I hate craft beer.
The term, anyway; not the beer itself.
For those that know me, you might find that to be a strange statement considering that I’m always drinking them – I’m always looking for a new and exciting beer to try. I love finding one that is a limited edition or made with novel ingredients. I have an app on my phone that keeps track of all of them, along with tasting notes and ratings. Since November of 2013, I have tried 689 individual different types and brands of beer. I’ve even attempted to brew beer myself and I can tell you that beer is simple to make but hard to do well.
I love beer.
So what the hell is wrong with me?
I’ll be one of the first to admit that I too fell under the spell of the witchcraft that is craft beer. I found the whole idea refreshing, artsy and a great way to stick it to the big breweries that were producing, what I considered to be at the time, absolutely disgusting malted sewage. The things we do when we are young…
However, when you use a term like “craft” beer, there is an expectation. The idea is that the beer itself should be brewed in a more traditional and less mechanized method. The catch is that, much like the term “artisanal,” it seems to lend itself to the idea that the product is, in some way, superior. It may conjure the image of a simple farmer using only the finest ingredients and an old family recipe to brew the finest beer in all the land! I can certainly tell you that, after trying 689 different beers (and many of these labelled as being craft), this is not the case at all. I have tried some craft beers that I would describe as depressing – others as simply gross. If it was brewed by said imaginary farmer, then they were probably pissed drunk while dancing in the barn with a broom handle.
It should also come as no surprise that not all macrobrews are bad beers either. Some craft beers have become so successful that they are technically already considered macro based on scope and distribution alone and while I’m really no fan of Budweiser or Molson, I certainly won’t begrudge anyone if that is their drink of choice. There are also several beers under the Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors labels that are quite good and ride fairly close to craft territory. But that’s the way life, and individual taste, works; it really does all come down to personal preference and there’s good and bad on both sides.
The problem I have with craft beer, specifically, is that it’s producing an image that doesn’t reflect reality and it doesn’t seem to resonate properly with the market. I would even argue that the term is polarizing. Many people won’t touch or try craft beer because it’s seen as something for hipsters or it tends to lean towards a more artsy crowd. This is, potentially, one of its biggest failings as it manages to somehow alienate the average beer drinker and draw a line between the beer lover and the beer snob. If you’re looking for an example of that, you needn’t look any further than my current hometown of Fort McMurray and the recent closure of the Wood Buffalo Brewing Company. While the restaurant had several issues, including a struggling economy, an unpredictable and ever changing menu as well as poor service, I believe that this town couldn’t wrap its head around the idea of a craft brewer. Regardless of the other issues, this raised serious questions about the venue’s sustainability in the long term.
I’ll be honest, I loved Wood Buffalo’s beer. Despite this, every time I went there I felt like I saw more people drinking Bud Light and Molson Canadian rather than the beer that was brewed in their own backyard and I really have to ask myself, why? From the beginning, they never fully captured the market they were aiming for and I believe that originates with its identity as a craft brewer. This is merely one example though and while there are several craft brewers in the world who are largely successful, I have to wonder how many possible customers they’re missing out on for similar reasons.
All of this is just my opinion, of course, but beer should be about good food, good friends and good times.
Let’s just call it microbrew, small batch or local and let the beer speak for itself.