The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry.
This month's session is hosted by a well known beer blogger. Ding is known for his discontent of beer in the US, and his topic made sense as soon as I read it: ‘What the hell has America done to beer?‘, AKA, ‘USA versus Old World Beer Culture‘.
I've actually been thinking about this for a while. I've been on what I can only describe as a "beer break" for some time. I've been trying my best to have the same sense of unbridled enthusiasm I used to have for beer. For the last few years I've been letting so many things get to me about the beer culture we are creating in the US. Many things annoy the crap out of me about how things are done. Everything from Tap Takeovers, beer mules, beer hoarding, BMC type marketing, tapping parties (seriously, why does every beer have to be a marketing stunt?), and how places treat cask conditioned ales. It is only recently that I've realized I simply need to stop worrying about those things. I don't care what you drink, and if you enjoy drinking Bud Light then by all means go out and drink Bud Light. In that line of thinking I don't really care about what Brewery X is doing when it comes to tapping parties, silly marketing stunts, and a tap takeover every night to go along with 500 tweets and 200 Facebook updates about an event I don't care about. That is the great thing about America. If I don't want to buy someone's beer I simply don't support it, I don't follow them on Twitter or Facebook, and I don't give them any of my beer dollars. If a brewery wants to treat cask conditioned ales like a pinata that are filled with anything they can find then I won't be supporting them. Just because you can put ingredients into a cask doesn't mean you should.
I honestly used to think we were killing (breweries and drinkers included) any chance at what I would consider a beer culture, but I've come around to the thought that places are simply in their infancy. To give a small example I will take some of my favorite breweries and look at their founding years. Sierra Nevada - 1979, Three Floyds - 1996, Bells Brewing - 1983, Founders -1997, Flat 12 - 2010, Revolution Brewing - 2010, and Jolly Pumpkin -2004. 35 years old is about the oldest American "craft" brewer you are going to find in the United States.
Let us take a look at some of my favorite European brewing companies: J.W. Lees - 1828, Stiegl (Radler anyone?) - 1492, Augustiner - 1327, Weihenstephan - 1040, Schlenkerla - 1678. With the exception of J.W. Lees all of the breweries I mentioned started before America was a country! Weihenstephan has been brewing beer for 1,000 years! 1,000 f'ing years! That is culture. That is unbelievable is what that is.
The American brewing culture was cut off at the knees by prohibition and now we are rebelling back against bland and boring beer. We are just getting started rebuilding our culture here in the US. Go back 100 years and we had a wonderful brewing culture influenced by so many of the cultures that called the US home.
At the end of the day though I love what is happening in America right now. I love the creativity, the style, new beers, and the people at those breweries. My favorite beer author was Michael Jackson. He once said: “Tomorrow’s classics will evolve from a new breed of American brews that are categorized by their admirers as ‘Extreme Beers.’ Our culture is going to grow right along with those "new classics." The innovation and quality of the beer coming out of America right now is second to none. Sure, during the craft beer boom going on right now you have plenty of people that are not brewing good beer and could cite several examples, but as a whole I love what is happening in America right now. We are getting to see the culture coming together and we are getting to see that culture being built. Yes, there are plenty of things that don't add anything to the craft beer conversation, and plenty of brewers are doing things that piss me off, but there is no where else in the world I want to be than right here in the United States seeing what happens next. I would love to have a place like the Briton's Protection that I miss dearly, but I would give that up for the innovation and creativity that is happening right now.
When it comes to culture we are going to get some things wrong as we grow as better beer drinkers, and mistakes will be made, and fads will come and go, but at the end of the day is the beer good? The vast majority of the time my answer is an emphatic yes! In the end you get out of it what you put into it. I choose to attend events that I feel add value to the beer community, support breweries that are not assholes and make great beer, and hang out with people that enjoy talking to me over a pint. I can't really ask for much more than that. I choose to stay away from tap takeovers, marketing BS, and the weekly beer dinner and tapping party featuring the exact same beer. That is my choice. I don't care if someone else wants to attend those type of events any more. I've got what I need.
We will get there eventually, but the journey is too much fun right now as compared to the final destination.