What Do I Love About Craft Beer…To Begin, With Everything

William Miller:  “So Russell…what do you love about music?”

Russell Hammond:  “To begin with, everything.”

Almost Famous

This started off as a simple exercise in me thinking about what I look for in a good beer.  As is my wont, my mind started spinning out into different directions and I actually ended up writing about New Criticism and authorial intent as it regards brewers.

As is also my wont, if I see myself over-complicating the obvious (with good reason in this case) I stepped back and simplified.  Thinking about what I look for in a beer is complicated by the ideas of why I like beer and choose craft beer in the first place.  More on this later.

To put it simply, what I look for any a beer is does it balance all of its ingredients in a way that makes the sum greater than its parts.  Beer is not a smoothie it is a salad.  In a smoothie you are blending all the ingredients into one drink that subsumes all the ingredients into one taste.  A salad is a co-mingling of elements that respects and uses all the taste and texture of all the independent elements.

Beer is the same way.  You are not hiding the taste of the hops.  You are not hiding the taste of the malt.  You are using the elements of each to complement and highlight the other ingredients.

That is the basis of why I fell in love with craft beer.  I love puzzles and drinking a good craft beer is, for me, an attempt to unravel a puzzle of how four basic ingredients were turned into this thing I am drinking, which has a wholly different taste then the thing I drank yesterday made from the same basic ingredients.

However, it is the people and the community that have popped up around this idea of better beer that makes it worthwhile.  In the craft beer community there is the idea that this is about more than just producing something to make a profit.  Don’t get it twisted; profit is important because brewers need to eat to.  However, the idea is to make something worthwhile.  To craft a product that you enjoy making that truly gives others pleasure in order to make a profit.

Craft beer is not a disposable empty product you will forget about five minutes after you drink it.  Craft beer, brewing coffee, brewing tea, the whole food movement in general are all attempts by people to step away from the disposable society we live in now.  People have started to understand how unhealthy both mentally and physically that type of society is, and find ways around it.

That is why craft beer has gone from a puzzle that fascinates me to my line in the sand (sorry I couldn’t come up with anything better) against a society that places fast and disposable ahead of good.  Fast and disposable are not inherently bad, but too often they are accompanied by cheap which is always the enemy of good.

I hope some of this makes sense.  It was rather self-indulgent (not as self-indulgent as the first draft).  It serves as a warm up to making a pizza from scratch (crust and sauce and some to be determined toppings) this afternoon and pairing a beer with it.

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