In Douglas Adams’ seminal series Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a story is told about creating a computer who was able to find the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. They were looking for THE answer. And they did it. They came up with an amazing computer, called Deep Thought, who ran a program for many years and came up with The Answer. The Answer was 42.
The administrators of this computer freaked out. What kind of answer was 42? How could that help anyone? The computer observed that perhaps they did not know what the question was. It is a profound observation. To make sense of the answer we need to ensure we know and are asking the right question(s).
A question I am asked by well-meaning craft beer lovers everywhere is as follows:
Is <Insert Brand of Beer> really craft beer?
I know what they’re asking. Is this brand really fake-craft? Are they really a giant brewing conglomerate who is interested only in money? Are they a “small guy” who I can support with my beer money? Do they align with what I believe?
I’m not going to say there’s no place for these questions. I’m a fan of the “Drink Local” movement. But I wonder if these questions are too lofty for beer. You have a liquid in a bottle which either tastes good to you or it doesn’t. If it’s craft beer or if it’s…what…uncraft beer? Does it matter?
To many, the question they’re beginning to ask is:
Does it taste good?
After all, there are many breweries turning out beer which fit the definition of craft beer, but don’t taste good. Do you make it a point to purchase those beers, even though they’re not worth drinking just to support a self-promoting concept like “craft beer”? I don’t, certainly, and I doubt many of my readers/listeners do either.
So does it matter whether it’s considered craft, or is the proof in the bottle/can? I think we all need to answer that question for ourselves, and the answers may be more complex than “yes/no.”
FOR ME, the only time I care whether a beer is macro is when it comes to ABInBev. I’ve said over and over on the show, ABI has filed frivolous lawsuits against small brewers whom I enjoy, trying to torpedo them just because they have the cash to do it. They create incentives which try to get distributors to carry ONLY their beer whether or not the market wants more of it. They buy craft breweries on the one hand while mocking craft breweries with their ads. Their practices annoy me, and I’m not keen on supporting them.
So how long will this principle of mine last? I’m not sure. For now, that’s my line. I don’t buy Elysian Brewing, Goose Island, Golden Road, 10 Barrel, etc. I just don’t. Maybe someday I’ll relent, but for now I don’t see ABI letting up on their ridiculous incentive programs, and that just angers me.
I still buy Lagunitas, Ballast Point (when I can afford it), and Firestone Walker, which is part-owned (or something) by Duvel. I feel comfortable in my purchasing decisions. I know that Drew still buys Bourbon County Stout when Goose Island releases it. I think we all have to decide where our line is.
We need to make sure we’re asking the right question. Is it truly craft? Maybe. But is the better question, “Is it worth drinking?” Or is your line, like mine, drawn to allow for a combination of the two?