Craft Beer Is Creative

The brewing of craft beer is a creative enterprise.  It is as the name says a craft.  It is akin to woodworking, pottery, weaving, etc. an art-form that has real world applications.  The creativity necessary to make a distinctive beer from the same recipe everyone else (for the most part) is immense.

What makes someone an artist?  The Oxford Dictionaries define an artist as:  a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.  It goes on to include someone who practices “any of the various creative arts, such as sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker” in a later part of the definition.  If you keep reading, it finally says:  a person skilled at a particular task or occupation.

They almost get it.  The definition I prefer is a person who looks at the world differently.  Someone who sees some inanimate objects and has the ability to infuse them with life and soul in order to interpret the world they see and add to it in some interesting and/or life affirming way.

Is that not a craft brewer?  A brewer takes water, hops, and malt, cooks them together, cools the creation, adds yeast, and creates a new version of beer that is different from the beer someone else may have brewed at the same time.  Brewing is at once a tradition past down from the Sumerians and a creative endeavor to test what the brewer can do.

Not every beer is craft just as not every painting is art.  Those mass produced paintings you see in every mid-tier to cheap hotel, doctors waiting room, and bank lobby from Maine to Hawaii probably make up the majority of paintings sold in the United States.  Just as the mass produced beer the big two (Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors) churns out every year is the vast majority of the beer sold in the US.

That does not diminish painting as an art form.  It just means some crappy artists have gotten together with a few large companies and figured out a way to monetize the concept.  The difference is that those who have figured out how to mass produce beer as if it was a widget and sell it ubiquitously and cheaply have come to define beer and brewing to the majority of people.

Honestly, craft brewing isn’t going to usurp the big two.  They are too big, too entrenched, and have too many tentacles in the power structure that governs alcohol sales in this country.  What craft beer should do is keep working at making better beer and be an alternative that provides a different view of beer.  A view that makes the world look a little better and look a little different.  That is a very good thing.

If you see a brewer today, wish them a Merry Christmas and thank them.

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