Beer and Pavement

Craft Beer’s Hipster Problem

Posted in Beer, Video by SM on January 23, 2014



I bristled at the idea of writing yet another post about hipsters, but I felt this had to be addressed.

First, let me say that I am decidedly pro-hipster at best or ambivalent toward them at worst. It’s a label placed on certain stereotypes that I don’t feel like getting into at this point. All you should know is that being a hipster is relative and that we’re all hipsters compared to someone.

When I say that craft beer has a “hipster problem”, what I am referring to is a perception of pretentiousness. Hipsters – right or wrong – are seen as pretentious. Whether it’s fashion, music, transportation, decor, or food, “hipster” is considered equivalent to “pretentious douchebag.” So, maybe it’s hipsters with the problem, but I digress.

Craft beer is neither exclusive to hipsters nor pretentious. However, as they say, perception is reality. And the perception is that craft beer is exclusive and loved by snobs. Exclusivity these days is blamed on hipsters for whatever reason.

The actual reality is that craft beer is decidedly not a hipster thing. The movement has been around for a while. The people I connect with craft beer are not very hipster-like. Just within my social circles, craft beer enthusiasts aren’t exactly the hippest lot. This is not a putdown. It’s just a reality. They are mainly white men aged 30-50. Yes, some of them own an Arcade Fire CD. Yes, some will wear ironic t-shirts. However, these are fairly benign practices these days. Ten years ago, they totally would have been hipsters. In 2014, not so much.

Now, a lot of hipsters are getting into craft beer. It’s artisinal. It’s really popular right now. It’s beard friendly. There’s a lot in the craft beer community for hipsters to like. However, when push comes to shove (and as the wallet empties), PBR and Hi-Life aren’t that bad.

Seriously. Craft beer is attractive to the North American Hipster because craft beer tastes good and gets us a little tipsy. That’s basically the same reason we all love it.

The more insidious part of craft beer’s perception problem is the pretentiousness with which the community has been unfairly labeled. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it features exotic flavors and production techniques. Yes, it’s better than what you normally drink. Yes, they have silly names. However, a preference for the finer things does not necessarily mean that one is pretentious.

If anything, craft beer enthusiasts and brewers are some of the least pretentious people I know. They willingly share. They participate in online forums such as this one. They share. They fucking drink beer with you. And they share.

I don’t know how craft beer can fix their “hipster problem.” I suggest we all continue to buy beers for our more skeptical friends and drink an industrial, rice-adjunct lager now and again just to show our more human side. The hipster perception is not a problem. Trust me. But the perception of beer snobbery is and we must do what we can to fix it.

(Maybe I should do the same for indie rock. Right, Taylor Swift?)

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On Cans and Vinyl

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Rock vs. Beer by SM on May 31, 2012

Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend, the first of the three summer holidays most noted for BBQ and beer. (Well, and remembering those who died in war, our country’s “independence”, and labor’s many accomplishments.) Much of the beer I consumed came from a can; a little bit of beer nostalgia delivered the good stuff to my gullet.

In recent years, BPA-coated, aluminum cans have become the container-du jour for craft beer fans and brewers. Cans keep out more sun than bottles and arguably more oxygen. While some only see cans as a hipster novelty, most of us realize the importance of these vessels to the portability and preservation of our favorite brews.

I, like most beer geeks, prefer not to drink my beer from cans (nor bottles). I often say that one would never attempt to smell a flower through a straw. So, pour that beer into a glass, let it open up. However, for the holiday, I succumbed to drinking my beer straight from the can without shame.

There are certain contexts for which such pretensions over drinking beer not from the prescribed glass are called. Poolside, floating lazily down a river, camping, and bicycling are a few of these moments. Considering the conditions of the holiday, I enjoyed my Tallgrass beers from the cans, coozy included.

Context dictates how we should consume beer and even the kinds of beer we drink. I don’t feel guilty for drinking from the can. I was in the midst of a 60-mile bike trip with a night of camping in between. Cans were were a practical drinking option. Even bottles were unwieldy and potentially dangerous. The can is much like its close relative which is used to house such camping delicacies as beans or corned beef hash. Enjoyment of the moment was wrapped in an aluminum cylinder. I was not about to soil the moment with a glass and make the beer more important than the enjoyment of the event and those around me.

Vinyl records, like cans, have their own ideal contexts when their less-than-ideal delivery trump advancements in technology and actually add to enjoyment. The context in which a vinyl record is preferable to more digital formats are times when devouring an entire album in the confines of your home is paramount. When I am relaxing in my finished basement with a record, very purposefully spending time with the music, a record that requires me to drop the needle and flip sides now and again is better than simply pushing a button. Vinyl engages the listener physically while delivering a soft, familiar sound.

