29 Apr 2013

Monday Musings


Interesting. Almost at the same time, two blogs, a Yank and a Czech, responded to a the reaction of the other side of the counter to the same "problem".

Jeff, in Beervana, has been carrying out comparative blind tastings of mass produced pale lagers. In one of them, the samples of Stella Artois and Beck's turned out to be lightstruck. One Jack (whom I mistakenly thought to have some relation to ABIB) left a comment saying that it was not fair to include in a tasting a bottle that had been abused.

Meanwhile, in this neck of the woods, Pivníci published the results of their survey on PET bottles1. At the end of the post, they tell that they had received outraged e-mails from owners or brewers complaining about their beers having been evaluated from PET bottles, instead of on tap at this or that pub.

Both Jeff's and Pivníci's response could be summarised as "if you know the container can be a problem, why the fuck do you sell your beer like that?" And I couldn't agree more. To me, a beer is not fully made until it gets into my glass, or until I pay for the bottle at a shop2. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the company that makes this beer to see that it gets to the consumer in the best possible condition. Unfortunately, either for lack of will or resources, many are the producers who do not take care of the quality of their beers once they leave their factories, leaving it all in the hands of the interest, will and capacity of third parties.

This reminds me of something I read a while ago in Alan's blog (or was it Stan's?) about one of the earliest definitions of "craft beer/brewery". I've forgotten the details (and I can't be arsed with looking for the post, perhaps the author will kindly provide a link?), but it basically established that craft was a brewery that, among other things, refrained from distributing their beers in order to avoid compromising their quality. And it's pretty much on the spot. Even with the greatest will and resources, each time a brewer leaves their product in the hands of third parties, the only thing they can do is to hope that this person will give it the adequate care, which often does not happen.

But let's not be fundamentalists. A brewery is first and foremost a business, and like every other business, its reason to be is to generate profit for its owners, something that is very difficult to accomplish without taking risks and compromising some ideals3. It's hard to be against that, after all, without those entrepreneurs who take those risks and compromise those ideals, it wouldn't be possible to enjoy the diversity many of us are fortunate to enjoy today.

On the other hand, it is also true that some of those entrepreneurs are also the same ones who say they represent true and proper Beer Culture, telling us that what drives them is passion and love for beer and not money. All while they gladly ship their beers across countries, continents, seas and oceans, often without filtering and pasteurising because that would mean compromising on quality and the concept of artisanship.

Of course, hardly anyone today can be surprised to learn that a good part of the marketing discourse of the people who want our money is made of the highest grade bollocks. Though, there seems to be not few fools on this side of the counter more than willing to believe all that nonsense and spread it on.

Speaking about nonsense from this side of the counter. The other day, Simon Johnson shared a gem, a video called “Sh!t Beer Geeks Say”. It's brilliant! Don't miss it! Especially since I believe most of us, more than once, have uttered similar sort of idiocies.

This takes me to a pretty good piece I read last week, 15 Things Craft Beer Fans Think (But Nobody Says). Nothing new, really, and many of them are specific to the American beer ecosystem, but there are others that could be perfectly applied in any country (at most, with the change of a few details), and that have even been dealt with in this blog, e.g. here and here.

These, and other things I've read in the last few months have made me wonder if we aren't witnessing a growing trend towards a healthy and reasonable cynicism, the sort that "Craft Beer", like any other brand, deserves. And it might be that this trend is slowly spilling to the other side of the counter.

In its Twitter profile, the Argentine micro brewery Nuevo Origen says, "We make good beers, we don't care for the craft beer tag". It's marketing, no doubt, but marketing with balls. The Craft label is often used to justify ineptitude, precariousness and lack of professionalism. But with "Good Beer" there's nowhere to hide, and it shows a brewer4 with a lot of confidence in his product.

And ain't that just what we all really want, "Good Beer"? "Craft", "Artisan", "Gourmet", "Boutique", etc. are just empty labels that, at most, speak more of the producer than the product. "Good" is the only label that we should want to buy and support.

Yes, micro-macro, local-imported, independent-corporate are things to be taken into account to some extent. But, as far as I'm concerned, they are not even close as important as "Good". Only the brewers who are able to deliver "Good" (or at the very least "Well Made", because "Good" can be pretty subjective) can begin to tell me about all the rest, otherwise, they'd better keep quiet.

Na Zdraví!


1 I often buy beers in plastic bottles. To me, the problem isn't so much the material of the container (which is far from the best), but the way in which the bottles are handled and stored at shops. The same could be said about green bottles. In fact, it has happened to me more than once to buy at a supermarket a duff beer, even in a brown bottle.
2 Actually, the glass thing could also apply to bottles bought at shops, but let's cut the brewers some slack.
3 Does not refer to moral, ethic ideals or beliefs, but to the concept of a perfect model.
4 I've exchanged a few e-mails with Marcelo Braga, who seems to be a fine bloke. I don't know his beers, but would love to.

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