Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Craft Beer Kerfuffle

About a month ago now, during the Super Bowl, a very dubious decision was made by someone you'd have actually expected to remain conservative in the matter. I'm not talking about Pete Carroll's completely fucking boneheaded decision at the end of that game that doomed us to hear the word "dynasty" continually revolving around a franchise that has benefited to the utmost from opposing coaches making boneheaded decisions and blind eyes turned to rule enforcement for fourteen years now.  No, that "huh" inducing accolade went to Budweiser, the self-titled "King of Beers," deciding to spend four million dollars to deride the Fastest Growing Aspect of its Industry because, I don't know, there's pretentious people? At the least it was hypocritical, because during that SAME week that they decided to throw down that gauntlet on taste they were finalizing the purchase of Seattle Craft Brewery Elysian (who ironically have produced a "Peach Pumpkin Ale" as an example craft brew derided in that Super Bowl Ad) adding them to the list of craft brewery acquisitions they've made over the past few years such as Chicago's Goose Island and Long Island's own Blue Point. But what I don't get is what would actually prompt such an "attack" I guess is the word given it was deliberately aimed in a high traffic area for people's eye holes to absorb. Was it a cynical, dying grasp to energize a group of people that grew up on nothing but suds contained by that red crown and don't understand what that aspect of the beer industry is (probably), or the people who have lackadaisically tried craft brews and don't get what the hubbub is about (most definitely), or are craft beer drinking folks just that annoying they were worth dedicating several million dollars toward dissing on world wide television while also trying desperately to get their sales (yes and no)?

Let's get this out of the way now: As someone with a closet full of Imperial Stouts and Bourbon Barrel-Aged that and a couple six packs of fresh IPAs I can wholeheartedly say that you have to be a little pretentious to be into craft beer. In fact, the word "into" related to the word beer itself always seems to be a little weird on its own because beer since Prohibition has essentially been pigeonholed into a basic idea of what it is, mainly because since that era it has only been a smattering of companies such as Budweiser manufacturing the stuff. We're used to Wine and Bourbon enthusiasts, all with their own level of prevention toward those liquids and how they were prepared and stored, but to a large chunk of the populace the idea of a beer that isn't you standard "Premium Lager." As one of links above show, it's been a dramatic shift to this new industry in just the past fifteen years and what it presents to all sorts of drinkers, casual or otherwise, is a bit of a culture shock; and I can't help but wonder how much of this "blow back" that would not only incite a commercial like this but also get the rank and file to like it and share it to death on social media stems from this dramatic shift.

But I also know it has a lot to do with the people who imbibe in these craft brews because, well, I am one, I've seen them, and I know they can be assholes, just like anyone who dubs themselves an "enthusiast" about a recreational endeavor can end up finding themselves. That commercial - obnoxious as it was in most aspects - was right though; craft beer drinkers can be self-absorbed in their brews to the point where it seems like they are trying to divine the mysteries of the universe out of what's in their glass (always pour your beer in a glass people!) all while sporting bushy beards and full sleeve tattoos and jeans tighter than should be allowed by law on the men. And that's where I think this whole thing begins to crumble because, quite frankly, if you're going to judge any hobby by its most haughty of participants, then fuck it, you may as well make your time killing activity zapping ants with a magnifying glass; and I'd still wager there's going to be some megalomaniac fuck with a super pimped out magnifier that laughs at how plain and boring your insect ignition tool is in comparison.

"It's brewed for drinking, not dissecting" is one of the trademark phrases of that (more that I talk about it) childish ad and that's a load of bullshit. Everything is made for dissecting, again it's just to the extremes. By that logic food is just meant for eating so shove any piece of sustenance down your gullet you can and just absorb the nutrients, watch whatever is put on the television right in front of you right that minute and never bother to see if something more your tastes is on another channel and don't, by god don't, ever attempt to listen to any radio station but the Top 40 Hits because there's nothing else worthwhile out there to beat on your ear drums. To debate the level of enjoyment one can get out of their spare time filler is absolutely futile, but to point out their arrogance in the matter, well, there Budweiser has a point. When it comes to a passion everyone has a point where enthusiasm transforms into an unbearable pretentiousness. I think it's okay to wear a little pretension on your sleeve as in my opinion it and pride about what you're expressing your loyalty to can be somewhat interchangeable to a debatable degree, but no one likes an utter dipshit in the matter. Except for when they do...