Unlike cans, vinyl is less portable and arguably auditorily inferior to its digital counterparts. It’s not easy to take a record with you. Digital music is so much more portable, like canned beer. The sound debate is a good one, but I won’t get into that here. Simply, for sharper, more precise sound, go with digital. However, vinyl feels different. It’s softer, warmer, and preferable for those of us who just prefer a more analogical existence.

Both cans and vinyl had good runs that ended too quickly. Newer and better technology arrived. These creature comforts of our fathers became obsolete. Then, retromania hit. People found ways to improve upon old technologies while recapturing lost nostalgia. The can never really left, but craft beer’s adoption has bumped its cred. New can lining technology hasn’t hurt either. Vinyl is better produced than ever and many new records come with digital downloads, giving you both the high quality sounds and artifact in one, neat package.

The comfort and sentimentality of beer cans and vinyl records just feel right in the right context. It’s hard to put a finger on it (as you can probably tell from the rambling above), but they just feel right in the right situations. I don’t always go can or vinyl. However, it’s nice to know that they’re there and are ready for the perfect situation.

Speaking of vinyl, if you’re anywhere near Middle Missouri, come out to Uprise on Monday to see/hear me play some records. The set list will be posted here, but you should come and have a beer with me while I play the “hits.” Also, both images were totally lifted from the great Tumblr better known as Dads Are The Original Hipsters. Go read it now.

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Posted in Beer by SM on July 6, 2010

I won’t even try to tell their story1. I’ll just goof up the details2.

Two Danish bros travel around Europe and the US, use the facilities at several fine craft breweries to create some of the best, if not most interesting beers around. There’s nifty packaging and even niftier names to boot. And they don’t just do the obscure styles. They do the beers we love: the imperial India pale ale, imperial stouts, Belgian styles, etc.  And there’s also all those experimental beers, the sours, the stouts made with weasel poop3, and variations upon variations of their top sellers.

Again, Mikkeller may or may not be the best brewery in the world, but they are certainly the most interesting.

A friend came over for beers and dinner. For the evening, I broke out two Mikkeller brews. We split a bottle of the I Beat yoU DIPA they brewed at Scotland’s Brew Dog and the infamous and hard-to-fathom 1000 IBU.

One of the more interesting series of beers Mikkeller has released is their run of single-hopped IPA’s. In the arms race of the imperial/double IPA, Mikkeller has found a niche in isolating hops and playing with the style in ways few American brewers would ever try. Using a rather simple recipe, the Mikkeller boys isolated a hop with each batch, making it possible to taste side-by-side the differences in hops. I’ve sat in on a session where someone provided four such beers. It was amazing the variations we found in aroma and taste among the hops4.

Well, they’ve done ten of those beers. Someone thought it might be a good idea to toss all ten of those hops into one beer. Someone else might think this would never work, not I. The resulting beer is all flower5 on the nose and has a really complex taste that goes beyond bitterness. Sure, it’s bitter, but not too bitter. You catch one hop upon first taste and another as it goes down your throat. It even becomes more convoluted as it warms. Really, it’s a beautiful beer wrapped neatly inside a gimmick.

We then moved to a bigger, badder version of a Mikkeller DIPA. The 1000 IBU is becoming a favorite of mine, an expensive favorite6, but a favorite nonetheless. Considering that the average Joe can taste 100, maybe 120 IBU’s7, one would think a beer ten times the IBU’s would be virtually undrinkable. When I first thought of 1000 IBU’s, I thought of this:

That didn’t happen. Thankfully.

No, instead, what this beer revealed is unbelievable balance and subtlety. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a hop bomb. It’s just that it tastes so…so…well, good. An even more amazing feat than 1000 IBU’s was to make a beer at 1000 IBU’s that was delicious. The sweetness found in its malt bill is maybe more impressive than the 1000 international bitterness units.

For me, Mikkeller represents the best of hipsters8. There’s genuine ingenuity. The classics are celebrated and even enhanced without losing touch with tradition. There’s style in their packaging that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also demonstrates depth and careful planning. Once again, I don’t know that Mikkeller makes the best beer, but I know that they make some of the most interesting brews. The two beers above suggest they make interesting and great beers.

And since I’m on a positive hipster beer kick9, you should check out one of my favorite reviews from Hot Knives collection of great beer reviews in zine form. They give Mikkeller’s Black Hole Stout the proper treatment. I don’t think I’ve posted anything about these bros before. Let’s just say they are the equivalent of Mikkeller in beer blog form. They’re a little punk and DIY. They’ve got that hipster10 thing going. Oh, and they know good beer. So, once again, while I’m on a pro-hipster, beer roll, you should shoot over to Hot Knives for some real beer writing.

