After a whirlwind week of all things craft beer during the Craft Brewer’s Conference, I’ve returned home and ready to write. Of course I’d like to tell you all of the exciting things that I did, the new beers that I tried, the cool events that took place, and maybe I will eventually, but I have something bigger to say than all that.
I attended the ‘general sessions’ as well as the press conference with the hopes of gaining some interesting insight and topics to share with all of you, but found that I was repeatedly hearing the same information about the Brewer’s Association’s fight against the ultra-merger of AB-InBev and SabMiller. While of course this is a very important issue for many reasons (that’s a post for the future), it was just tiresome. Here I was sitting among 13,000 people from the craft beer industry listening to presumably lobbyists talk about what they’re doing to fight this merge. As I sipped my coffee, struggling to stay awake through Wednesday morning’s session, I did find one little tidbit that stuck in my mind. Then, Sarah Longwell said she was “looking to protect the reputation of beer,” and that is something that I want to explore. Come along.
The thing about the ‘reputation’ of craft beer, is that we as consumers control that narrative. All of the stereotypes and demographics you hear about what/who a craft beer drinker is relies on what we bring to the table. In craft beer we like to own our sense of community, but what the community displays to the public is under our control and influence. What can we do to protect our reputation?
As a community, we need to stay on offense. The craft beer drinker is a much more diverse group than many know; we need to embrace our diversity. Beer is a gender-less beverage. Beer is a race-less beverage. There are more of us in this community than the stereotypical bearded white male persona that has been created for us. Staying on offense is contacting your local Girl’s Pint Out/Barley’s Angels chapters and getting involved. Help make our community of beer-drinking women known. Support websites like The Keg Tap who have a mostly Latino team and aim to provide a community for all beer drinkers to experience beers through their Spanish speaking lens. Call up my boy Ale Sharpton and get his point of view, you won’t be sorry.
Staying on offense also means advocating for and advancing craft beer. Attend the beer pairing dinners at your favorite local restaurant; craft beer has more depth of flavor than many wines and should be respected as an appropriate beverage to complement your meal. Tell your local law makers that you want to see positive change for the brewers in your community. Pop that bottle of your favorite brew in the VIP section, craft beer is just as worthy as Dom. At the same time, help make beer approachable by respectfully educating others about beer and participating in beer events.
Staying on offense requires us to be vigilant. Not all craft beer is great beer. There’s nothing wrong with telling someone that their beer isn’t up to snuff, so long as you’re providing constructive criticism on how to make it better. We don’t need our reputation to be that of inadequacy. We don’t need people trying a craft beer for the first time to find diacetyl, soapy, or other off-flavors that may turn them off from craft beer forever. We need to push for the best quality brews we can, and hold those who choose to make beer accountable for their contributions.
It may sound like a great responsibility for someone who just wants to drink a great beer every now and then. It should. If we want to boast about this great craft beer community, if we want to brag that we’re better than the ‘fizzy yellow stuff’ and want to be this entity set apart from the rest we have no choice. If we want to control the reputation that we have, we need to be the voices that create it.