The Problem with American Craft

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by JackRWatkins, Nov 18, 2014.

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  1. LuskusDelph

    LuskusDelph Initiate (0) May 1, 2008 New Jersey

    ...and more seem to be opening every week.
    There is a certain sameness about a lot of craft brews. Much of the new stuff coming out (especially in the 'boom' of the last couple of years) tastes a bit amateurish to me.
    No matter. For the most part, the strong will survive and the rest will mercifully go back to homebrewing (from whence many of them came, and where a good number of them really belong).
    (to clarify: I'm not dissing homebrewing. Not at all. I love well made homebrew)
     
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  2. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,099) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    Reminds me of a complaint I overheard at a shoe store from a customer who complained the shoes he was trying on were too comfortable.

    I agree local breweries, indeed all breweries, are driven by demand. Only success determines the quality and desirability of beer. Or anything. And there is not a brewer in the world who at one time didn't make worse beer than he/she makes now.

    Some will lose, some will win, in the meantime it sure is fun to have the problem of too fucking many beers to choose from, too many great ones to drink and not enough time to do it. Oh, if all my problems could be of an equal nature I would never say a word of complaint again.
     
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  3. JackRWatkins

    JackRWatkins Crusader (733) Nov 3, 2014 Georgia
    Trader

    tell that to the people making substandard, painful and unrewarding IPA's, you don't have to enlighten us here, we all drank the coolaid about hop flavors and hop character, but the reality is there are far too many people out there valuing pain as a measure of manlineness over flavor
     
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  4. GregJ

    GregJ Initiate (0) Sep 24, 2014 Louisiana

    This is the nature of capitalism, popular trends (ie craft beer) will always be exploited for profit. Whether it be mediocre start-ups just looking to make a buck or one of the beer giants putting out craft beer under a different name to take back market share. Fortunately, another facet of capitalism is that your money is your voice. When the market truly becomes saturated not all breweries will survive as the profit margins will be a lot tighter. Those that have a great product and are run well will emerge victorious.

    Furthermore, competition breeds innovation. Do you want to live in a place where poor quality beer thrives because it is the only beer around? This competition combined with American creativity has led to one of the best craft beer countries in the world.
     
  5. BeerDrinkersWorldTour

    BeerDrinkersWorldTour Initiate (0) Sep 3, 2014 Northern Ireland

    This may be true of the craft beers that make it to export for the American market. Which stands to reason really if you think about it... See if you guys like a certain style then there is a market for it with you so we export our beers in that camp to you...
    I would however contest that the vast majority of the European craft market is in fact trying to return to older styles and methods used in Europe 100+ years ago.

    Of all the craft fodder I have come across (and I am talking real craft here not macro imitations of craft) really very few were trying to be American.

    Sometimes this can be a problem here, as I personally would like to try more American styles and the American craft scene is not really making huge in roads to the UK so many America IPAs I have had I fear are poor imitations of the best you have to offer... :slight_frown:
     
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  6. MisSigsFan

    MisSigsFan Initiate (0) Mar 2, 2013 California

    I'm starting to see way less IPAs that are focusing on just being ridiculously bitter. It seems to me IPAs are becoming way more balanced. The "palate wrecking" DIPAs are becoming a thing of the past.
     
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  7. Brewndruid

    Brewndruid Initiate (0) Jul 9, 2013 North Carolina

    I am not a big fan of highly hopped, high ABV monster beers, just not my thing. However, I can't deny the right of others to drink these beasts. My other dilemna is how to fairly rate these big guns. Just because I don't like them doesn't make them bad beers I try to stay objective by just going by BJCP or GABF guidelines. I wonder if there isn't a big fad or trend push in te industry driven by Cali beers, it's seen as the Mecca of Craft beer and if it's like there then there must be something wrong with us, rest of the country, if we don't like it. I call it the Lemming Syndrome. If you take a look at the "top" lists you see double this or triple Imperial that! I am waiting to see push back from well made session ales. In my mind, session ales make more sense all the way around! YOMV
     
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  8. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Devotee (436) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    Orval makes one beer for sale to the public. Well, two, if you count the "petit Orval you can get at the brewery cafe, and I guess 3 if you count Villeille Orval, which is just Orval that's been aged in the bottle for at least one year, but sold at the brewery cafe for a slightly higher price.

