It’s Only Beer

By July 31, 2018 Blog

It's Only Beer

🎶 Why Should I Feel The Way I Brew? 🎶

07.24.18

Like the majority of brewers out there, previous to being a ‘professional’, my days prior were those of glorified homebrewing, one that held a tenacious rebel attitude of fighting the system (and, of course, being too young to actually drink legally). Though, there was nothing glorified about brewing either out of a university flat or your parents place. While the former location was the beginning of my uncharted future, the latter ended up, funny as it is, being one of my favorite places to brew.

During this time period, before taking off to Siebel in the fall of 2010, 10 gallon/40 liter batches were brewed relentlessly on the back deck of my parent’s home out in the woodsy city of Bend, Oregon (insert photo?). My foray into the professional world had just taken off, as well, with a fresh internship at 10 Barrel Brewing, less InBev, at the time. On that back deck, a lot brewing experimentation took place, including a deep dive into mead territory.

One of my favorites beers that had been brewed during this time was a replication recipe of the Double Mountain beer, Vaporizer. A pale ale of sorts, Vaporizer had become a sessionable close favorite of mine, and thought nothing better than to brew one in celebration for my younger sister’s upcoming birthday. 100% Pils, slight bittering addition from German Perle, with a healthy dry-hop from it as well… Though, naturally, adding my own twist, fermenting the concoction with a Belgian yeast strain was on hand at the time.

After the celebration had kicked off that weekend, and many cheers and birthday songs were had, an acquaintance at the time, who dabbled in beer, but more so on the drinking side than anything else, came up to me and we discussed my process and recipe. Apparently, while Vaporizer was also a favorite of theirs, they didn’t appreciate my take with the use of Belgian yeast. Questions of ‘why mess with a good thing’, and ‘why not stick with the intended style’ were laid in front of me, and were answered with ‘why not?’. They didn’t like this answer. Knowing where this was heading, I begrudgingly explained how styles evolve, and the majority of US beer are just evolutions of past styles… Yadda yadda. Still, unacceptable in their eyes.

After all of the effort gone into trying to appease this person, I frankly just let out an ‘At the end of the day, it’s only beer…’. Oh, wrong answer. What had turned into a casual conversation, was now veering towards the guardrail.

‘JUST BEER?!’, said the flustered acquaintance, ‘As a brewer, how can you say that?!’. While the effort was made to calm the situation, with examples and my constant repeating of ‘it’s just/only beer’ in different inflections, to be honest, no precise answer laid inside of me. They didn’t appreciate this, and it didn’t look like anything would. We had two different ways of thinking – theirs mainly riding on how my own shoulders could just shrug at my passive opinion of my beery passion.

Both mindsets couldn’t be accurately portrayed in our then drunken stupor, it seemed. 

Nevertheless, the (hazy) memory, set in motion a philosophical, if not existential, perception, rooted in the recesses of my mind that would be jogged around for some time.

Maybe even you, dear reader, felt the same way as my friend here. They had a pretty solid point – how could someone like myself, especially now with almost a decades worth of experience, reduce something that is held so dearly in my heart/soul to such a base level? Doesn’t exactly make sense – wouldn’t you want your passion to absolutely consume you? Absolutely, and it does. But the funny thing is, there’s not an ounce of my opinion to backtrack on – it still holds firm to this day.

Simply stated, beer is meant to be enjoyed inclusively, by everyone, anywhere. And that’s it, nothing more. It’s not some pretentious drink (or culture) that’s bound to some pedestal, raised to some higher standard. One of the greatest examples that many point to is, its accessibility in juxposition to wine. Wine culture has always been a shroud of mystery, only allowing those worthy enough to venture in. Most would just call this snobbery.

With beer, it’s exactly the opposite – an invigorating identity that allows welcome to anyone, whether you’d like to spend 5 minutes drinking a Coors Banquet, or 5 hours over a few bottles of Gueuze with friends. Beer, as a whole, isn’t meant to be broken down, pulled apart, inspected, and analyzed under a microscope (figuratively speaking).

Sadly, over the past several years, beer culture has become this egregious force that beckons to hold some inane value over more than what was first defined above. There’s this daunting fog that has enveloped ‘craft beer lovers’ (primarily, insecure white dudes) in this visceral mindset. Almost, as if, liking beer, or even, hell, being a brewer, held you in higher status than everyone else.

While this post describes a very direct subset, of course, this mindset doesn’t necessarily encompass everyone the industry light touches, so don’t feel personally attacked just yet. Regardless, this mentality is growing at an unhealthy rate, especially as craft beer and its culture, continues to develop worldwide.

Let’s dig in.

Typically finding the majority of Don’t Drink Beer’s reviews and beer related memes fairly harmless, they have amassed a large internet craft beard ‘army’, hell bent on taking on any brewery that seems to come under fire from DDB’s opinion. While this wouldn’t be on my top list of beers to drink, the passionate hate and fury amounted towards shown brewery is purely shocking… As if the craft beer world has been personally attacked by one beer, and justification for it’s malice must be reached.

Hell, beer drinkers aren’t the ones to start an unnecessary ruckus – it’s fallen on brewers, as well. A few weeks back, this elicit post inspired a charade of vengeful commentary against pictured anonymous brewery – including the identity reveal of said brewery. The hunt was on, quickly turning into a witch hunt, defaming the brewery, and it’s owner, over social media… Absolutely unnecessary. While the original post in question is nowhere near the level of distinction that we necessarily need as an industry whole, that doesn’t mean the fallout deserves to be a fucking smear campaign. We’re pushing beer, not a political agenda.