We're just a week removed from the annual Hollywood wankfest that is the Oscars and, per usual, people ate it up. They pissed and moaned about it being boring or uninteresting or out of touch but, like always, everyone stayed up until midnight and commentated on the winners and losers and the pomp and circumstance of it all as they waited to see what was hailed as the highest artistic endeavor in all the landscape of one of the most popular forms of entertainment on the planet. Last I checked inflammatory ragebeast Gordon Ramsey was still making popular television programs about yelling at people trying to make better food, as well as their being an entire network dedicated to that craft. And those wine and bourbon types I mentioned earlier can be every bit as pompous about their grape quality and barrel types used in the aging process as any craft beer person can be with their noses in their glasses trying to detect a certain kind of hop or whatever the fuck, and for the most part those people get a pass for being a special class of alcohol drinker. So is this bite back against craft beer by those who don't drink it or run companies that are watching their market share be torn into by it just because of the ostentatiousness of those who drink it or because it's just, y'know, beer?

I guess, for now, I'm just going to assume it's "just a little bit" of each of those things. As I said before, beer to the vast majority of people has been what it has been for decades now because that's just how things settled out post-Prohibition. Stuff like Bud and Coors with its "Banquet Beer" and so on are what your daddy and your daddy's daddy drank and that's just the way it has always been, except that we just recently got back to the amount of breweries there were in this country pre-the dark ages that were Prohibition. And because of that beer has pretty much been for years the thing you drink to get your shitface on, not the thing you drink to savor. And that's absolutely fine and probably where the line gets drawn on all these airs of pretension across all items I've mentioned up until now and beyond; these things are what you make of them. If you only care about alcohol as a means to get your warble warble on, then so be it. I personally feel like you may be doing a disservice  for yourself by not finding something tastier to imbibe on in that wubwubwub escape but at the same time why waste the money if sensory deprivation is your end hope? I don't drink for that anymore therefore I don't drink like that anymore but I get the sentiment, but I still think there's plenty of opportunity for casual sampling of something new for those (possibly rare) times people just want a drink to have a random drink and maybe find something more pleasing to your body and senses than just "well, this is alcohol." And if not, oh well, carry on as you were and leave the other stuff to the beard bearers.

I think we as a people enjoy things that are crafted by others with a passion for making said items, we just have a low tolerance for those nefarious "really into" people when our enjoyment emphasis is of a significantly different priority of theirs. Recently I just watched Jon Favreau's "Chef" and for a cute little movie it had a lot of spark and love to it. Every scene where he rolled up his sleeves to create some culinary delight I got a tinge of joy because I love seeing that level of enthusiasm in creating something. I'm not so much a creator but I delight in what people craft and I like to try to introduce that something to other people and see if it is also their bag. That's why I think that this anti-craft beer sentiment is a little misplaced on the minor yet vocal snobs of the stuff rather than the drinks themselves.

Sometimes there are complete douchnozzles who completely ruin those experiences by making you feel like your dumb or not "with it" for not getting the same level of inflated nirvana they are deriving from those products and that fucking sucks because they're being narrow-minded in their supposed open-mindedness by not realize everyone has their taste ranges. I personally think Budweiser is generic, acrid swill, and I will say that no problem when someone asks for my opinion on the stuff but if that's your thing because all you care about in drinking is the end result, so be it my friend. But if your adherence to that substance is simply because "that's the way it's always been for you" then you probably owe it to yourself to branch out a bit and ignore those who would make you feel dumb for being a novice. And if you've tried some craft brews and have not found any that jive, as someone who has drank literally hundreds of the things I can say, well, that shit happens (because despite what the snobs may verbosely tout, some of the stuff being made is definitely more for masochists than dabblers) but at least you tried and hopefully you do some more and find something more your speed because there is just such a huge variety of flavors and types out there already and its growing exponentially and wants to find you a place at the brewpub bar. Don't believe me? Well, what if I told you that the biggest beer producer out there spent $4 million on an advertisement trying to badmouth an aspect of their industry they also just spent tens of millions of dollars desperately trying to get into? You'd probably reason out that that company was scared of people's opinions changing on them and I bet its more the new thing they continue to shell out money on acquiring as fast as they can than the same stuff they continue to spend millions on trying to assure you it will always taste the same.

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