    Does Orval need to be able to "execute every style well"? I do not think so. By the same token, must every new brewery opening in the US need to put out a blonde, a pale, a brown, an IPA, a DIPA, an irish red or American amber, a porter, a stout, and an RIS, to go with a Belgian style or two and the inevitable "Kolsch"? And if they do lagers, a pre-prohibition American pils, a Czech Pils. a Bo-pils, a helles, a marzen, a vienna lager, a doppelbock, and a weizendoppelbock. I really don't think so, but every new brewer, and I guess you too, seem to feel that way.

    I'd like to see fewer SKUs and more excellence...

    (Edited to override the auto-correct which changed marzen to mermen, of all things)
     
    #168 southdenverhoo, Nov 18, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2014
  9. LeeMarvin

    LeeMarvin Initiate (194) Jan 15, 2005 Massachusetts

    I think it's great that there is concern for the state of American Craft Beer, because beer has become very hip and cool and it's always good to be skeptical about anything that gets adopted by the fad seekers. Lots of things get ruined by being popular, so I have no problem with the sentiment.

    But man, it is such a good time to be a beer drinker in the United States. Without the shit beers, it would be too easy to find the gems, and what the hell would all of us beer geeks have to talk about when we come together in the holy communions of beer shares, beer fests and bar rooms!
     
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  10. breadwinner

    breadwinner Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2014 California

    Totally what I've been noticing lately. I understand why, as they're certainly more approachable. To be honest, though, I'm not sure I'm completely on board with every new IPA smelling and tasting like a mildly astringent Dole fruit cup. I can't remember which BA member said this, as I really wish I could give them props, but they basically called Citra the autotune of hops. Made me laugh and nod in agreement. Just because you pack an IPA full of Citra and make it taste like a fruit cup doesn't automatically make it a good, drinkable IPA. Give me the classic citrus/pine of Stone IPA any day.
     
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  11. mntlover

    mntlover Poo-Bah (2,635) Jun 30, 2003 Tennessee
    Society

    Sadly we had brewery just open in our town, great place to go hear some good music. Sadly think the beer is average at best and that is being kind. Lots of people seem to enjoy it, so hope they make it just will not be going there to have beer. But we have a brewery in the next town over that also has good music and makes some damn tasty beers and isn't afraid to try something off the wall. Guess who gets my business.
     
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  12. JackRWatkins

    JackRWatkins Crusader (733) Nov 3, 2014 Georgia
    Trader

    while I agree with this, Orval is in fact Orval, not subject to the same needs or even goals of a traditional brewery in addition to being in a whole other league from most anyway, Orval and trappist breweries in general are kind of in a seperate situation, that being said though, I do agree with you
     
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  13. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Devotee (436) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    It may interest you to know that one of our newest breweries here in Denver is named Locavore Brew Works...their philosophy, here: http://www.locavorebeerworks.com/about/
     
  14. THANAT0PSIS

    THANAT0PSIS Champion (802) Aug 3, 2010 Wisconsin

    Citra's washed up. It's all about those NZ hops these days. Mo' tropical, mo' betta. :wink:

    In seriousness, I think there's a place for both. I love me a good, classic pine-heavy Magnum- or Centennial-forward IPA (though not Founders Centennial IPA) like Torpedo or Two-Hearted just as much as I love the blueberry and citrus bomb or the straight orange, grapefruit, and mango smoothie that is the Mosaic in Yellow Rose and the Citra in King Sue, respectively.

    Citrus Showdown 2014, as with the IBU Wars of the early '10s before it, too shall pass to the annals of vogue come and gone.
     
