My good friend Jay Brooks has taken issue with some of the criticism levelled at the movie, Beer Wars, which premiered last week and has fostered much discussion in the beer blogging community and elsewhere both before and since.
I have not seen the film and so will make no comment of its relative worth, save for the tangential observation I made last week. I will, however, take issue with the following lines from his post:
The beer community, and many bloggers in particular, have never seemed so divided to me. See here I was enough of an idealist to think we were all in this together.
Well, Jay, no, we’re not all in it together. And that, my friend, is a sure sign of the maturing of the craft beer market and very much a good thing.
Back in the early days of craft brewing, when I first started setting myself up as a beer writer, I was from time to time chastised for not painting a positive enough picture of this beer or that one. Once I was even taken to task for failing to laud an early and very amateurish attempt at beer publishing. And in each and every instance, the reasoning cited by the deriders, whether implicitly or explicitly, was that we were “all in this together” and so I must therefore show at least a degree of support for every craft beer effort, no matter what I think its ultimate worth.
I said “no” then, and I say “no” now.
Taste is, of course, highly subjective, but generalizations may certainly be made regardless of personal palate or preference. A mass-market lager like Molson Canadian, for instance, will show distinct flavour differences when compared to another mass-market lager, such as Budweiser, but few will argue that the two beers don’t also bear stunning similarities of taste. And if I am going to criticise those brands for failing to provide sufficient complexity and character to be interesting quaffs, then it would be highly hypocritical of me to turn around and laud the merits of a third beer classed in the same category, simply because it is brewed by a smaller company. Which is precisely why I didn’t do it then and don’t do it now.
Along those same lines, Beer Wars marketed itself directly to aficionados of craft brewed beer, not to mention the hoards of beer bloggers, and so it must likewise accept the responses of those same people. That we’re not all falling head over heels to praise its efforts is not a depressing thing at all, but rather a sign that the craft beer market and its adherents are now confident enough and mature enough to handle both reading and writing criticism of something obviously intended for their consumption. If the emperor is indeed wearing no clothes – and again, I must stress here that I have not seen Beer Wars and so have no idea whether I agree or disagree with the praises and critiques thus far posted – then it’s good that a number of people are now comfortable pointing out that reality.
That fact is, Jay, that while the economic playing field in the beer biz is still wickedly unlevel, and is likely to remain so for some time to come, craft beer is now and has been for a while the solid winner in the battle for media attention. When was the last time someone commissioned you to write a story about Bud Light Lime, for instance, as compared to your last craft beer assignment? To coin a phrase, we’re here, we’re beer, get used to it!