The Crusade Continues
A few years into my job working for Charlie Papazian, I had become a convert to the complexity, beauty, variety and excitement of beer. My predisposition towards crusading defined my career choices going forward. For nearly three decades I’ve been an advocate of better beer, craft beer, specialty beer—whatever you want to call our oldest beverage.
Furthermore, I came to adore the people that challenged the conventional beer world by starting the breweries that made these wonderful beverages. Along with these pioneers, I also became a fan of the old guard, those traditional breweries that had held on through the dark days, making great beer. These are just wonderful people to support and promote.
Now, as I travel the country, either in the flesh or in cyberspace, I marvel at the places where you can find great beers, at the people who are excited about these beers and the brewers making them. Everyday, I discover a new brand, a new brewery, a new brewer or a new beer joint. A week doesn’t go by but I’m with a bunch of people tasting some great beers and talking about them.
The beer world is so exciting that I’ve caught myself doing an old foggy routine, telling a kid about the Bad Old Days when you had to drive hours if not days for a place that had great beer. (“Why, I had to drive to Richmond to get a good Belgian ale.”) This kid told me that he couldn’t stand his Dad’s beers from breweries like Boston Beer, Sierra Nevada, Anchor and the like—all gold standards. No, instead he preferred the edgier beers. What a great country!
That got me thinking about how fortunate I am to have lived to see my dreams come true: how fortunate and how confused. Having been a crusader for so long, there is a sense of having lost my way. You see, it takes me only fifteen minutes and maybe $10 to be able to choose among a few hundred fabulous beers in the bottle or on draft—a far cry from the days of carrying great beers miles in the trunk of the car and doing my best to extend their life in cool, dark places around the house. The crusade is over. We have won. The Better Beer World was a fait accompli.
That is, until this holiday season started.
In the first week of festivities, at the first three big social events, I encountered beer-less receptions and dinner parties. Not bad beer, mind you, but beer-less. Each of these events came out of some arts-type organization, featuring pretty well-heeled attendees. And the wine was superb, just no beer. None.
As I’m sure you can imagine, I brought it up to the various hosts and was met with, well, not exactly disdain, but something akin to perplexity. One host commented that the only place to get good beer was at the Hofbrauhaus. I asked if they were referring to the one in Munich, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. They stared at me as if I were bonkers. Especially amusing since our state boasts one of the best German breweries and restaurants in the country.
There appears to be whole swaths of the community that are still inexperienced with the world of great beer. Whole swaths. So, the crusade continues.
This editorial originally appeared in the March 2011, Vol. 32, No. 1 issue.
Web link: For more on the whole wine versus beer debate http://allaboutbeer.com/live-beer/appreciation/2006/01/wine-vs-beer-in-vino-veritas