American Craft Beer Week = Hooray for Everything?

beerisbestNot being American in the national constitutional sense, though somewhat in the continental Vespucci sense, sometimes I find things like American Craft Beer Week and a Declaration of Beer Independence all seem a bit too hooray for everything for me. You remember “Hooray for Everything” don’tca? They were in one episode for about 17 seconds of the Simpsons fifteen years ago, a youth musical group of “clean-cut youngsters” who sing about “the dancingest hemisphere, the Western Hemisphere.” In this case, however, it’s apparently about the greatest “beverage of moderation” instead. And keep tea out of this, wiseguy!

Andy was wondering a bit about the promotion as well, especially the part in the Brewer’s Association material that states their members “want the week to inspire beer enthusiasts to declare their independence by supporting breweries that produce fewer than 2 million barrels of beer a year and are independently owned.” I don’t know about you but I would expect that beer made by an operation making 2.5 million barrels a year has a lot in common with those making say 1.25 million a year. Hardly a reason to distinguish one from another and, frankly, hardly the hallmark of “an artistic creation of living liquid history made from passionate innovators.”¹ But, to be fair, this is a PR effort that, like the recent craft brewer pep rally video, is really aimed at someone other than me. It seems to me that it’s aimed at the brewers themselves and the clients that have yet to commit to a relationship. Me, I just want a tasty beer. It could come from anywhere for all I care… or could it:

During the discussion portion of Beer Wars Live Greg Koch pointed out that Stone Brewing’s Arrogant Bastard Ale is the nation’s top-selling craft 22-ounce package. How’s that for a target? If Anheuser-Busch could brew that beer for less wouldn’t they? So to the line I’ve heard so often: “The big brewers could brew whatever they want if they chose to” I say “Poppycock.” I’m of the opinion they can’t brew the beer at any price. It’s not in their DNA.

beeril² I don’t know if it is about DNA but I get Stan’s point – it may be within their technical capacity but it is not in their business model. But is it really in the business model of the brewer that makes 1,999,999 barrels either? Does the recently released lists of both the top 50 brewers and top 50 craft brewers really provide that much of a distinction? And what about Yuengling anyway?

So, if you don’t buy into brewers as celebrity… or brewing as nationalistic jigno… or can see “not quite mass industrial” as being fundamentally different from “mass industrial”… well, it all makes for a yearning for the simpler approach to ads in the England of the 1930s like “Beer. It’s Lovely” or “Beer is Best.” Such short simple sentences. All the everything with a bit less of the hooray.

¹[Ed.: that’s rather plummy… a bit ripe… where is my cravat anyway?]
²[Ed.: image brazenly nicked from Pete’s blog. Buy his books. Now I feel better.]

One thought on “American Craft Beer Week = Hooray for Everything?”

  1. [Original comments…]

    Knut Albert – May 13, 2009 10:00 AM
    Yes, it’s over the top, and I rarely ask for a list of shareholders of any brewery before ordering a pint. I also wonder about the craftsmanship of the ones churning out 2 million barrels per year.
    And ranking craft brewers by volume of sales is a bit of a contradiction in terms, isn’t it?

    Which of Pete’s books do you want us to buy?
    This one?: Poems. [illustrations by Mal Dean] by Pete Brown (Unknown Binding – 1966)

    Lucy – May 13, 2009 10:47 AM
    Alan – I didn’t sign up for the Beer Declaration because I don’t think drinking craft beer is *an inalienable right* – it’s a consumer luxury to enjoy. And what about breweries such as Ommegang or Goose Island? Because their business models don’t fit the BA, they are not craft brewers….so brewers who choose to grow by these *unsanctioned* methods are ultimately penalized for their successes. Now, thanks to the global economic meltdown, many brewers will be facing pressures to make alliances for continued existence that would push them out of that narrow definition of a craft brewery.

    I prefer the inclusive and low-key “beer is lovely” approach….And, I prefer to support American craft brewers not by signing some petition but by going to the beer store with wallet in hand.

    Jeff Alworth – May 13, 2009 6:17 PM
    The Brewers Association is an industry trade association. That it may be ill-conceived is hardly any of my business. But Charlie Papazian has set up a massive empire of all things “good beer,” and I guess I take some issue there. He has to support his membership. As a fan of good beer, I don’t have to support Charlie, though. My new motto, and a rejoinder to Craft Beer Week (and a prescription as valid north of the Amerigo line as south of it): “buy local, buy, good, drink on tap.”