    #174 THANAT0PSIS, Nov 18, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2014
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  15. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,989) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Excellent line about autotune- I can definitely see where he's coming from.

    Part of the reason I brought that up is that I have been craving some old school style stuff, too. Unfortunately, I can never find Union Jack fresh, but Stone will definitely do in a pinch.

    In the end, I do like the new styles, too, but that doesn't mean I want the older ones to go away- whether that means with IPAs, or even other styles like Stouts/Porters, various lagers, etc- I enjoy having access to it all.
     
  16. FutureJack

    FutureJack Initiate (0) Oct 30, 2007 California


    One of my favorite American pilsners. And this is all they make.



    [​IMG]
     
  17. JackRWatkins

    JackRWatkins Crusader (733) Nov 3, 2014 Georgia
    Trader

    that ones new to me, where's it from?
     
  18. FutureJack

    FutureJack Initiate (0) Oct 30, 2007 California


    Berkeley, CA
     
  19. HuskyHawk

    HuskyHawk Initiate (0) Jun 5, 2014 Massachusetts

    OK, I get this in AZ, or Alabama, but for some of us, we already have exactly what you want. Honestly, I don't buy much of anything from Stone because my local stuff is definitely better, or FW, because it is rarely fresh or Ballast Point because it is too expensive. Victory? Victory is pretty average in my mind, though they make some solid beers and Dirt Wolf is excellent. I am never going to choose Founders Centennial over Long Trail Limbo or Wormtown Be Hoppy or Jack's Abby Hoponious Union. And that's just local shelf beer, there is other stuff that is better still (Treehouse, Trillium).

    I have more freaking astonishingly good beer available to me on shelves at this moment than I could ever have hoped for. It's amazing really. And it just keeps improving. Are there some "just ok" beers, sure...who cares? Even those are good compared to what I could get 15 years ago. In a world where I can go buy Jack's Abby Kiwi Rising right now for $4.75, I have nothing to complain about. Nothing.
     
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  20. breadwinner

    breadwinner Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2014 California

    Indeed, gents. I dig having the fruity stuff available too -- the curmudgeonly part of me just likes to take shots at whatever's en vogue at the time:slight_smile:

    @TongoRad, though I don't tend to have issues finding fresh Union Jack, the news of cans in March 2015 of that/Easy Jack/Pivo makes me a happy man. Hoping some make it out your way.
     
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  21. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poo-Bah (2,902) Jun 18, 2002 Arizona
    Society

    Enviable position to be in, Husky!

    So, imagine not having those top tier locals, and then in your area there's nonetheless a buy local movement anyway and the local stuff is taking up tap lines that could go to Dirt Wolf, Ballast Point, FW, Stone, etc. but aren't. Let that settle for a second and I think you'll feel how I feel. We really are far apart in this regard, as consumers and choices available to us. You have it made.
     
  22. DaveMiller

    DaveMiller Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2013 Minnesota

    I get what everyone is saying in this thread and can relate to many issues brought up, myself I started back in the mid 80's looking to go beyond the big boys at the time and discovered that the only beer that had that something I was looking for were European imports, so I started buying everything I could get my hands on to figure out what I liked and didn't like. Which in turn led me to start home brewing so I could always have something that I liked laying around and I would have no one to blame but myself for the quality...

    Move forward 30 years and in my area (Twin Cities MN) you can hardly find a European beer in most liquor stores, however, I can find just about any local beer MN or WI in their own special section... In the last year alone, I can think of at least a dozen new breweries to open just in the Twin Cities alone. Some bottle/can, some you can only find at the taproom, but in the end I am going to try them all, not just because they are local, but because I have this passion to try good beer. Have some of them disappointed and thus I won't be going back? Yes, but the point I am trying to make is that I at least tried them, as have all of you tried new breweries in your different areas, because how else are you going to find out if they make good beer or not... And if some like the beer that I personally think is not that good, more power to them, because calling out someone because you think the beer is not any good, just makes you look like a beer snob, which to some of my friends I am...

