There. Vacation. That’s better. Not vacating. Stay-cating. Hopefully play-catin’ but there are chores that have been deferred. Weed-cation. A trippy jaunt to the hardware store to check out bathroom faucet repair options. Others in beer have been thinking about a bigger world of beer this week, far bigger than any I expect to see. I’ll be lucky to see the back lawn with all the work I’ve left myself. Let’s see what’s being said.
First, a sad loss of someone who made sure folk got out and about for all the best reasons. Jeff posted an excellent remembrance of Chris “Podge” Pollard, the beerman who did as much as anyone to teach Brits about Belgian beer in the best way possible – by getting them in country, on the ground and through the front door:
His guidebooks were wonderfully well-researched and a great insight into the cities he chose. Most of all, he was just a good lad.
Ed posted some interesting thoughts on the far more generic use of national descriptors for beer styles when confronted by friends from outside the beer bubble:
I had to explain that in the world of beer the name of a country is often used as a flavour descriptor, not a statement about where the beer is made. “American” means made with citrussy hops, “Belgian” with phenolic yeast, and in the case of “New Zealand” it’s the hop flavour again. It hadn’t occurred to me until I saw their confusion that this might be considered slightly odd.
I suppose I am more of a regionalist than a nationalist when it comes to these things. Not that they are meaningless but, as The Tand shows, the hallmark of a sort of beer can be quite local. I suppose the point is we need to remember these things are code.
Domestic beer used to make up 87.7% of total consumption in the US, and it fell to 67.6% in 2017. Foreign and craft beers together made up just 12.3% of US consumption in 2000, and has now increased to 32.4%. US consumers are trending away from abundantly available domestic brews and are reaching for foreign imports instead. Instead of Budweiser, Heineken and Coors, people are choosing Corona, Modelo and Dos Equis.
It’s interesting from the point of view that in the 1980s microbrewing was not always so welcoming and even antagonistic to imports. In a December 20, 1987 article in the Syracuse Herald American, we read:
Kirin has “all the flavor of a European import, without the bite,” Palmer said. But F.X. Matt II, who heads the F.X. Matt Brewing Co. in Utica, calls Kirin “bland and undistinguished. When you’re as big as Kirin, you’re interested in making a beer that offends no one and is bland,” Matt said.
In a June 1987 article in the Syracuse Post-Standard, Kevin Townsend of the still operating Buffalo Brew Pub was interviewed and put it this way:
Townsell’s Buffalo Brew Pub is one of about two dozen tiny brewery pubs in the country, most of which are on the West Coast. But as the demand for quality beer grows, the number of brew pubs is increasing. “`One hundred years ago, we had breweries in every city and town, with local delivery,” said Bud Lang, editor of Anaheim, Calif.-based All About Beer magazine. “Now we have a few huge breweries and 18 wheelers delivering beer nationwide.” Townsell’s 1,500-gallon monthly production makes his the only brewery in a region that was once the nation’s fourth-largest beer producer. Between 1811 and 1972, 350 breweries opened, operated and closed around Buffalo. “Beer lovers, home brewers, any first-generation Europeans are attracted because what we say we’re going to offer is a fine, quality, full-bodied product, which is similar to an English or a German product than it is to any American mass-produced beer,” Townsell said.
Like nationalism, pointing at stats misses the point. Is your beer delivered by 18 wheeler? A lot of craft is now. Is it bland and undistinguished? The vast bulk of beer being made ticks that box. Whether it comes from across the nation, from another country or in the neighbourhood – isn’t it only about if you like the stuff in your glass? Wasn’t that the point of micro and then craft? Frankly, the statement “instead of Budweiser, Heineken and Coors, people are choosing Corona” is about as mind-numbingly pointless as they come. And, of course, being the fanboy of “elsewhere” or “craft” for that matter usually means you are not noticing the realities, even the ugly.
Thoughts from Canadian wine writer David Lawrason might be related:
The more educated we become however the more we want different flavours, styles, places, stories and grapes. And this is what the next generation is bringing to the discussion and eventually, I think, to the marketplace. We longer term (senior) writers may tend to pigeon-hole the next gen of natural and orange wine advocates as hipsters making political and personal statements, but in fact – as in anything – there are those who genuinely care and those who have jumped on the band wagon. Many people do thirst after meaning in wine. They are bored with replication and homogeny and are searching for difference and authenticity.
What are people searching for anyway. The Beer Nut linked to a story that reminds us that, for most, the world is not all that different from 1987. In the particular, the Irish don’t care much for anything but a “normal” pint glass:
The 20-ounce serving remains “the barometer for value”, he says. “What’s the price of a pint? It’s how people equate it. The beer culture that we’ve tried to establish … when you’ve a 10-percent beer you’re not going to charge people €14 for a pint of it. Generally, the cost of Irish beers isn’t an issue, said Conwell. “Most of them would be reasonably priced. Foreign imports are usually the ones that hit you in the pocket, hence the smaller serving size.”
Hmm… more problematic foreign stuff. I better leave it there and go have a coffee… from Central America. At least it’s fair trade and rain forest grown. Because that’s what the label says, right. Hmm… And while you are scratching your head along with me, don’t forget that B+B has more news on Saturday just like Stan does each Monday.