    Jeff Alworth – May 13, 2009 6:18 PM
    Imagine fewer commas.

    Greg Koch – May 13, 2009 9:51 PM
    Alan: Hooray for me. There, I said it. Oh, and there’s an ‘h’ in don’tcha. I think. BTW, in the grand space between 1 million barrels and 2 million barrels, there’s just one craft brewer in that space that currently falls in that space. If the upper end was extended from 2 million to, say, a gazillion, there’d still be just one. So, of the approx 1450 or so craft brewers in the US, you are referencing only one. It’ll likely be that way for another solid ten years. Or more. It’s my guess that we may not see another single craft brewer hit 2 million barrels in my lifetime. But that’s just a guess. Time will tell. I agree, buy Pete’s books. (disclosure: I know Pete. VERY fun guy to share beer with!)

    Knut: It’s not really a ‘rank’ as much as it’s a list. It’s published, because if they don’t they constantly have to answer the question anyway. It’s a popular information item.

    Jeff: If you “buy local, buy good, drink on tap” you’re supporting the Brewers Association, Charlie, me (and Stone) and Craft Beer Week. Very cool! BTW, if you knew Charlie, you’d love him. He’s an awesome guy. (disclosure: I personally like Charlie a lot…he’s a bit of a hero to me…and I’m on the Board of the BA)

    Lucy: I think it *should* be an inalienable right. Dammit. So should good, clean, fair food (even more so actually). Ommegang is awesome (disclosure: we’ve proudly distributed their tasty beers for several years.) You are awesome (disclosure: we’ve proudly sold your book in our Stone Store for many months.)

    Blog Writers & Blog Commenters: Feel free to find a word, sentence or idea of mine that I’ve written or said, or think that I might have possibly written or said, and write a blog post on that particular piece, while ignoring/discarding the entirety. (And feel free to count the commas in the previous [run on?] sentence.) Fun ensues! Always. It’s good times. And gives me something to do other than stand on the curb as people go through the drive-thru and give them a disapproving look with a “tsk tsk” (you know how HARD that is to make that tsk to be loud enough over the sound of an idling car?) and wag my finger. Heck, I can hardly find the time anymore. *Sigh* There is much left for me to do. ;-]-= (disclosure: I like a good quality conversation…especially over a beer…and it’s easier to enjoy a beer talking with folks, even debating, than while standing in car fumes on the curb next to the drive through [turns out the cops disapprove of it too…who woulda thunk…and they ignore my pleas of “you wanna arrest the TRUE criminals? Arrest them! They’re the ones!]

    Does anyone else hear the voices, or is it just me…?

    I think it’s time for my beer.

    *Ahem* It’s time for my craft beer. Yum.



    Alan – May 13, 2009 10:21 PM
    And I never even heard that tell tale snap of the latex glove before it happened. I do hope we are practicing safe snark.

    Adrian in San Diego – May 14, 2009 3:07 PM
    All this grandstanding and political garbage is starting to get rather annoying. Just brew some tasty beer because your customers want to buy it. Make some money. Hell, throw in some silk-screened tee-shirts to help pay the bills. End of story. It’s not that complicated.

    I mean really… at what point does this become excessive? Are brewers going to start advertising that all their ingredients are locally sourced as well? No more English hops, Belgian sugar, or German malt, right? What about the bottles? Must be locally sourced as well or you’re being hypocritical, right?

    And soon you’ll see some lame-ass union formed where if you’re not part of the union you’ll have to pay exhorbidant prices on all those locally sourced ingredients. And then the government will get involved and you won’t be able to hire non-union brewers if you want a brewing license. And of course the licensing fees go up exponentially once you hit that magic 2M bbl/year as you’re no longer considered a “craft” brewer. Damn you for being successful.

    Ironic that this “declaration” calls for independence as I’m seeing quite the opposite.

    Adrian Avgerinos

    Alan – May 14, 2009 6:06 PM
    I hadn’t noticed Mr. Beaumont has made interesting AGBW observations this week as well.

    Pesky Canadians.

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