    In the end this is all a personal decision about what you like and thus where you are going to spend your hard earned money and if the liquor store dude does not sell something anymore because it is not selling, I am going to be disappointed but the dude also needs to make money. And if it is because he is trying to promote local it is his decision and yours to take your business somewhere else...
     
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  23. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,901) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    Salzberg Austria, too.
     
  24. LambicPentameter

    LambicPentameter Initiate (0) Aug 29, 2012 Nebraska

    If Citra is the autotune of hops, which brewer is T-Pain? :sunglasses:
     
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  25. BeerHistoryGuy

    BeerHistoryGuy Initiate (0) Oct 15, 2014 Illinois

    With craft brewers surpassing the 3,000 mark and 18% growth last year in sales, etc., etc., etc, it is unlikely that the problems of "hops over flavor" is that pervasive. While I'm sure that there are hits and misses -- I've had a few misses, myself -- I would argue that craft brew has never been better. The growth can't be accounted for just by measuring the sales to beer enthusiasts. That won't cut it. In truth, it's the average beer drinker, the next generation of beer drinkers, etc, that has craft brew sold in places like drug stores and 7-11's. If most of the beeer tastes badly or makes up the majority of beer sold -- notably beer that is just so hoppy. that it's bitter without flavor -- it would not be that popular. The sophisticated palate usually gravitates towards hoppy beers, like IPAs and double IPAs, but many people prefer lagers, pilsners, wheat beers, and maybe some seasonals. So, a beer that is pure bitter with little flavor? That would not make craft beer sales go crazy as they have, notably in the last 10 years. Simply put, people like what is being sold to them. That's why they are buying it.

    Obviously, with the immense growth of the entire industry, there will be some breweries that go out of their way to make it hoppy without thinking about the balance of flavors. Others will not be consistent brew-to-brew, and others will care way too much about spices/flavors rather than the beer, itself, as a whole. That happens in the food industry, too. Good chefs make a good meal, not just food with abundant spices that are not balanced, etc.

    In the end, I have to disagree with your assessment. I think there are some bad beers among the tens of thousands of varities that exist -- and maybe you are not a fan of heavy hoppped beers (is that a term? lol), but all in all, craft brewers have succeeded in appealing to us geeks, and a whole nation (and world) of people -- and the economic numbers prove how appealing craft beer has become.

    Maybe you are more of a wheat, stout, etc. type of guy? Also, this is wet hop season, so maybe you are noticing the more hoppy brews that are prevalent at this moment?

    That's my $.02 worth, if that. My humble opinion, of course.
     
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  26. BeerHistoryGuy

    BeerHistoryGuy Initiate (0) Oct 15, 2014 Illinois

    I meant to add....I'm on board with supporting the local breweries, too. If I find a brewery has little to offer (one, close by, is really sub-par, sadly), I will not go back, but that's been really rare. In the Chicago area, we have nearly 100 breweries now and, so far, I've had great experiences. I just went to Imperial Oak in Willow Springs and it's freaking amazing. Pollyana, Urban Legend, and few others are all excellent, too. I can't imagine going to Binny's in lieu of visiting a brewery and getting something crafted "on location." That's just me, though. :slight_smile:
     
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  27. Nlawrence301

    Nlawrence301 Initiate (0) Sep 26, 2013 Maryland

    I'm all about drinking local, but most of the local breweries in my town are not very good. Flying dog makes some good beer, but I get the impressions they care more about marketing, than they do about their product. And the other two actual local Breweries are owned by the same company, and just plain suck. The best "local" beer comes from PA or are three hours away in evo & burley oak (forgot about jailbreak brewing in laurel)
     
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  28. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    In NJ a Brewery can self distribute. It doesn't matter if your a Nano or AB-InBev.
     
  29. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,989) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    You could also find a store that shares your sensibilities enough to be willing to either carry some of what you request or just special-order a case every now and then.
     
