Has craft beer gone too far?
I was looking through my news feed and saw the above headline. It made me think, or actually realise that I do have an opinion on this before I read the article. Sophie Atherton is the author who wrote the original article (link below). In my opinion, …Yes, craft beer has gone a little bit too far. But why do I think this is the case? I’m going to write this and explain why, before I read her article.
Is Craft Beer a Better Beer?
Nothing has gone too far if it’s better than it was before. But, what would happen if you take away the beards, the check shirts and skinny jeans, the Instagram and the crazy graphic designs on the cans? Would we be left with a better beer inside? Yes, Sometimes, but not always, it’s so very hard to tell. For me, it’s because beer is so nice, loads of beers are nice, some beer is really really nice, I like beer!
The Sheer Variety
I can’t keep up with the change, the sheer variety, the new colours and designs I see every time I leave the house and spot some craft beer for sale. Maybe I’m getting old. There’s not enough time in the day to make a spreadsheet with all the new breweries, beer names and ratings on it so that I can refer back to it when I need. Which ones have I tried, which have I missed, which are new? These days, I barely have enough time to take a picture of the can, as a crutch for my memory, which is what I always try to do.
Also, I’m not so obsessed with beer that I’m going to be doing blind taste testings to see if the inside of the can is better than the outside. A pint of beer should be a well earned and relaxing pleasure, not an effort or a chore. A good night out can make a bad beer taste better is a problem, beer goggles! Your beer review on Instagram (or anywhere else for that matter) is not going to make me buy the beer, I’m not interested in what you have to say, because I want to try it for myself (If you want to know what I like, scroll to the bottom of this article – Oh the irony). We all like different things, flavours, different types of brew. I’m unlikely to find a beer critic who I agree with across the board. And come on, Life’s far too short.
The Beer Taste Bar
For me, I have set the ‘taste bar’ for beer quite low, as I said earlier, beer is nice, loads of beers are nice, I like beer! Now obviously, a really bad beer or an ‘off beer’ is fairly easy to spot at any time during the evening’s proceedings, so let’s ignore that. My problem is that the 3rd or 4th pint of the night can easily get away with being a little below par and we might not even realise or care. By this time of the night, your taste buds have numbed a little bit and your ability to discern the subtle flavour differences and nuances has been reduced… you are getting drunk.
If I go out for a few beers, I will have probably liked most of the beers I drank that night, but more often than not, none of them stood out from the crowd. A single tiny can of craft beer can easily fly under the radar, it’s probably going to be OK, but will I notice it? So if you are going to try a beer for the first time, make sure you drink it early in the night, maybe for pint number one or two. You’ll get a better idea if it’s what you really like or not.
I do know that I don’t really like fruity IPAs, these seem to be aimed at the same type of customer as alcopops or flavoured vaping, but I may be wrong, I don’t know. I don’t have a sweet tooth, and I prefer hoppy bitter beers, but I have only realised this by reading the label on the can after I finish, when I think to myself ‘Oh, that’s nice’.
Gotta Try Them All!
I’m always going to try a new beer if I haven’t tried it before. You never know, it may be the best beer you have ever tasted. I am going to try to try them all (eventually), one by one, over the weeks and the years, but probably I’ll remember none (or very few) of them. Sometimes I remember the last one just I had when it comes to buying the next round, but that’s about it. Maybe I should pay more attention?
Craft Beer is Sustainable
I think that the craft beer business will easily be sustained by enough of us drinkers trying them out, seeing a funky can, a new variety. It can’t hurt, because it’s only one beer. The supermarkets will easily sell enough craft beer, you only have to look at the shelves to see how popular it is. It’s now trendy to have craft beer in cans when you have people over for a BBQ (The death of bottled lager?). The people who love craft beer in cans will continue to buy them. The market will never get too large to become unsustainable and there are simply too many new members of the beer-drinking club coming along each year. “Ooh, what’s this? I’ve not tried this one before.”
I think that the craft beer revolution will continue for a good while yet and I think this is a good thing. We may even forget to call it a revolution one day. The small brewers have enough invested in their businesses to give it a go and they don’t need to sell millions of cans to make a living. The big brewers are buying up the microbreweries to join the party. The sun is shining on craft beer, so let’s make some hay.
We Can’t See the Wood for the Trees
So, for me, the problem with craft beer is that it may actually be killed by the thing that is used to set itself out from the norm… …it’s difference. They are all different, and therefore they are all the same, which makes them so forgettable. Maybe this is true with all beers, perhaps, but craft beer seems to be so in your face, ‘of its style’ and so relatively new. They have all appeared in such a short amount of time, the style seems to be on my radar, so many different things that look the same. The danger is, that if you can’t remember the ones you like from the ones you didn’t, then why take the risk, just buy a normal beer that you can rely on.
There’s a scene in the 1961 Tony Hancock film ‘The Rebel‘ where he sees a group of young 60s arty hipsters are all discussing/complaining about how normal people are all the same. They are all, so conformist, so boring, but the hipsters can’t see the same thing in themselves, their interests, the striped jumpers & black berets that they all wear, it’s just a different uniform of their tribe.
The pace of change in the online/social media generation in which we live is so fast. Would we really notice if 30% of the current craft beer varieties disappeared overnight and were replaced by the same number of new versions? Probably not, I wouldn’t. I have a worrying feeling it’s fairly easy for a large brewery to re-brand and re-design the can. The beer inside may stay the same, whilst the outside changes. Who on earth is going to say, “Hey Dave, this is just XYZ craft beer in a new can!”, no one is going to notice. Each new can will have its 15 minutes of fame, then it will go away only to return in a different costume, for another 15 minutes without anyone noticing.
Don’t Worry Too Much
So, has craft beer gone too far? Yes, a little bit (but don’t worry too much).
Read Sophie Atherton’s article below.
Sophie Atherton considers whether craft has gone too far and why the best beers are those brewed with integrity
Source: Has craft beer gone too far?
My Favourite Beers (in no particular order)
Newcastle Brown Ale – A taste so nice & so different from the rest. But always use a half-pint glass, it helps.
Tsing Tao – Happy days & happy memories of a lovely beer at my favourite restaurant.
Laine Brew Source Pale Ale – So fresh, so drinkable, Like a cold coke on a hot summer’s day. Beware.
London Pride – Reassuringly nice, calm, drinkable.
Bellhaven 80 Shilling Ale – Just nice, just right.