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Yes to "Specials", no to "Rock Stars"

The latest edition of the eternal debate about cult, expensive, extreme, rare, weird, experimental, etc. beers (I think we can put them all in the same bag) started in Ireland, then moved to England, from there it crossed the Atlantic to Canada to end up, for the moment, in, well, wherever Stephen Beaumont happens to be right now.

In a nutshell, Beer Nut and Alan McLeod are not too keen on them, while Stephen and Mark Dredge (who would also like to see more brewers like rock stars, but I will get to that later) are really cool with them.

From here, a small village not far from Prague, I have to say I'm really happy they exist, seriously. But it's not because I think they are better than the rest, o because I believe that they are automatically worth the price asked for some and not even because I'm all that interested in buying them.

There's another reason. I'm glad they exist because just by being they break the stereotype of beer as "an inexpensive, mildly alcoholic fizzy drink that is best enjoyed when very cold", or things on those lines. They are also very effective at showing the masses that beer can also be sophisticated, expensive, ideal to pair with fancy food, that it can be enjoyed in small sips and tasted to better appreciate its complexity or opened only for very special occasions. All this, while at the same time retaining its nature as the everyman's cheap drink, great to wash down pizzas, sausages and pub grub in general, to neck while watching sports, an excellent thirst quencher or the fuel or lubricant of a good time with friends. And that is, ladies and gentlemen, one of the reasons I love beer so much.

Of course, it would be nice if these beers were truly special, and not just very similar to others that I can buy anytime I fancy and for a fraction of the price. They should also have a concept behind them, and not just the goal of being the "-est" in some category or another. Otherwise, they become no more than marketing gimmicks.

But, what's the problem with that? What's the deal with brewers wanting to manipulate supply and demand a little in order to give their product a fictitiously high price? A brewery is, first and foremost, a business and as such, they will try to maximise their profit and improve their market position. Some macros do that by cheaping down their products and with huge advertising campaigns, knowing very well that most people will not notice nor care; and some micros do that by selling overrated and overpriced products, knowing very well that there are enough fools out there willing to buy them at all cost. I haven't got much against that. I don't have to buy those beers, I don't even have to write about them, come to think of it, I can completely ignore them. If that means I will never be able to drink them, so be it! I've already come to terms with the fact that there are many, perhaps great, beers that I will never drink. I don't mind, because there are many more, also great, that I have, can and might eventually drink and enjoy, and those are the ones that I care about, and that all of us should care about.

And regarding brewers as rock stars. I see Mark's point, but I don't fully share it.

The image I have of a rock star is of inflated egos, excess, detachment from reality, celebrity (in the tabloid sense), bodyguards, etc. Things that might have looked cool when I was a teenager, but now that I'm pushing forty I see under a different light.

Since I started writing I've had the opportunity of meeting many brewers, brew masters and owners of breweries. Almost without exception I've found people that are passionate about their jobs, and it is a very hard job! And that regardless of how respected or even admired they might be, they are still down to earth, humble and approachable. They are people with whom you can still sit down and have chat and a beer, their own or someone else's. And that is they way I want them to stay.

If you give me to choose between a cult to the personality of the brewer and a cult to their beers, I'd rather have the beers do the talking.

Na Zdraví!

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