Thursday, December 6, 2012

Does it matter who makes the beer I buy?

Here's my write-in response to Charlie Papazian's poll "Does it Matter Who Makes The Beer You Buy?"

also, check out the article that accompanied it here:

These were the choices:
  • YES it does matter – I support local by buying local as much as possible

  • YES it does matter, mostly – I support local but I will buy imports or national/regionally distributed craft brands. I usually avoid buying brands made by large brewing corporations.
  • NO it doesn’t matter too much – I will buy and drink beer from breweries of any size. It doesn’t matter who owns the brewery.

I'm sick of this notion that local = quality or "the most local it is, the better it is". That's just asinine. "Local" has become a buzzword used by trendy restaurants, foodies and politicians. Simply slap the word "local" on anything and all of a sudden it becomes not only fashionable, but altruistic! How many times have you been to a restaurant where the menu says something to extent of "locally grown" or "locally raised", etc. That's fine, but in a blind taste test I'll bet 99 out of 100 people couldn't differentiate between local beef and that shipped in from across the country.

It's the same thing with beer. What does "local" have to do with "do you care who makes your beer?"? It doesn't REALLY matter who makes my beer as long as they're making beer I like. Where I live we have some good brewpubs, but no one is making anything on a consistent basis that is making my eyeballs pop out every time I see it. Frankly I'd much rather have a Founders or a Three Floyds but according to this poll that's frowned upon because they're not "local" to me. Of course if you live in Indiana or Michigan than they are. I guess people like me are supposed to drink the mediocre stuff that is made nearby lest we have to forfeit our hipster card. Also: at what radius does something stop being "local" to me? 100 Miles? What if Brewery X is 100 miles away, but Brewery Y is 102? One is local but the other is not?

C'mon, stop turning beer into lowest-common-denominator political economics which isn't based in reality. What this poll (and Papazian's article) is REALLY asking is how much do you hate the big three? And it's a ridiculously loaded poll since 99% of the people viewing it are craft beer nerds to begin with. Let's ask the same questions on the NBC Nightly News and see how the results compare.

You hate AB-InBev because they're an "evil corporation"? Fine, that's understandable. But that local microbrewery down the street is a corporation as well - why aren't they evil? Because they're small? Fair enough. But don't you want them to grow? So if they take off and become a huge corporation at what annual revenue do they become evil? When you boil these arguments down far enough all you're really doing is deciding where in the sand to draw that proverbial line and no one can honestly justify its position.

When it comes to beer it's not the size of the brewery or the "quality" of their products that matter, it's the PERCEIVED intention. But unless you're the owner or a member of the board of directors of Brewery X, there's no way for you to KNOW what their intentions are. All you can go by is their marketing and of course rumors. You can go by their product, which you may love, but when you find out it's made with Hop Extract (cough cough Pliny, Heady Topper) does your whole world come crashing down like you just found out there's no Santa Claus?

My philosophy: Drink what you like, but be open to trying new things. Also, taste is subjective - only an idiot thinks a "good" beer is a matter of fact like it could somehow be measured (and if it could - what's the formula for determining that?). The sorority girl that thinks Bud Lite Lime is delicious is 100% righy, just as much as any craft beer nerd who's ever swooned over Westvleteren 12.


  1. Agree with everything up until the whole hop extract deal. People who get bent out of shape over that crap are a bunch of idiots. Those two beers in particular needed make sure that they get enough wort without over-saturation of hops.

    I live in North East Ohio, there is a craft brewery literally down the street. They have okay, but not great stuff. I buy Fathead's, from Cleveland who make my favorite IPA, but I have shied away from Great Lakes, Cleveland's biggest brewery. Not because of the fact they are bigger, I just like some smaller breweries beer better. When Oskar Blues came here, I said to myself 'screw Ohio stuff for now, I want some of this!' I want to try as much as I can and get a feeling on my own preferences in terms of breweries. I totally agree with you, I am all about quality, while I might feel like a better person for buying growlers from my local place, it still does not taste as good as beer from larger Ohio breweries and bigger craft breweries in general.

  2. I used to love checking out the local brewpubs back in the day when craft beers were harder to find and I was less experienced. I enjoyed the variety and talking to the brewers. Many of the beers were just OK (or worse), some were pretty good and there were a few, very few, great ones.

    But now I know what some of the best beers in the world are, and I can buy them at Westmere or Olivers. Its hard to get excited about the latest local beer that might be pretty good, when I can have one of my all-time favorites. If I want to try something new, I will check out something from a world class brewery, there is a better chance of it being worth trying.

    Of course with Southern Tier - you get to do local AND world class all at once...