The impact that the type of beer brewed by local establishments is having on multi-national beer companies is evident. From the buying of these smaller operations by the big guys to the potential limiting of available hops (not that many of us had a shot at getting them in the first place) by intercontinental producers… this conversation has taken an interesting turn. One that I find contextually interesting.
I’ve noticed that most folks refer to two kinds of malt based beverage brewed with water, yeast, and sometimes hops. These are “beer” and “craft beer.” I even recently read a thread on the book of faces about moving “craft beer” to another category, I believe it was “independent beer.” “Beer” being used to refer to the mass produced, internationally shipped, light lager category. And really everything else falling into “Craft,” “Independent,” “Nano,” or some other sub category of “Beer.”
At first glance this seems to refer to the fact that the product produced on a smaller scale and presumably with more hand contact and care is different, or special, or for some reason… needs a qualifier. Innocent enough, right? Meh… Me no thinks so. Why do the big guys get to own beer? We should own beer…. They should have to qualify. They’re going to co-opt anything we use anyway, right? Flip the script. Let’s co-opt them.
As history has it and as I’ve been told, beer is rumored to have been started in small local establishments, not multi-national companies. And, I’m making and assumption here, when Paul Revere, Van Gogh, or the King of a random African kingdom wanted to imbibe a sip of tasty beverage, they just said, “let’s go grab a beer” (or something to the same effect). They didn’t qualify with craft, handmade, or independent… It was simply beer. I like to think we still make the real stuff in the small establishments. I don’t need a qualifier to tell me what I like to drink is good, and I’m certainly no elitist that needs a title. Beer and our craft didn’t come from the elite, so why does it need to be elevated now.
What I make is beer. What is mass industrial produced is something else… call it macro beer, call it industrial beer, call it crap, call it … just don’t leave it at “Beer.” We don’t need a licensed professional to tell us what’s good… We’re beer drinkers. We know what’s good when we taste it. We already give too much thought to who we are, what we want to be, and more than anything, the burning question everyone wants to answer first (because first is apparently best)… HAVE WE REACHED SATURATION?!??!!
So here’s my two-part proposal
1) Let’s stop worrying about what we are called and worry more about ensuring we make and/or imbibe only in quality product (not just big barrel aged limited edition only available at the brewery products). I can honestly say as a brewer this matters more to me than what anyone, anywhere calls our industry.
2) Let’s focus more on what we refer to the big beer as… it’s not ok to just call it “Beer”… That’s our term, we own it. They are co-opting that. They are mass, industrial, production line, cheap, lite, beer… but they are never just “beer” in any conversation or thought.
Finally, this only works if we all work together. Everyone committed to the same thing. We are beer… not some elitist organization in some tower of Craft than can only be sipped if you know the source of every ingredient. Now, I’m not saying that we make beer more approachable or dumb it down for attraction. That is the job of Masshole Beer. Our beer is quality and core. It’s edgy and constantly changing. It’s local and cared for. That’s beer. Just beer. Beer.