About two months ago, I read an excellent article about Light beers in the US that, even after taking some of it with pinch of salt, makes you think a lot about the concepts of "craft" and "quality". But that is not what I wanted to talk about today (though I really recommend the article), but about what I started thinking after reading this little bit almost at the beginning:
Melissa Brandt (...) chimed in. She'd recently bought her father a case of craft beer but couldn't convert him. Once he'd polished off the gift, he retreated to his basement kegerator full of Bud Light. "It was a sad moment," she said.Let's analyse this a bit. Unlike that wanker in Ustí, this woman's dad did drink the craft beers he had received, he "polished them", so we can assume he liked them (you don't "polish" a beer you don't like), and yet, he went back to the arms of his beloved Bud Light. What's so sad about it? Seeing a man deciding for something he evidently enjoys? No, what's sad are craftophiles like Melissa who believe their tastes are superior to those of the majority and can not understand, or even accept, that there are people who will voluntarily drink stuff they consider "shit".
To rather some extent, this is a product of that mythical beast "The Craft Beer Movement", which has made us, the consumers, believe that in some way we are together with the people on the other side of the counter fighting the war against bad beer*, that we all share the same ideals, goals and the same passion for good beer*. It's because of this that some of us feel it is our duty to promote true beer and evangelise the masses.
It has to be said that this fantasy works quite well. Not only there are many who refuse to critisise alternative brewers, but some will even frown upon someone else's doing so, which in turn has resulted in brewers who feel they should be immune to public criticism arguing that it can "hurt the movement".
If we think about it a little, this is something absurd. The ideals and goals of the consumers and the producers are opposed (passion is just a marketing buzzword, really), and the commercial relationship is just the result of both sides making compromises in order to satisfy their needs or wishes. Brewers will only make those beers they know, or at least strongly believe, will sell; we will buy those beers that we like o believe we will like. The price for them will be determined by a middle point between how much the producer wants to earn and how much the consumer is willing to spend; with the former trying to convince the latter to spend as much as possible (needless to say, the producers always have the upper hand, the average consumer tends to be ignorant, apathetic or not too hard to dupe).
But regardless of the bollocks and the delusions some might have, the truth is that the small/local/independent breweries aren't part of any movement whatsoever. They are part of an industry! Both [insert name of your most reviled macro] and [insert name of your most beloved micro] are in the same business, making and selling beer. The differences between one and the other are simply the result of scales, business models, and company policies and structures, just that.
Each of them, in their own way, want the same: that we choose their products over those of the competition. Since macros aim at a mass market, they use football teams, James Bond, sexy girls and what have you, while the micros, who aim at a niche or niches, use localness, passion, authenticity and what have you. In both cases, they want the consumer to identify with those values, which, as far as the quality of what gets to our glass is concerned, are entirely superficial. In other words, the ultimate goal of all of them, big, small, independent, corporate, local, global is the same, is to get our money.
But don't take this the wrong way, I'm a capitalist and I'm really cool with people wanting to make money, specially when they do it working and producing. What I don't like is to be taken for a fool and be sold, as Alan has genially put it, sucker juice. Though, we should be honest, as with the prices, the blame is always ours at the end of the day. It is us who should change. We should realise once and for all that we have no obligation of any kind to automatically promote and support one branch of the industry, let alone spread the "gospel of good beer" (really, I'm sometimes ashamed to have believed that). On the contrary, we should be more cynical and critical with the stuff said by those who want our money.
But I don't want to look so bitter and cold. Sharing, even figuratively, what we like and gives us pleasure is in itself a pleasant thing, and I will keep on sharing my tastes in beer and promoting the companies that do things the way I like them to be done just like I've been doing, but not anymore with the intention of illuminating anyone's taste buds. If a good mate, after polishing a growler of Kout decides to go back to drinking Braník straight from the bottle, I won't think any less of him. Actually, I wouldn't even mind to share his beer tastes, after all, better crap beer with good people than good beer with crap people.
*Good/bad beer: If what defines good beer is the taste, then no beer is inherently bad as long as there are people who enjoy it and are willing to pay for it.