Beer and Pavement

A Response to 10 American Craft Beer Myths

Posted in Beer by SM on December 20, 2011

Ding has some things to say about myths the American beer fad has perpetuated. I’ll ignore calling the craft beer movement in this country a fad, but the myths and supporting details make a ton of sense. The post is interesting and a little better informed on the American craft scene than some British beer bloggers seem to be. I mean, the man lives here and can see first-hand what’s going on here in the states. I’ll respond to his post directly here. Then, I’ll write my own and maybe even another for indie rock or something. That’s three posts in response to one. I’m efficient here and get the most out of one good idea. Thanks, Ding. BTW, when I agree or disagree, I’m commenting on the assertion that the following statements are myths being perpetuated by the US craft community.

10. All craft (non-macro) beer is good, and all local beer is good.

Agreed. I used to think this as it seemed to me that anything craft or local was better than corporate versions. However, as I’ve had the opportunity to try a vast array of craft beer, I find it’s not good just because it’s craft and/or local. Of course, I’ll always choose whatever is local or craft when faced with limited options.

9. It’s wonderful to have more beer in cans.

Ding said…

Mmmmm, well I suppose it’s nice to have the flexibility that cans can offer, but far too many people are sacrificing the quality of the beer for the convenience of the container.

Disagreed. Maybe Ding knows something that I don’t, but I have yet to find anyone who chooses a canned beer over a bottled one simply because it’s in a can. Besides, cans offer more than convenience. They keep out light better than bottles. The oxygen issue is a draw, IMO, with bottle potentially exposing more oxygen over time and cans exposing more during packaging. Still, I get that this is not a reason to go with cans, but I have yet to meet a beer enthusiast who chooses beer based on their containers. In the end, we all want our beer poured into the proper glass and subsequently down our gullets.

8. It’s limited, it must be great!

Agreed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been letdown by a rare beer that isn’t really much better (sometimes worse) than the beer I can get every day from my local store. I don’t base my beer consumption solely on online ratings, but they can be helpful when buying beers you’ve never had or even heard of. One thing that I notice in these ratings is that rare beers with low numbers of reviews are generally higher than equivalent beers that have a wider distribution/production. I suspect this is partially because some recognize how rare and special the brew in their glass is based on beer geek envy and this clouds their perspective. Plus, the more of a particular product that’s out there, the more likely there are differing opinions or even the occasional bad batch. What I’m rambling about is that I completely agree that rare does not always equal better, but they can be a lot of fun.

7. Session beer is now gaining popularity in the USA.

I agree and disagree. The traditional, British definition of the session beer is not gaining popularity here in the states outside of a few beer purists and old farts. There should be room for the traditional session beer in the craft beer scene, but it doesn’t seem to be happening just yet. It may take off as brewers improve their craft and drinkers grow weary of the assault on their tongues and livers.

The part I disagree with is that the “American session” is growing in popularity. I get that a 5-7% is not a session beer by definition. I won’t engage that argument. However, Americans generally see higher ABV beers as just as sessionable as a 4% beer. Granted, no one should drink as many 6% beers as 4%, but the dividing line does seem a bit arbitrary. That said, the American session beer is growing in popularity, I believe. A lot of folks are taking a step back from big beers and rediscovering nice brews at a reasonable ABV level. It’s a minor point, but I think that’s where the American beer scene is right now. Baby steps.

6. More is always better (number of breweries and number of beers).

Agreed. This myth is perpetuated here because that’s how Americans think about every industry. More is better. Not quite. There are a lot of amateurs out there trying to pass themselves off as craft brewers. Although, I don’t have as much faith in the market correcting this issue as some, I think it will help to weed out most of the mediocre beer cluttering store shelves.

5. More is always better (taps in bars).

Disagreed. Of course, I’m assuming a bar only uses said taps for craft beer and respectable imports. I love variety and it’s nice to have options. I’d rather have most beers on tap. I can get bottles at the store for much less. Give me beer on tap and give a lot from which to choose. (I will concede that if Ding is implying that more taps means more opportunity for crap beer, then I’d have to agree he’s correct there. Still, I’ll stick with my original answer.)

4. Imperial and highly hopped = better.

Agreed. Of course, the statement itself is often true, but it’s not 100% true. For example, a strange trend I and others noticed this year is the presence of onions in our ultra-hoppy beers. Not all, but several Midwest and East Coast imperial IPA’s have displayed this character. I blame the hop harvest. It seems if there’s an off-flavor in an ingredient, those off-flavors are only magnified when used in imperial doses. Also, I have begun to appreciate the smaller beers that are just brewed better. Regardless of how many hops one puts into a brew, balance is a hard thing to attain, maybe even harder in imperial beers.

3. British beer is undergoing a massive revolution inspired by American brewers.

Agreed. However, I’d say that said revolution is happening here in the form of increased attention toward British beer thanks to those inspired by American craft beer. I don’t know any beer geeks in my circles searching out British beers outside of BrewDog. The Brits love their tradition and they love their beer. There’s no revolution going on there. They didn’t have a prohibition like we had. So, technically, Ding’s right on this one.

2. If it’s from a country with a (relatively) new brewing tradition, it MUST be great.

Agreed. However, the Scandinavian beers are generally pretty good, interesting at the very least. Still, this is mainly due to newness. We go for what’s new and proclaim it different than anything done before. Every beer should stand on their own, regardless of origin. Just because it’s from an unexpected place doesn’t automatically mean it’s good.

1. You can put ANY beer in a cask and get a good result.

Agreed. Although, I’ve been lucky so far in that the beers I’ve tried on cask have been pretty good. That said, I’m not sure much was added to the Jolly Pumpkin beers I had on cask in DC, but the Stillwater dry-hopped with Citra hops was incredible. Casks should be used sparingly. Ding, once again, is dead on… However, he suggests that these beers must be malt-forward. On that point, I obviously disagree. Beers go through an incredible metamorphosis when properly dry-hopped. Sure, not all beers are suited for the cask, but more than Ding might suspect.

Be on the lookout for my own list of American craft beer myths and one for indie rock as well.

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3 Responses

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  1. Mike said, on December 21, 2011 at 11:21 am

    The next time you’re in Cortez, Colorado, swing by J. Fargo’s Family Dining and Microbrewery. You might change your mind about #10.

    • Zac said, on December 21, 2011 at 11:28 am

      Read it again. It’s not saying that all local beer isn’t good. It means that not all local beer is good just because it’s local.

      • Mike said, on December 21, 2011 at 11:34 am

        I misread. Not awake yet.

        For what it’s worth, J. Fargo’s was tried to hop in on the Colorado microbrew craze, but I’m pretty sure they just put their rough draft out there for beta-testing. Only beer I’ve ever had that I didn’t feel safe drinking it.

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