer is beer which is brewed because the brewer enjoys it, and thinks others will too. I don’t believe that rules out wanting to make money from your beer. Making money is an old and noble pursuit! I just believe that the brewer has enough self-belief to say “I love this beer I’ve made, and I’m sure others will love it enough to want to pay for it and thus afford me a wage”. I believe this can be the goal of big brewers and small ones without a conflict.
The pachyderm alluded to by the title of this post is that SOBA, and indeed most “pro consumer” organisations were founded as a reaction against the perceived dumbing down of mainstream beer. This means that we (SOBA) often tend to attract those who feel pretty passionately that the big boys are the cause of everything that is wrong with beer. SOBA’s official position is closely aligned with my personal one on that. Since I helped found the organisation, I guess that’s not too much of a coincidence. This view is that SOBA celebrates and advocates for good beer, no matter who brews it. Lately it’s a view I’ve found harder and harder to defend in practice, even though it couldn’t be easier to defend morally.
It’s not just one sided either. While I am utterly sick of the same cynical and predictable marketing and product range of the big guys, I am equally tired of paying $9 for a pint of craft beer and getting a barely drinkable glass of something vaguely resembling beer, and feeling like a traitor to the cause if I give an honest opinion about it. Why does this sub-par beer get to be included in the “good beer” category we call craft, but the excellently brewed Kingfisher I enjoyed recently get excluded?
So, what am I trying to say with this rambling post? I guess I’m saying that I’m a little uncomfortable with “us” (be it SOBA, CAMRA, AHA, or just the passionate and unaffiliated local beer nerd down the pub) building entire campaigns around a notion that we can’t even define clearly. Does this mean we shouldn’t fight for good beer? Hell no. I just think we need to be a little careful who we champion and equally, who we write off as “rubbish”.
If a brewer has sold their soul in the name of marketing or not dumping a sub-par batch of beer, I believe that said souls can be purchased back for the price of a few good pints.