1Actually, I’ll tell you just enough. You can check out their story here. Be sure to click on the American flag.
2Of course, that’s what footnotes are for.
3Yes. There is a beer made with weasel poop. Well, actually, it’s a coffee stout made with coffee that comes from weasel poop.
4My favorite is the Simcoe variation with its grapefruit aroma and flavor. I’m anxiously awaiting the Citri version.
5My drinking buddy for the evening actually said, “This beer smells like a flower.”
6Thirteen bucks for a bottle that measures just over twelve ounces. Luckily, this town is about out of these beers.
7“IBU” stands for “international bitterness units”. It’s a measurement of bitterness in beer based on the amount and types of hops you use to brew a beer. Beers described as “hoppy” typically range between 60 and 80 IBU’s. Really big, bitter hop bombs begin to approach 100. To give you perspective, Budweiser has around 11.
8Before you jump all over me for bashing hipsters or even just bringing them up, I think I will demonstrate a positive view of hipsterdom which benefits us all. Usually, hipsters make great music, but in this case they make great beer.
9See. There’s nothing wrong with critiquing hipsters if you’re also willing to praise them.
10That was a bonus “hipster” there.

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Assholes who just wanna get laid

Posted in Life by SM on June 24, 2010

Disclaimer: This was a half-assed attempt to get a post out this week. It’s a topic that’s been on my mind a lot and another blogger has sparked some ideas I wanted to explore. Also, there’s more profanity than I usually produce in a blog post. This blog should return to some normal posting come next week.-builderofcoalitions

I use the term “hipster” a lot. It’s lazy. As one friend put it, it strips people of their humanity. While that sentiment may be over the top, it is partially true. It lumps a bunch of people into a group based on how they dress and act or wear their hair or whatever.

I’m fine with hipsters. I don’t have a problem with hipsterdom. Every generation has them. There were the punks before the no-wave kids who quickly gave way to those in the hardcore scene and the straight-edgers. Then everyone was grunge until it was cooler to be an indie geek and then I lost touch and didn’t really care.

Suddenly, along comes the hipster. It’s more of an idea than it is a person1, but the term quickly morphed into a label for a certain kind of young person.

Carrie recently ranted about the hipster, or rather the term “hipster” when self-applied. To over-simplify and pseudo-paraphrase her post2 and the resulting discussion in the comments, hipsters are basically just assholes trying to get laid. Sure, there are folks who look hipster and play hipster music who aren’t assholes3, but the point is a good one.

When one breaks down the idea of “assholes trying to get laid”, the separate parts are not all that bad. Assholes, believe it or not, are not terrible. You know where they stand (They’re assholes for Christ’s sake.) and sometimes it’s good to have one or two on your side. The other half of the term deals with folks just trying to get a little action4. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. To be truthful, we all want to get laid at some point. It’s part of the human condition5.

The problem happens when you put the two together. Assholes just trying to get laid is a dangerous combination6. They will sell their soul for a roll in the hay and how that affects others doesn’t matter. They’ll do almost anything for sex and someone ultimately experiences something superficial, gets hurt, or worse.

Assholes trying to get laid aren’t just hipsters. It’s this reason we use “frat boys” or “sorority girls” as derogatory terms7. Greek co-eds aren’t necessarily bad people. It’s when they make the decision to be assholes all in the name of a little bang-bang when things get ugly.

So, in summation, the problem with the hipster is that he/she is really just an asshole trying to get laid. The clothes are cool. I like the music, but the egotistical conquest of others’ genitals is not cool.

Image Source: I totally lifted this from excellently voyeuristic Look at the Fucking Hipster. LATFH could totally sue me, except that I don’t make any money from this shitty blog.

Update: We’re all assholes who just want to get laid.

1For more on this, check out the Adbusters’ piece on hipsters. Basically, the problem with hipsters is their misappropriation of some pretty cool/progressive/revolutionary kinds of things, i.e. green living, Che Guevara, indie rock, etc. and all in the name of being cool.
2And really to do no justice to her intellectual property…She just gave me an idea for a post, made me think about hipster in a new way.
3Some of these people are my friends. They really aren’t assholes.
4You will learn shortly that I am awkward when it comes to using alternative terminology for “having sex”. It will either come out naive or gross or cheesy or all three. So, I’m not even going to try.
5This is a major reason the priesthood and nunnery are so fucked up. Of course these people are going to make terrible judgments in sexuality when they are deprived of human urges. Granted child abuse is not usually a sexual thing, but rather a power issue. But isn’t it a power the church holds over these people that they can’t partake in a natural part of life? I’m not defending the creeps who molest children, but something has to change. I could go on, but I am way off track now.
6It’s even worse when assholes actually get together and make more little assholes. Who needs that?
7Among many, many others. The point here is to use a group (college Greeks) as an example on the opposite end of the social spectrum whom we readily critique their oversexed asshole tendencies.

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