Monthly Archives: March 2016

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 3/24/16

I don’t understand how a state that purports to promote business and wants to bring businesses in from other states passes laws that socially will prevent businesses from other states from expanding or moving to that state.  Killing a gnat with a bazooka is never a good idea.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 3/23/16

Back to work. Thank god.

  • Of course, the rate of growth slowed. It is idiotic to think a 22% increase every year was sustainable in any business.  Many in the industry scoff at the idea of saturation, but it is real and it will happen.  To think that level of growth was sustainable for a long period and/or that saturation in certain markets will not happen is a fundamental misunderstanding of business.  No matter how in demand your product is, eventually, it will stop being the next big thing. I’ve been saying this for two years, there will be a moment soon when many of the breweries that opened in the last three years will close.  Many of them will be brewers that make great beer, but have horrible business plans and many of them will have great business plans but horrible beer.
  • Here is one of the OGs of craft beer writing asking the question, “Why do I drink craft beer?” There are many facets to that answer. It is one I have been thinking about lately.  I plan on answering (or attempt to answer) that and why critics are/are not necessary for a blog post next week.
  • Distributors worrying that increasing the self-distribution cap is somehow going to cut into their business is understandable but overstated. Most breweries don’t want to self-distribute at a certain point because self-distribution becomes a second business they didn’t sign up for when they started making beer.  Many of the brewers I’ve met and talked to that do self-distribution, want a distributor so that they can expand their footprint without having to worry about trucks, drivers, and sales reps.  That is why I think along with increasing the distribution cap, the laws governing the contracts between brewers and distributors should also be changed to make it easier for brewers to get out of contracts with bad distributors.
  • Brewers have been adding fruit, lemonade, and other things to beer for hundreds of years. Sours are as traditional to beer culture as pilsners.  The idea that beer that doesn’t taste like beer is some new trend is absurd.  Maybe the addition of watermelon or habanero peppers is new, but not by much.  Coco Chanel once said something like, “Fashion is temporary, but style is forever.”  Use trends to augment your business, not define it.
  • Never go into a craft beer bar and ask a bartender to just give you their favorite. That can really badly for you.  Trust me, I’ve seen it.  Everyone’s palate and predilections are different.  Don’t assume your favorite flavor is the same as anyone’s.  Now, there is scientific research that tells us why.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 3/21/16

It doesn’t matter how long I may stay away from the Five Articles, they always seem to come back to the same thing: the changing nature of alcohol laws in this country.  I tried to link to a few articles that talked about this specifically in Mississippi where the slight changes to the laws have led to a jump in the number and profit of Mississippi breweries.  Now, the brewers are trying to drag the laws from the 20th century into the 21st, but you can’t read that because the newspaper with those stories restricts access to those who have paid for a subscription.  Onto the articles you can read.

What Kind of Week It Has Been, 3/20/16

Before I get into what I wanted to write about today, I wanted to say something.  I’ve been gone for a while from this space.  I am an obsessive workaholic with trust issues.  That means I sometimes throw myself into my work to the point of physical or mental collapse and ineffectiveness.  That is what happened last week.  Through my own stubbornness and issues, I managed to simultaneously work too much and fuck up almost everything I touched while doing so.  It was a nice trick.  Anyway, last week has passed and now onto whatever the future holds.

The one thing managed to do successfully this past week was read.  I’m reading a couple of books right now, but the one I that has the most to do with my beer writing is Better Living Through Criticism by AO Scott.  Scott is the chief film critic for The New York Times.  He is a good read as well as a good reviewer.  What he attempts with this book is explain what a critic’s role in art is and how you can use that to make your enjoyment of art better.

I have long considered good craft beer and good craft brewing to akin to art.  At its best, it is an expression of the skill and creativity of brewers as they find ways to express themselves within the boundaries of what brewing is.  If it isn’t then we should all just drink Budweiser.  The best thing and most damning thing about Budweiser is that you can drink a Bud from any of its breweries around the world and it will taste the exact same as one from another brewery.

This is way of viewing brewing that many if not most, even in the craft beer community, do not have.  Beer is a product. A commodity to be manufactured, sold, and consumed.  When your job is to sell beer, it can be hard to remember how creative a brewer can be and should be.

Recently, I tasted a beer from a brewer who I respect more than most others because of the creativity and risks that brewer always takes with his beer.  I hated this beer.  It was an attempt that was unsuccessful as a commercially viable beer.  As a person tasked with selling beer to bar patrons, I was annoyed that this expensive beer was bad and unsellable.

As a writer who aspires to be a beer critic, I am fascinated by this beer.  Tasting it, I saw exactly what the brewer was trying to do and I could also see why it was not successful.  I struggled with how to define what was wrong with the beer in a different context then, “this is bad.”  What was bad about it; why did it turn out wrong; what was the brewer attempting; was he successful with that attempt; if he was successful, why didn’t the beer work.

I’ve always gravitated to reviews of beer and other acts of art that were more than just is this good or bad.  I want more than some star rating or whatever.  I want more than this sucks. That is all that most consumers and bar owners care about, however if we are to grow as a beer drinking community there has to be more than that.  We have to ask the next logical question after a beer is declared to suck:  why does it suck?

In his book AO Scott lays out three questions at the base of what a critic does.  I am paraphrasing here to gear the questions more towards beer, but here they are:

  1. Did you taste and feel that?
  2. Did you like it?
  3. Be honest.

To me, the most important part of that is, Be honest.  As a critic, you must be honest about what you taste, what you feel, and how it affects you.

To do that a critic must develop the skills to identify what he is tasting and the vocabulary to describe it.  They must also have the skill to do that in an effective and clear manner.  Again, above all else the critic must be ruthlessly honest with himself first and foremost.  That means understanding your predilections but not letting them define you or your criticism.

As humans, I think one of our jobs is to accept our mistakes and the bad things that happen to us and use them to grow and keep ourselves in the life we want to live.  For me, weeks like last week, remind me of the things I hold important to the life I want to lead.  I am reminded to remember every decision I make has to be with purpose, and that I must live consciously and stop coasting.  Trying to understand beer and place in a context of our shared humanity is how I choose not to coast.

Five Beer Articles That You Need To Read And Why, 3/2/16

Is it Wednesday?  I can’t tell anymore.  Anyway, onto the Five Articles. There is not much editorial content in today’s list.  Most of these articles speak for themselves and/or I haven’t quite figured out what I think of the subjects they raise.  Or, they are articles about subjects I’ve written about before and I’m kind of tired of beating these somewhat dead horses.

  • First up is a small craft brewer buying other small craft brewers. This is something that could become a thing.
  • Next is a brewery doubling as a distributor.
  • Once again with feeling. For whatever reason, this last week has seen a few articles on sexism in craft beer labeling.  Here is another.  One of the things I learned from the television show House is to not focus on the symptoms but to use the symptoms as a guide to the real problem.  If beer labeling and names are offensive, maybe the problem is who is in the room making these decisions.
  • As I’ve done this, I’ve been stunned at the number of states that don’t allow full strength beer and wine sales in grocery stores. Here is another state trying to get off that list.
  • Annotative law versus connotative law is one of those random concepts I learned in a class you would think has very little bearing on my life. However, it is a concept I’ve found I go back to again and again. Simply it means there is law as it is written (annotative) and there is the law as it is interpreted and practiced (connotative). This article on what is beer made me think of it again.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 3/1/16

This is shaping up to be a long week. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel: Brawley’s Black and Blue Festival.  Hopefully, I’ll survive long enough to get to it. On to the Five Articles.