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  30. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,565) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Michel, that is a capital idea. I have had the pleasure to get to know a number of my local beer buyer guys and they will make the effort to special order beer for me when I request it. The types of beers I want is not available to them 100% of the time but more often then not I am successful here.

    Cheers!

    Edit: A related story. A couple of years ago I once asked one of my beer guys if he carried Schlitz Gusto beer (I did not explicitly ask him to get it for him). The next time I was there he mentioned he had a 6-pack in the back for me. Matt is a GREAT guy!!
     
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  31. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,160) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina

    I have done this with kegs, actually. Since we ramped up to the 1 BBL home brewery, I have been able to keep myself in the types of beer I prefer, for the most part. Would be a bit worried about freshness, since, as many have noted, these beers don't move as well anymore. Still, good call.
     
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  32. bambinichole

    bambinichole Initiate (0) Aug 23, 2014 Ohio
    Deactivated

    People think craft beer is a style that is something new. But, a lot of these beers and styles and flavors have been around for a long time. We as people, in our minds, have developed this so-called style. "Craft" beer is how beer should be and when people see something different that's been around for a long time, it becomes artesinal or craft.
     
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  33. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,989) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Yeah- I don't have the same problem @herrburgess has (my local was well-stocked with plenty of German O'fests this year like always) but I'm still being very pro-active lately anyway. Sometimes it's a request for a particular beer (Weihenstephaner Oktoberfestbier in this instance, because that's the one they didn't have last year), and sometimes it's to give a heads-up about something upcoming (like the Ballantine IPA, which nobody knew about at the time). If you find the right place, then that's a great ace to have up your sleeve every now and then, and it sure beats driving all over the place looking for something :slight_smile:.
     
  34. mccorvey

    mccorvey Initiate (0) Dec 3, 2013 North Carolina

    IMO this whole thread/argument is a straw man. There's no "problem" with craft beer in America.
     
    #194 mccorvey, Nov 19, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2014
  35. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poo-Bah (2,902) Jun 18, 2002 Arizona
    Society

    ^^^Maybe McCorvey is right. What were we thinking? /slapforehead.
     
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  36. Brolo75

    Brolo75 Initiate (0) Aug 10, 2013 California
    Deactivated

    Completely agree, there is a lot of quality in American craft beer. Is there bad beer out there? Yes but it is such a good time to be a beer drinker in the U.S.
     
  37. rgordon

    rgordon Meyvn (1,270) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    My God, global warming raised up too big a storm in too small a teapot. There is nothing wrong with American craft beer that wise consumers cannot discern. I've read as much of this as possible. Good product is good product, pure and simple. One should not stress over this stuff.
     
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  38. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    Just curious, why would you want to rate beers you don't care for in the first place?
     
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  39. mccorvey

    mccorvey Initiate (0) Dec 3, 2013 North Carolina

    I think the baseline assumption the title makes is that there is some "problem" with American craft beer, or basically that there is something inherently wrong with the whole craft beer phenomenon. I disagree with this assumption.

    Just because you don't like a trend or style within the market, doesn't make it a bad market in general.
     
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  40. JackRWatkins

    JackRWatkins Crusader (733) Nov 3, 2014 Georgia
    Trader

    with anything as big as this there will always be problems, the principle issue with anything classified as a movement is that movements by their very definition will end. I don't think it's unreasonable to attempt to discuss the problems an industry this big is bound to have, be they what I initially suggested or any of the issues mentioned in the thread. the idea of discussing it here is to make sure that none of the issues grow in secret and kill this whole thing that we love so much. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting beer will ever die, hell it survived being illegal, but we as consumers need have ultimate control here and need to promote the kind of market we like and would like to see flourish. to say that there is no problem is kind of naive, there's nothing wrong with disagreeing as to what exactly the problem is or even stressing that the word problem but sound too much like a deathknell to be the word to describe the issues, but that sort of idealism is impractical
     
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