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It’s a long road to hoe

But I’m just the Joe to hoe it – The Tick

I honestly have no idea how I came upon the link to The Early Show’s Five Best Beers Made in America. The tab was open and I read it, then closed it, then got sort of mad about it and started tweeting up a storm. By the time I realized I should give attribution for where I found it, that information had dissipated in my early-sips-of-coffee stupor. I assume it was someone I follow on Twitter, though damned if I can find who.

They do, in fact, like their beer

Anyway, while the list purports to be the best beers in America, the subtitle (subheadline?) of the piece indicates, with some surprise, that they’re all from Portland, Oregon! (the exclamation point is theirs, not mine) The story starts with how it has the most breweries in the country and is considered our ‘beer capital’ (Papazian’s somewhat dubious polls notwithstanding) and is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the law that allowed beer to be sold on premise. So, okay, it’s a fluff piece and shouldn’t be taken seriously. But this is beer we’re talking, and I tend to get my panties in a twist (you should hear me rant on about Eat This, Not That’s Worst Beer in America (healthwise), Bigfoot, to my entirely uncaring coworkers, family and anyone else unfortunate enough to make eye contact)

This came up on an image search for Phin & Matt's. While unrelated, how could I not include it?

Even discounting their disingenuous list, though, there are two problems the article brought up that we need to face, as beer lovers and creators. The first is fairly minor, and it’s that there are so goddamn many beers out there, and our tastes are so subjective, that Top X lists are useless except as a personal statement; like how Toy Story is near the top of my favorite movies list but I’m not seriously going to say it’s better than Citizen Kane. Hell, I don’t even know that I could come up with my top five beers. The last time I had Southern Tier’s Phin and Matt’s Extraordinary Ale I realized how much I like it, as a beer that has a lot of character and substance but which doesn’t berate you with it. The Flying Dog Horn Dog I had on tap at their brewery was incredible (though I’m a sucker for English barleywines), but the bottles I picked up later weren’t quite as good. I’ll have to get back to you on the other three.

The bigger problem, though, was in the comments. I know, I know: don’t read the comments. There were three types, in the few pages I read before closing the tab in an apoplectic fit: ‘Why isn’t [my favorite beer] there?’ ‘You people with your fancypants beer!’ (and the inevitable response of ‘you like bud lolol’) and — this is a direct quote — ‘no American beer is really beer. go out of the US and over to Europe and you will find REAL beer.’

It’s these last two that worry me. I suppose the ‘American beer is piss’ attitude is clearly ignorant by this point, and there’s nothing we can to but ignore it. Breathe, Dan. The ‘working class vs hoity toities’ debate, raging through far more than the beer world, that’s where I think we both need to focus our collective efforts and also have the most chance of success.

Yes, craft beer costs more than the bigger brands. We haven’t talked about the pricing of our beer, and that’s because we don’t know what it will be yet, but I can guarantee you it will be more than you’d pay for Labatt’s. If you’re reading this, though, you know that already and you’re fine with it. This is preaching to the choir (he realizes, six paragraphs in). But dammit, doesn’t it piss you off to read this?

Your beers from Portland are beers that the everyday man, is that the “little people” just don’t recognize and therefore I’m not sure how you can give those beers such a rave review. It surely doesn’t recognize the whole of U.S.A.

Yup. That's Stone.

We don’t need to get everyone in America to drink 60 Minute with dinner. It’d be nice (well, nicer still were it Unnamed CBW Beer X), but I can be realistic. Do we have an image problem, though, where people are proud to not be one of ‘us’? Stone obviously doesn’t think so, their marketing* entirely being focused on ‘this is too good for you.’ And that’s not to say we’re going to position ourselves as the blue collar beer: what we’d like to do is point out that there’s no reason we can’t have it both ways. This isn’t a comment on what our beers will be, but speaking from a personal standpoint I hope to have more challenging beers sitting alongside others that are approachable and drinkable anytime and anywhere.

What this really gets down to is that I’m fine if some people don’t like our beer and its peers. To each his own, and while (for philosophical and business reasons) I have an interest in ‘turning’ them, we — and craft brewers in general — aren’t going to magically switch every American into an IPA fan with an ‘expecto patronum.’ What troubles me is the derision, the attitude that the very nature of our product is an affront to some people.

I began explaining the content of this post to a friend, and her response was ‘Who cares what they think?’ I suppose that’s true. I have an ‘everyone needs to like me’ complex. Still, though, it’s sobering to realize that no matter how big craft beer gets, we’re still but a drop in the tanks of Bud**. So then, is there a way to preach and convert without being preachy? Should CBW go Fight Club on you and begin handing out assignments? (His name was Matthew Daumen. His name was Matthew Daumen.) Buffalo is a town that loves its beer, and has the possibility to turn into a beer culture rivaling any of the others in the country. So, he says, finally getting round to the point he’s been meandering towards for far too long: how do we make that happen?

* Greg Koch takes every opportunity to point out they’ve never marketed, but a lack of commercials doesn’t mean he hasn’t cultivated the crap out of his branding.

** Jim Koch*** said, in the movie Beer Wars, that Anheuser-Busch spills more beer down the drain than he produces in a year. Sam Adams is huge, and I can’t remember a restaurant I’ve been to recently that didn’t have it available, so while I occasionally snicker at his attempts to sound indie, in many ways it’s true.

*** All footnotes must, under article 5 section 23E of the CBW Partnership Agreement, Blogging Standards And Chinese Food Order, refer to someone with the last name Koch.

5 comments on “It’s a long road to hoe

  1. Grub00 on

    Got your tweet, read the article on CBS, read your post… The Macro vs Micro debate doesn’t ahve to be a zero sum game. I always have a keg of Flying Bison at the house and usually a few bottles of Ommegang, but I still can drink and enjoy a Miller High Life. In my view, there is a time and a place for every beer. I might have a craft beer with good food, but drink Miller while I’m doing yardwork. You just have to learn to appreciate a beer for what it is, instead of denigrating it for what it isn’t.

  2. Dan on

    Grub: Right, exactly. I’ve actually discovered that I like Genesee, and have at least part of a case of it on hand at all times. And when I go to my father in law’s, I don’t turn my nose up at a Blue. As was probably evident in last Thursday’s post, I was fairly annoyed at Jim Koch’s implication that something you drink when it’s hot and you’re sweaty wouldn’t be good beer. It’s been goddamn hot here! After a day’s worth of yard work, I was turning to Brooklyn Lager, or a can of Genny.

  3. Ethan on

    To me, it’s more about who I do–or don’t–want to give my money to than whether or not the beer is “macro,” “micro,” “good,” or “bad.” Do I drink Labatt’s? Sure, if someone else is buying or if it’s my round and that’s how it’s been going; I’m a beer geek not a beer snob. But if it’s my money and my decision where it goes, I’d prefer to buy a light, easy-drinking, lower-abv beer (like MowMaster from Ellicottville Brewing Co. or Buffalo Lager from Flying Bison) from a local, smallish company that respects me than from a big-ass company that uses the stupidest advertising around to push their many iterations of essentially the same product in different packaging.

    In short, Labatt’s–and InBev, et al.–don’t need my money *and* they insult my intelligence as a consumer. So, I tend not to buy their products.

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