Even as of writing this, another post popped up, involving a certain brewery using bowls as drinking vessels. While it hasn’t gotten out of hand (yet), both sides have globed onto the madness, directing it towards the inferno. Even DDB has gotten in on the fun.

All instances of the above lead to my whole take on the situation – Who cares? The elicit response from these examples just feel outlandish and extremely over the top. There’s plenty of bigger issues that need to be addressed, and this #fakepanic is nothing more than a cocktail of boredom and elitist.

Now, there are occasions in which ‘call-out’ culture work well, something that will be talked about in a future post. In regards to the brewery transferring beer into a corny keg (and wearing no PPE), while it’s not harmful from a consumption standpoint, it definitely doesn’t sit well with how the world should view the cleanliness of craft breweries. Any German brewer seeing that post would be shaking his head for eternity.

As such, constructive criticism is absolutely necessary at this present moment, especially with the way the industry has exploded. We’ve seen an ungodly amount of folks open up breweries, with little to no known working experience or knowledge of brewing beer in the first place.

For now, it’s all about the way you go about handling your tact. If another brewer were to step into your brewery, and start criticizing you over the way you transfer from your FV to BT, would you be in a good mood? Now imagine you’ve got 100 anonymous assholes telling you how to brew your beer and run your business.

With brewing, you can skin a cat 69 million different ways – pick the attitude that you’d want to see someone offer you. And if that person doesn’t respond your help, then just leave them be. As C.S. Lewis writes, “Two of a trade never agree.”

A perfect news article plopped right into the spotlight recently that really highlights the tone-deafness of the industry, and this dislocated higher thinking of using beer as a movement – A new brewery in South Bend is opening up, planning to use ‘radical’ beer names to take a shot at current issues.

Drinking beer isn’t some social or political defining element that will change the course of history. Has beer itself changed the course of history? Definitely, without question, but not in the way we’d like to imagine. Compared to such crafts as music and film, beer is far down the list of arts that have left a mark by creating a movement, even though the rambles of disagreement can already be heard. To me, lumping beer into an art movement that has significantly impacted history is doing nothing but romanticize some semblance of ego for beer drinkers.

By drinking beer, at most, you and your mates will sit down and hopefully hash one out over the turmoil that current haunts our daily lives – and if that’s what you do, then more power to you – from there maybe some real systematic changes can be made. But acting like your brewery will suddenly be braving new territory, using these names to cut deep emotions into the hearts of beer drinkers is absolutely absurd. You’ll make a name for yourself, but it’ll most likely be for infamous reasons.

Oh, don’t worry, pretty sure we’ve been through this before – Pravda was the perfect breeding ground for this topic, destined for pushing their agenda and philosophies on craft beer drinkers of Ukraine.(insert photos of labels). Upon my arrival, there was a compassionate dismissal for the ‘radical’ marketing – here was one of Ukraine’s first breweries, attempting to use their labels as a voice to the rest of the world, as if shouting, “Hey, we’re out here, surviving, in a war torn country”. My feeling, unfortunately, didn’t last for long, but that’s for another time. Everyone, sure enough, has their own opinion as it stands.

There’s quite a few examples of how breweries have turned to using their social outright as to inspire a positive light on more somber issues. Ex-Novo Brewing, in Portland, is an excellent example of a brewery using this system correctly. What many critics first thought as a marketing move, Ex-Novo is the first non-profit brewery in the US. Since starting in 2014, they’ve been able to amass quite a following due to not only the quality of it’s beer, but for the donations they’ve made to greater causes.

Here’s the exciting part of this post where the dissolved anger and frustration all residing inside me comes to rise:

This incessant infatuation with what and what isn’t allowed in beer (and brewing) has grown out of control. Anyone who operates in this manner, doesn’t deserve a damn of this beautiful and plentiful culture. You’re not a saving grace, you’re not God’s gift to the world. Your obsession with rating beers, hashing out your arguments over vertical tastings on message boards, attacking breweries over social media, and bashing those at a party who drink inferior beer to you, is doing nothing but make the rest of the industry/culture look like complete assholes; yourself included. You’re not changing the world, you’re not curing AIDS, you’re not helping with positive growth. Way to go, your hobby is drinking the most accessible beverage in history.

Y’all are cool with hype breweries throwing massive amounts of unfermented fruit in crowlers, or Omnipollo throwing together a beer that looks like straight ketchup, but if some unknown local brewery has fun, you get to decide no? You’re a lazy gatekeeper of who and what can be included in a culture meant for everyone.

This attitude absolutely needs to stop.

Woof.

Obviously, this mentality isn’t mutually exclusive to craft beer, and so in my own way, there’s a huge recognizable bias here. Almost any hobby, or form of one, is bound to that have that subset of members that clings to this outlook that the soul of their identity is breached the moment that an exuberant amount of people show interest. Having a lot of hobbies as a kid, it was seen everywhere from radio controlled vehicles to metal detecting. The best case example is the lone indie band from your small hometown that made it big by signing onto a major label – how dare they, right?

These waves will come to pass eventually, but still the boat needs to be pushed in a certain direction to ensure the safety and future of it’s crew, lest overboarding the ones who anchor it down. Yay, metaphors.

Maybe beer has been just been romanticized enough to a point where our collective consciousness believes we’ve created some eternal greatness by what we’re doing – that we (royal) hold the power of some world changing elixir.

That said, unlike this blog post, don’t think about it too much. It’s only beer.