Saturday, April 6, 2013

Quality and Community: The Benefits of Switching to Craft Beer

Over the years of my craft beer consumption, I've been asked a lot of questions. Usually it's the garden-variety stuff like, "So what got you into craft beer?"or "What's the weirdest type of beer you've ever had?" Almost always, they're about my personal history or preference when it comes to beer. There's one question, though, that has always been my favorite to answer:

"What's so special about craft beer?"

Anytime someone throws this one at me, I switch from Brian-the-conversationalist to Brian-the-passionate. This is the one question almost every craft beer drinker has been asked, and it's one that they should have an answer for regardless.

It can be tricky answer, as every craft consumer takes a different journey down the proverbial dirt-road to reach their ultimate destination. Over the years, I've tried to make my response less and less personal. I don't like to just answer the question, I like to be persuasive, damn it! This isn't a question about my personal journey, it's a question about the industry as a whole, and I have to remove myself from the equation as much as possible until I finally drive the point home.

The short answer I give is this: quality and community.

Quality is a tricky one to explain to people. After all, the BMC macros (Bud, Miller, Coors) are the most widely-drank beer in the States, and it's really not even close. The total market share for craft beer in 2012? A grand total of 6.5%.  So who am I to say that this their beer isn't high-quality stuff. After, quality is pretty much a subjective issue, isn't it?

Fuck you and your shitty tastebuds! Fight the macros, maaaan!

The thing is this: there are objective aspects to beer, and macrobreweries fail at almost every single one of them. Ingredients? Budweiser is made with 30% rice to make it super-affordable, but that 30% could be used to, you know, actually give the beer flavor. What about the all-powerful TRIPLE-HOPS-BREWED MASSACRE Miller Lite? Well, the most recent word is that they don't even really use hops, just hop extracts. Seriously, at what point does a beer cease to be a beer?

Now, I hate to sound smug. I've always been a drink-what-you-enjoy person. Lord knows, no one's ever going to persuade me to switch to Absinthe. Still, there's no denying that the macros are brewed to have a relatively weak flavor. What's more, they significantly lack in variety. I'm thoroughly convinced you could do one of those Pepsi-challenge thing-a-ma-bobs with beer and no one could pick between Bud Miller and Coors. They're all the same style, and they're all incredibly similar in flavor. That's not something that will happen once you start venturing down the road of stouts, IPAs, and lambics.

So what about the social aspect of beer? Historically, beer has been a very social drink. Aside from maybe kicking back with a brew on a hot, summer day, the phrase "drinking beer" almost always brings some sort of social gathering to mind. From bros playing beer pong to huge festivals (Oktoberfest, anyone), beer just screams comradery... or cleavage, depending what kind of Oktoberfest you go to.

Every other image more focused on the cleavage

The fact of the matter is that the craft beer scene is extremely communal. Collaborations? Happens all of time. Banding together to help the latest brewery get its feet off the ground? Boom.

It boils down to this: all craft brewers are also craft drinkers, and if there's one thing craft drinkers enjoy, it's sharing a brew we've never had before. It just makes sense that the communities support each other and encourage experimentation and expansion. Ultimately, brewing's an art form and we're always excited about the next big thing as much as we are the all-time classics.

On top of that, go back to that original link and you'll see that over 150,000 local jobs were created by local breweries in the past year ago. So it's communal in more than one sense of the word. Not only is it social, it's also bolstering local economies. Seriously, what isn't to love about that.

I guess to sum things up into one neat, little package, I'll just say this: switching to craft beer will mean paying more for your drink, yes, but the benefits from the extra money-per-bottle you'll see are more than worth the slight change in your budget. What's more, in spite of what the phrase "beer snob" may imply, we are for the most part extremely welcoming people. It goes with the territory.

So put down that 24-case of Natty Lite. Set aside that fridge-pack of Keystone. Hide that bottle of Coors in the back of the fridge. There's never been a better time to commit yourself to craft.

I swear, I'm only halfway-drunk, guys.

I look forward to seeing you on the other side.

Brian has been an advocate of craft beer since 2008. He also enjoys film, video games, reading, and long walks on the beach. You can follow his latest idiotic ramblings on his twitter. Or not. @Doomed_Knox, either way.

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