I’m no stranger to parties or social events. Any chance I get to host or attend some sort of social function, whether alone or with the help of friends, I jump at it. I’ve done an after-hours beer tasting seminar in my office and plan to continue them, I’ve helped host private parties at the local watering hole, I just enjoy showing people a good time. It does at times leave me at odds with other people though. Not really in a bad way, but it can be awkward and it takes some convincing on their part to “see eye-to-eye” with me. This is never more present than when we get into conversation about beer. Standing in a circle of friends, I see plenty of silver cans, plenty of red & white cans, plenty of blue cans. Am I the only person drinking craft beer in this whole group?
As an example of this, I submit to you a BBQ I recently attended with friends and coworkers. They all know I’m a huge beer guy. I brought the massive 110 quart (27 1/2 gal) Igloo cooler full of ice and some of my beer. This was all craft, stuff that many people had never heard of. Then our host added some beer that he had and others followed suit. Soon we were looking at a large swath of different types of beer in the cooler, but now the vast majority of it was macro-water. I often ask people why they opt for such flavorless and mass market beer, especially in light of the craft beer renaissance taking place. Their answer? “It’s cheaper, it’s easy to get and if it was so bad, why are they all over TV and internet?” Thank you for the brilliant opine, you mindless sheep. Parting note – at the end of the day, all my beer was gone. A good portion of theirs was left for me to take home. At least I can water my plants now without running up my water bill.
Frankly, the answer I got isn’t too far off the mark. Go to any general liquor store and you’ll find rack upon rack of Bud, Miller, Coors, Corona, Heineken etc. If you have ever seen the documentary “Beer Wars” you know what I’m talking about when it comes to marketing, accessibility and product placement by the major breweries. The thing that kills me is that this beer gets top placement and is so easily accessible that people just grab it, often without thinking. Then you will find a small corner with mostly Sam Adams and a very few other small labels, depending on what the local distributor is sending the store. Around here, the “craft” selection is mostly Sam Adams and Brooklyn Brewery, sometimes they’ll have some Flying Fish in there as well. Sam is there because in my opinion, it is the grandfather of the craft beer movement and is the bridge between macro and micro. Brooklyn and Flying Fish are there because they’re local. My main point I guess is that all you see from one row to the next is something that is mass produced and offers little in the flavor department. After all, that’s what beer is all about isn’t it? If you want something light and refreshing that has few calories and won’t satisfy you, go grab a Zima. Oh wait, that’s right. They went out of business. Wonder why? (Insert hashtag then the words niche and trend.)
Craft beer is great to me because while it does pack on more calories and carbs and all that bad stuff that supposedly adds to my ever-growing gut, it offers me a fine selection of styles and flavors through which I can find my happy place. No more comparing three or four different flavors from the brewers we all know and have likely grown palate-immune to. No need for kitschy advertising and marketing gimmick, the flavor sells itself. I’ve said it before, beer is as varied and complex as wine. If only it had a greater appeal through which it could reach a larger audience. This is what I mean about being a stranger in a strange land. Craft brewers are having to fight tooth and nail with the big labels to get even a fraction of market share, even with their continued dominance over macro beer in terms of sales. Overall, in 2012, the total beer market grew 1% from the year before, but the craft beer industry grew 15%.*
I just don’t get it, I suppose. I will continue my love for craft beer, despite many of my friends’ propensities towards grabbing a cheap sixer of fizzy yellow water. I do believe there is a huge difference, and while many of us were considered outcasts of the beer society before, we are now more commonplace than ever. I see more people than ever gaining an interest in home brewing, which is the genesis of the craft beer movement. They soon realize the passion that goes into craft brewing, because if you’ve ever brewed your own beer, you gain a huge sense of pride once you taste the fruits of your labor. Craft beer is the next step in that process. Sure we pay more for it, but we get more out of it as well. If this continues, maybe one day the roles will reverse, and the “quality-over-quantity” crowd will finally win the day. Cheers!