When I came across this article in Food Republic “8 Simple Steps: How To Not Be A Dick While Drinking Beer” I thought it'd be another piss-taking on the beer snobs. I was wrong, very wrong; the article could be summarised as “if you criticise the holy craft beer loudly, your are a dick and a few bits of common sense and manners”.
To be fair, the author of the article, Jon Katz, does make a couple of valid points; it's a shame that they are drowned by the sort of craftoevangelist bullshit that I wish had been eradicated of the beer discourse already. It becomes quite painful to read, to be honest.
What prompted the author to write this piece was, in his own words, reading “a comment left by an unsatisfied beer drinker on a favorite brewery’s Facebook page.”
Unfortunately, the comment isn't quoted or linked, so we don't know what the author really means by passive aggressive, but it seems that what shocked him the most was that a beer from this brewery, one that he considers good, was described as “dishwasher”, which to him is too harsh and unnecessary. (though, to me, is a perfectly good descriptor for some beers I've had).
The real bollocks, however starts in the second paragraph, which opens with this pearl of wisdom, and I quote:
“It’s easy to forget that beer is a privilege, not a birthright.”WHAT THE FUCK?!?!
I wish I could believe that nonsense is only the product of a poor choice of words, but I can't. This is similar in nature to that “craft beer saved good beer from extinction” idiocy uttered by a Spanish based English brewer, but regardless of that, my feelings are confirmed by the own author later in the same paragraph when he says “converting a friend to craft beer-ism”. He makes it sound like some sort of hardcore, dogma-based, ideology, something that should not be questioned.
The list itself continues pretty much along the same lines, #1 - Constructive criticism is constructive if you are, says:
Breweries want to hear from you, but don’t sabotage their social media platforms with offensive messages. You bought the beer and maybe it’s not your favorite, but don’t drive away potential consumers because you got upset. If you email the company directly, they’ll send you a replacement beer for free. Orange County's The Bruery recently did this with the release of their slightly-off Ebony & Oak stout, so it really does happen.Now, I agree that there's no real need to be offensive, and that criticism should be fair and well argued, but what the author says is still many ways of wrong. If someone got upset, not mildly disappointed, but upset with a product they bought, they have every right to voice their displeasure in any way and through any channel they see fit. Brewers that set up a Facebook page to interact more directly with consumers should accept that as part of the game (and this also applies to the breweries' fanboys). If they are confident of their products and have earned the respect of a solid consumer base, then they have nothing to fear (and if they feel a negative comment is unfair or offensive, they can always delete it).
But where the author is not only wrong, but also almost irresponsible is in the second part of #1.
I'm sure that there are some breweries that will gladly send you a replacement if you give them a good enough reason, but what the author is suggesting is that all of them do so, always. No, they don't and, unless we're speaking about a clear cock-up in quality control, I don't see why brewers should do this.
The next point, #2 - Yes, beer is expensive but it’s generally worth it, it's even worse:
If you’re buying an expensive beer, there’s a reason for it: making good beer can be expensive, especially the barrel-aged variations people (read: we) love. Part of splurging for a beer is the adventure, and like any adventure, if it’s not what you expect, don’t be a jerk. Wine drinkers pay $50 a bottle for young wine all the time and some of it suuuuucks, but it's part of the game. Rate it on a website specifying the batch number or vintage year, and move along.Where to begin? O yeah. Making good beer can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be so, on the other hand there are many expensive beers that are just average stuff dressed in fancy clothes and there are also not few that are downright shit, and telling the world that you feel you've been ripped off by either of these two kinds of beers does not make you a jerk, it makes you someone who values their money, an idea the author doesn't quite seem to grasp, or at least not when it comes to “craft beer”, as his comment about young wines clearly shows. That comment, by the way, is a really stupid way to make an argument, it's almost like comparing sausages to chocolate. Firstly because wine is a lot more expensive to make than beer. Secondly, because the fact that an expensive, crappy beer happens to be cheaper than a crappy wine, doesn't make that beer any less expensive or crap.
As a capitalist, I love living in a system that allows producers of something as unessential as beer to set any price they see fit for their products. Whatever their reasons are, it's their choice and their right. But those who sell beer that can be considered expensive should realise and come to terms with the fact that high prices will result in high expectations, and those expectations will have to be met. Arguing higher costs not only is poor excuse for lack of value, but it's also an insult to the consumers' intelligence.
The sort of craftoevangelism people like Jon Katz propagates should die already. It's not doing anyone any favours. Beer is not a fucking privilege! Breweries don't put their beers on the market to grant us any special rights or benefits, they do it because it's their business, and once those beers are on the market, they become just another product that we can choose to buy with our (in many cases diminishing) disposable income. Without us, the consumers, those breweries would not exist and we should expect, no, demand, more respect from them.
People who have paid for a product can't be considered jerks for expressing their legitimate opinion, regardless of how harsh that opinion might be. If trashing macro breweries is accepted, and even expected, then craft brewers are fair game, too. After all, they all want the same, our money.