Earlier this week an article was published in Boston Magazine saying how “How the craft-beer movement abandoned Jim Koch”. It’s written by Andy Crouch, who often writes pieces aiming for controversy and boy did he get plenty of it with this one. This caused a ruckus on BeerAdvocate forums, in Twitter, and responses from a variety of blogs. I almost shot off an article immediately after Crouch’s piece was published but decided against it. After ruminating about the article, reading Growler Fill’s post The State of Craft Beer: You Sold Us On Choice —and, more importantly, rewatching HBO’s The Wire— I’ve decided to share my thoughts.
I have a few issues with the Boston Magazine article. The biggest of which is how it vastly overplays Sam Adams importance in the birth of craft beer. Such as: “There’s no disputing that America is experiencing a craft-beer revolution—and that Koch’s Boston Beer Company birthed it.” Right, Anchor, New Albion, Sierra Nevada — they’re not important and all came well after Boston Beers started. But hey, this is a Boston magazine so maybe we can cut them some slack for promoting their hometown hero. At least, they didn’t hide that the majority of Boston Beer is brewed far from Boston, right here in Cincinnati. But I’m digressing from the point I want to make here.
The main point of the article was that craft beer enthusiasts have forgotten Sam Adams and only want the newest beers. Even a beer made two or three years ago is supposedly viewed with disdain because it’s become too mainstream or some such nonsense. Remember, PsycHOPathy came out just under two years ago.
First off, I’m entirely guilty of chasing new beers. I adore Victory Golden Monkey but haven’t had it in over a year because there are so many new beers to try. What I’m saying is I’m exactly the type of person that pissed Jim Koch, and others, off.
Here’s the thing, though, what is the problem with people wanting new products?
The discussion being had online so far focuses only on beer. Understandable, as it started with a brewery owner and is being discussed by beer writers and lovers. But it’s been framed in this beer-centric context that I think skews the argument. So let’s take a step back and realize there is nothing wrong with people wanting new stuff. Jim Koch was upset that Sam Adams Boston Lager wasn’t available at a bar. Boston Lager was first made in 1984 so let’s look at what we liked in 1984.
I was one-year-old, so I have no memory of the year. But if we lived in a culture that didn’t care about new products we’d still be watching Miami Vice and Murder, She Wrote on TV. We’d hop in our cars and pop in cassette tapes of Thriller or Purple Rain. Ok, let’s stop here for a second.
Cassette tapes people! That’s how we bought music when Boston Lager first came out. That’s where we’d be if we never demanded new products. We’d be renting Beverly Hills Cop on VHS and listening to Born in the U.S.A. on cassette tape. There are now people old enough to buy Boston Lager, who may not remember VHS or cassette tapes.
One more thing — that Motorola brick mobile phone first went on sale March 13th, 1984 for a hair under $4,000. Clearly the world would suck if we didn’t have an insatiable lust for new things. So why should we be admonished for wanting new beers?
The Problem with “Old.”
A lack of new products results in a boring world, but we cannot forget what came before. I don’t drink Victory Golden Monkey very often, but I recommend it frequently. I go back to Great Lakes Oktoberfest every September, and then in November pick up a 4-pack of Nosferatu.
I don’t listen to Purple Rain, but I do go back to Talking Head’s Remain in Light often. I’ve never seen an episode of Miami Vice but love The Wire. That doesn’t mean I’m not eagerly awaiting the new season of House of Cards. What I’m saying here is to have balance, folks. Many craft beer enthusiasts I know have lost that balance. All they want is new rare beers out of Vermont, and I’m not talking about Heady Topper. What I’m saying is while you’re hunting this year’s HypeSlam don’t forget to grab a 6-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
P.S.: I wrote this entire post while listening to Talking Heads Remain in Light from 1980 but edited while listening to Shakey Graves And The War Came from this October.