“Every time I call it a game, you call it a business. Every time I call it a business, you call it game.”
Today’s article is a clip from one of my favorite movies, North Dallas 40.
This is inspired by two things. First, me wanting to explore what may happen to craft beer as it matures as an industry. Here is yesterday’s post to start that off. Second, it is inspired by a Twitter argument I watched happen last night between craft beer fans and writers. It is the same argument that has raged in art circles for centuries. At its heart is the, “You’re not (fill in your art form) enough.”
In craft beer, this usually manifests itself when someone, usually a writer who focuses on the business aspects of beer, talks about beer in a sometimes clinical manner that doesn’t scream “death to macrobeer.” This leads to them being called a sellout or worse yet a trader to craft beer.
Here is my take on this argument.
I started out my working life as a grant writer whose favorite job was working for McColl Center for Art + Innovation. It is an artists-in-residence program here in Charlotte. Working there gave me the opportunity to watch artists up close and see how the process works in real life and not in the romanticized version of art we all grew up with.
Real artists don’t sit around waiting for inspiration. They work all day everyday at their craft. The most successful of those artists know that at least 25% of that work is selling their art as well as the idealized version of themselves that patrons want. The best artists not only understand their art, but they understand their place in the greater art world as well as the worth of their work.
I think brewers are as much craftspeople and artists as the painters and sculptors I met at McColl Center. That doesn’t mean I think every brewer is a true artist just as I know not everyone who sells a painting they created is a true artist. Some are individuals who found they have an affinity for something and have decided to monetize it as best they can. Does that make them bad people? No. It does mean that while their beer or their art is financially successful, it doesn’t inspire the way it should. The thing is, that is probably the majority of what is being sold and it is necessary for the industry to function.
Maybe my favorite part of that clip is when Matuszak says, “Job. Job. I don’t want no fucking job. I want to play football, you asshole.”
Anyone who makes their money in craft beer holds that sentiment dear to their heart. Whether they are an artist or not. I do. I have had real jobs. They suck. Whenever I’m annoyed by my job, I think back to almost all the other jobs I’ve had and I thank the stars that I run a craft beer bar instead.
I also think that anyone who pays their rent and buys food thanks to their job in craft beer lost their rose-colored glasses about craft beer long ago. Just remember, you don’t have to lose the fun of craft beer or think of beer simply as a widget to be made and sold to think of ways that you don’t go broke doing this.
There should not be a dialectic between the art & craft of craft beer and the business of craft beer. For any brewery to be successful and for the industry to be successful as it matures there must be a marriage between the two. The artists I worked with those years ago taught me that.