Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Emperor's New "Craft" Clothes

 As 2013 comes to comes to an end, I reminisce over the multitude of craft pints which I've consumed this year. Some were memorable and some, well, not so much. But one thing comes to mind, that being the misconception that even the greatest breweries can do no wrong. The enormous growth of our industry  now compels craft brewers to divert from their (to quote Nick Lowe), "peace, love and understanding" philosophy toward the craft brewing community, to understanding the oft-used term by those evil macro breweries.. "market share". One flagship brand makes not a successful brewery. So in the quest to differentiate yourself in this highly competitive and most exciting segment of the beer industry, the need for brewers to think outside the box becomes a necessity.  But does it always work?

 Collaborations are now common place and just about everyone has a line of single batch one-offs. There are more seasonal offerings than seasons. Some seasons will see multiple releases i.e. a Winter Warmer and a Barleywine. Barrel age programs are the norm, and some breweries only barrel age. Bob's Brewery brewed a Double IPA, I better brew one too. And really,  just how many "Pumpkin Pie" beers do we need....in July none-the-less?

 Okay so what's your point? Well, I may not be BJCP certified but I believe I have a rather educated palate. Enough to tell when a beer misses the mark. So, does the label "Collaboration" always mean the beer was great? Does the subtext "limited-release" or "seasonal offering" mean the beer is infallible? I believe not. If your claim is that your White IPA is a Belgian meets American IPA then I would love to taste the Belgian part. Don't just expect me to believe it's there because you're a "hip" big name brewer. If the "Bitter Bomb" you brewed as a "collaboration" is nothing more than just that, then why bother brewing it?

 There's no room for "marginal" in this business. Your barrel-aged imperial stout or your Belgian Style Farmhouse Sour should be true to style. And if not, then as better beer drinkers, we all should have the courage the tell the Emperor.... "your Majesty, you are naked".



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