Warning: This may be my second fairly libertarian themed post in a row. I’m not certain that two posts, nearly six months apart really count as a row, but there you go. Right, so for the three of you still reading, I’ll get down to brass tacks.
There have been a raft of releases of, I don’t really know what to call them, cash-in beers maybe? I don’t like faux-craft, or craft-lite, or the other various terms which imply “less than craft quality”. The reason for my dislike is that nobody has managed to satisfactorily define what constitutes craft anyway, so until that can be done, I think it’s unfair and unreasonable to denigrate something for not meeting an undefined standard.
Anyway, let’s just say that the large players have (finally) woken up and realised that the ever increasing chunk of the market that likes artisinal, flavourful, interesting products is growing while the more traditional market is, at best, standing fairly still, and more often, declining. It’s something that I believe they’ve written off as irrelevant for a long time, and they are now realising that they need to be a part of it. To do that, they need to understand it. Now, I’m not sure I believe there’s an it to be understood, but that’s the subject of a different blog post. I might get around to writing it sometime in 2015, if my current schedule maintains itself.
Anyway, what we have now is the first real incursion of the big players into the “new frontier” of craft beer. There are various strategies at play, and they’ve all been discussed to death elsewhere. This post isn’t about that. It’s about the ugly side of the craft beer community. There are those who probably thought I was the ugly side of the craft beer community, but I’m speaking more of ethical and emotional ugliness. The ugliness of one who, when confronted by something he doesn’t like or approve of, and sensing that he may have numbers on his side, immediately repairs to force to fix his problem. “Come on guys, let’s beat up the new kid! He talks funny, and he’s different to us!”
Now, of course, I’m not implying that craft beer people are the types to literally go out and form a torch wielding mob. No, they’re all nice people. Well, every one I’ve ever met, and that’s a fair few! The force they propose is the institutionalised (and therefore perfectly OK, in their minds) force of government/legislative compulsion. Instead of letting the quality (or lack thereof) of a product speak for itself, and succeed or fail on those terms, the well meaning and otherwise perfectly lovely craft beer afficionado suddenly transforms into a thug. “You’re not allowed to say Imperial Pint on the bottle! Get them!”, “That’s not really an IPA! Get them!”, “That brewery isn’t even a real brewery, let alone established in 1859! Get them!”
Of course, many of these claims are true, and the marketing in question is often at best, a little misleading, and at worst, outright fraudulent. In those cases, yes, fraud is a crime, and those perpetrating it should be held accountable. That doesn’t change how damned ugly it is to watch the gleeful screams of these otherwise wonderful people as they sense a kill and descend upon the different kid, torches blazing and eyes alight with righteousness.
I strongly believe force is only ever OK in self defence, and it’s the one rightful job of a government to hold a monopoly on the use of force in order to protect each citizen’s rights to do as they please, so long as those rights don’t impose on others equal rights, via force or fraud. I’m not here to defend these beers, or the breweries which create them. In several cases, I find the products are awful and the marketing dishonest and shameful. I’m trying to say that if it’s not hurting you, consider pointing out why it’s bad – discussion and persuasion are civilised tools for encouraging others to drink beers you consider craft and avoid beers you don’t. In other words, try anything but pulling out the club of legislation and attacking the new kid, however annoying he may appear. The law is, and should ALWAYS be, a shield, not a club.