The article I wrote about in this post is Bryan D. Roth’s piece on authenticity and politics in craft beer. I really want this blog to be a respite, a haven from the real world. Maybe with a little philosophizing that touches on the world outside of craft beer, but a place to get away from the insanity. However, the Orwellian Monty Python skit that is our current state cannot be ignored. I spent an hour this morning trying to find another article to write about that is more recent. It’s as if the blogging world is stunned and has no idea what to do next.
I believe that brewing beer is an art, and the traditional art it most resembles is music. If brewing is an art and it is most like music, craft beer is punk music. Like punk, music craft brewing is a response to over corporatization. Part of the point of punk music its authenticity or realness in response to the navel gazing prog rock and assembly line corporate music of the 1970s.
Craft brewing plays the same role. Now, craft beer is moving into the same phase of life that punk rock did in the 1990s when grunge, the grandchild of punk, made its unlikely ascent to the top of music. There was a period where Nirvana and Pearl Jam sat atop the music world. Then the big music corporations starting signing all the bands that sounded grungy and made them famous. At the beginning, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins and the others of the first wave of grunge bands were revered because they seemed to care more and were more authentic than most of the music that surrounded them. Most of the next wave was a bunch of dudes wearing flannel who wanted to be famous.
Craft beer began as the authentic version of beer. You can bring your dog into local brewery’s taproom and have a beer with the owner and/or brewer. You can walk in and see the brewing facility from the taproom most time and watch as the brewers scurry around making their tasty beverages. The beers have their own personality and taste unlike the macro beers you may have grown up with because someone real who cares more is making it themselves.
That authenticity ties the drinker to certain beers and certain breweries. What happens when that brewery’s authenticity stretches into areas you don’t want to talk about? What happens when the brewer says something about religion or politics you don’t agree with? He or she is being the same authentic person who said macro beer sucks two months ago. You can’t choose how authentic an experience is. It either is or it isn’t.
Most fans of art don’t want real authenticity in their art. They want the story of authenticity. They want the image of being real. The original fans of punk in the 1970s didn’t want the real grimy CBGB, Sex Pistol authenticity or the real left wing socialism of The Clash. They wanted the FM radio version of those things. Most fans didn’t really want to know what darkness was Kurt Cobain’s poet’s heart. They just wanted sludgy guitars and growly vocals. They wanted Collective Soul.
From the other side of the bar, I’ve learned most new craft beer drinkers don’t necessarily want craft beer. Maybe it is because of where the bar I work in is located in the city I work in, but the majority of people who come in don’t really want a well-made craft beer. They want something they’ve heard of that gives them the patina of craft beer in the eyes of whomever they are trying to impress. They want Sweetwater 420.