One of the things that makes homebrewing in the Internet age such fun is the wonderful online community of brewers. The hobby is absolutely thriving online and it doesn’t matter what part of the hobby you are a part of, you can find active and helpful groups for everything from mead, wine, all-grain or kit beer brewing right through to groups dedicated to building complete brewing systems from everyday household components or top of the range specialist equipment.
It does seem strange to me that this online community that is so friendly and supportive has a seedier side. Underneath the shell it does start to feel quite divisive. Whilst the online community is probably more friendly, welcoming and supportive than any other hobby I have been involved in, there seems to be a constant search for different methods to split the group into “Us” or “Them”, generally with it ending up more as an Us vs Them situation. Whilst the Us vs Them thing itself is not necessarily something that is unusual to this community, it does feel like it is done in quite a negative way. “Are you an all-grain brewer or ‘just’ a kit brewer?” “Are you a masher or do you use someone else’s extract?”, “Are you a craft beer drinker or do you swig piss water?”
Apart from the never ending all-grain vs extract vs kit thing, the whole craft beer vs non craft thing has always seemed very strange to me, and it has been illustrated better than ever before in the fallout from the Budweiser Superbowl advert “Brewed the hard way”
Several pundits are saying this is a shot across the bow of the growing craft beer or micro brewery industry whilst others are calling it a direct attack. Even if that is the case, the craft community can hardly complain when for years they have been attacking the large scale or macro brewers with any excuse they can come up with. The type of comments you constantly hear are along the lines of “Beer brewed by accountants not brewers.”, “Fizzy water”, or even “Cats piss”. At the risk of marking myself as one of “Them” instead of one of “Us”, I have never understood why people have to be so negative and dismissive about macro beer. Sure it may not be as exciting or as unusual as a Coffee Baltic Porter or a “Pumpkin Peach Ale”, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t brewed with every bit as much care and attention as something coming out of the 150 Litre micro brewery just starting up on your local industrial estate. You may not particularly like their beer, but that doesn’t detract from the skill of the brewers who produce millions of gallons of highly consistent beer every year from ingredients that vary so much from season to season, when some micros are incapable of producing two batches of beer, from exactly the same batch of ingredients and get them to taste similar.
It’s fine to not enjoy a macro beer, just like it is fine not enjoy the latest Double Chilli Cucumber Saison from the normally cool craft brewery down the road, but we do the whole brewing industry a disservice by attacking breweries just because their product doesn’t match our personal taste. Where do I sit on this fence? Well I’m quite happy to chug some macro beer at times. Especially in the heat of summer, when I don’t fuss over it and just drink it for what it is, a cool, fizzy, refreshing drink. Other times, I’m more than happy to fuss, and by fuss I mean take my time, enjoy and savour the appearance, aroma and taste, of something brewed specifically to have a depth of flavour and character, and yes, that generally does come from a much smaller brewery.