Jun 1, 2013

Sam C. says it best....

Every so often I like to share my opinion on here (OK, maybe frequently). Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the craft beer community and its growth, and inevitable growing pains. A disturbing trend I've seen in recent years, is a sort of "turning up" of the nose at brewery's and beers once considered the best, or at least very respectable. Example, recently, I acquired a bottle of Westvlateren 12. A beer, that for years, was widely considered "the best in the world". For years, you could only get this beer, literally at the gates of the abbey where it was brewed, by appointment only. Well, last fall, this beer was made available, for one time only in the US. Since then, this beer, while still VERY highly rated, it started to take its jab's from the beer community, and the ratings have since fallen a bit. I was on a thread the other day, and mentioned how excited I was to try this beer. I got more then a few responses back ranging from "it wasn't that bad" "I didn't like it" to "don't get your hopes up, this is the most over rated beer in the world". OK, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that just because this beer is highly rated, you have to like. I am just saying, that for the longest time, you would never see anyone say this. It was almost "uncool" to say something bad about it, you weren't taken seriously. Now, its almost the exact opposite. You seem "cooler" if you don't like it. I don't get it? This is why I tend to stay away from Beer Advocate discussion threads, and most beer review sites.

My beloved Oberon
This is an attitude I've been seeing more and more of as of late. A highly regarded beer, or brewery see's a little (or a lot) of success, and all of a sudden the perception is that they are no longer as good as they once were, they "sold out", they changed their recipe or their quality is now  not as good as it once was. Despite the fact, that the only real thing that has changed, is the fact that beer geeks and snobs are not the only ones drinking that beer anymore. It reminds me of a piece I read (and wrote about) on my beloved summer favorite Oberon. The writer said, how he use to love the beer, how it use to be exciting, and new. Now that he goes into a bar, and see's everyone drinking it, and oh god forbid with a slice of orange in the glass, the beer is no longer "exciting and new", and he now feels its "hardly craft" anymore, and over rated. So, when he was the only one in the bar drinking it, it was awesome, now that he's not, its no longer good (or just no longer cool).

Beer geeks seem to be a bit schizophrenic about their growth. They love getting on their soap box to preach the virtues and qualities of craft beer, yet, when a craft brewery gains the success the geeks long for and talk about, they abandon that brewery for one that is newer and cooler, and leave those boring main stream popular beers to be consumed (and enjoyed) by the uninformed masses.

Recently, [edit....OK, I guess a while back...]on Beer Advocate, there was a thread about "over rated breweries" (should I say, in the weekly thread about over rated breweries....). Well, it seems Sam Calagione (founder and owner of Dogfish Head, and one of my personal favorite beer people) read this, and it struck a cord with him, because he responded to it, and he summed it up better then I think I can. This was his response.....

It’s pretty depressing to frequently visit this site and see the most negative threads among the most
Sam C at Whole Foods in Chandler
popular. This didn't happen much ten years ago when craft beer had something like a 3 percent market share. Flash forward to today, and true indie craft beer now has a still-tiny but growing market share of just over 5 percent. Yet so many folks that post here still spend their time knocking down breweries that dare to grow. It’s like that old joke: “Nobody eats at that restaurant anymore, it’s too crowded.” Except the “restaurants” that people shit on here aren't exactly juggernauts. In fact, aside from Boston Beer, none of them have anything even close to half of one percent market share  The more that retailers, distributors, and large industrial brewers consolidate the more fragile the current growth momentum of the craft segment becomes. The more often the Beer Advocate community becomes a soap box for outing breweries for daring to grow beyond its insider ranks the more it will be marginalized in the movement to support, promote, and protect independent ,American craft breweries. 

It’s interesting how many posts that refer to Dogfish being over-rated include a caveat like “except for Palo…except for Immort…etc.” We all have different palettes which is why it’s a great thing that there are so many different beers. At Dogfish we’ve been focused on making “weird” beers since we opened and have taken our lumps for being stylistically indifferent since day one. I bet a lot of folks agree that beers like Punkin Ale (since 1995) , Immort Ale (wood aged smoked beer) since 1995, Chicory Stout (coffee stout) since 1995 , Raison D’ĂȘtre (Belgian brown) since 1996, , Indian Brown Ale (dark IPA) since 1997, and 90 Minute (DIPA) since 2000 don’t seem very weird anymore. That’s in large part because so many people who have been part of this community over the years championed them and helped us put them on the map.These beers, and all of our more recent releases like Palo Santo, Burton Baton, Bitches Brew continue to grow every year. We could have taken the easy way out and just sold the bejeezus out of 60 Minute to grow but we like to experiment and create and follow our own muse. Obviously there is an audience that appreciates this as we continue to grow. We put no more “hype” or “expert marketing” behind our best selling beers than we do our occasionals. We only advertise in a few beer magazines and my wife Mariah oversees all of our twitter/Facebook/dogfish.com stuff. We have mostly grown by just sharing our beer with people who are into it (at our pub, great beer bars, beer dinners, and fests) and let them decide for themselves if they like it. If they do we hope they tell their friends about. We hope a bunch of you that are going to EBF will stop by our booth and try some of the very unique new beers we are proudly bringing to market like Tweason’ale (a champagne-esque, gluten-free beer fermented with buckwheat honey and strawberries) and Noble Rot (a sort of saison brewed with Botrytis-infected Viognier Grape must). One of these beers is on the sweeter side and one is more sour. Knowing each of your palettes is unique you will probably prefer one over the other. That doesn't mean the one you didn't prefer sucked. And the breweries you don’t prefer but are growing don’t suck either. Respect Beer. The below was my favorite post thus far. 

This thread is hilarious. Seriously, Bells, Founders, FFF, Surly, RR, DFH, Bruery, Avery, Cigar City, Mikkeller are all overrated?  Since I’m from Ohio, I’ll pile on and add Great Lakes, Hoppin Frog, and Brew Kettle to the list. Your welcome. 

Hopefully soon we will have every craft brewery in the US on the list.

This is why Sam continues to be one of my favorite characters in the beer community. Thank you Sam! I think I might go get some Dogfish Head to enjoy by the pool today (I just wish they were as good as they use to be, it would make it SO much better!)

Remember, beer is fun, lets keep it that way!

Until next time
Bottoms up my friends

The Beer Czar

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad we see eye-to-eye on this.