BeerDorks.com: Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

 
April 24, 2010

Beer Issues:

Don’t Fret, Home Brew

On Dark Lord Day, it’s time to reflect on why craft beer won’t go the way of overpriced wine.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
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A lot of beer dorks have fretted—and continue to fret—about the rising price of craft beer. Not an average six pack of beer—the plethora of pale ales, American wheats, IPAs, blonde lagers, and so forth—but the big, bold special releases like the one getting doled out in Munster, Indiana as I write this, Three Floyds Dark Lord. While this beer isn’t really all that expensive—I think last year the bombers cost 15 dollars each—the hype surrounding it—and the fact that you can only buy it one day a year at the brewery—actually creates a secondard gray market, where assholes resell it on eBay for astronomical prices.

The people doing this fretting I mentioned are worried that craft beer—specifically specialty brews like Dark Lord or Founders KBS or New Glarus Golden Ale among many others—will go the way of wine, wherein the hardest to get bottles cost hundreds of dollars. Not because they cost that much to produce, but simply because there are idiots out there willing to pay that much, therefore artificially inflating the price. And so, the reasoning goes, beer will move away from its egalitarian roots and morph into something that only rich snobs can afford.

Home brewers sincerely believe that their beer is the best beer on the planet.
Although I admire the fretters and their concern over the status of craft beer, I don’t think such a thing will happen. The reason? Home brewers. Home brewers tend to be the biggest beer dorks, mainly because once you drink your own beer, subpar commercial beer—even craft beer—just isn’t acceptable anymore. If you can brew beer cheaper and better than a crappy pale ale or a half-assed porter, why would you pay money for it?

And it’s been my experience that nine out of every 10 home brewers I’ve talked to sincerely believe that their beer is the best beer on the planet. Part of this perception comes solely from the immense satisfaction of drinking something you’ve crafted yourself, but I must say that I’ve drank some phenomenally good home brew in my life, good enough at times to rival the highest rated commercial stuff.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and just guess at this, but I don’t think a lot of the oenephiles (that is to say, wine dorks) that are dropping a yard or two on a bottle of rotten grape juice are vinting their own wine in the basement. I’m guessing a lot of these people are buying these overpriced wines less because of how the wine tastes and more because they can say they have a two hundred dollar bottle of wine in their wine cellar or at their table in the four-star restaurant or at their private booth in the trendy night club.

Most of the people spending a hundred dollars on a bottle of wine aren’t making their own in the basement.
That’s not to say beer dorks don’t do the same thing. But I’d wager half dollars to donut holes that for every person bragging about snagging a bottle of Dark Lord (either by standing in line at the brewery or buying it from some jackass off of eBay) there’re two home brewers out their going, “Big fucking deal. I’ve got two cases of imperial stout brewed with hops I grew myself. And I like my beer better.”

I love reading about and drinking (when I can get my hands on them) the specialty beers craft brewers put out, and I hope they continue to create and celebrate their beers. But as the craft beer crowd grows, and these brews get harder and harder to get, I don’t see the prices going up to the idiotic heights of wine. I see the folks that truly love beer sticking to their roots and brewing up great concoctions of their own, or at the very least buying stuff at their local brewpub or craft brewery. A huge part of America’s current beer renaissance came from home brewers—some of the biggest and the best craft breweries today were started by home brewers—and a big chunk of its innovation is still fueled by them. And I think home brewers will ultimately protect the future of craft beer from cannibalizing itself.

Grab your brew kettle, your ale pale, your racking cane and bottle capper. Brew up that next great wit, bock, and oak-aged black pepper and rye imperial India pale ale. The future of the craft beer world is in your hands.





Comments
>And it's been my experience that >nine out of every 10 home brewers >I've talked to sincerely believe >that their beer is the best beer >on the planet.

I hate to burst the bubble of the other 8 zymurgist's in my group, but MY homebrew is the best on the planet.

Seriously, there is something to be said for making a beer EXACTLY how you like it. Sure it takes a lot of experiments that fall short of that mark along the way, but crafting the perfect beer is a journey, not a destination. It's full of surprises and disappointments, but when your 'failure' is a hand crafted drinkable beer, life is good.
posted by Jug | April 25, 2010, 7:53 PM
When the demand portion of supply & demand goes really high, prices will go high. That's not artificial.

I don't think homebrewing will do much to contain the costs. Wines are really expensive because wine lovers have a lot of money and there are a lot of them.
posted by Geoff | April 25, 2010, 11:32 PM
I'll agree with you here. While brewing really ggod beer is a talent, it's an aquireable talent. And there's lot's of help out there, whether it be books, online message boards or even big time brewers. I recently got a homebrew tip from Todd from Surly. Pretty f**kin cool. His caveat was "I'm not responsible for your homebrew". That's why the beer communtity is different from wine. No snobs...it's about the beer.
posted by Frank | April 25, 2010, 11:51 PM
On the wine vs. beer point, the other issue with "collecting" is that wine can be stored. Beer, for the most part, cannot...save some of the barley wines that have been sold at higher prices.
In any event, rising costs means the demand exceeds the supply and I would say that's a good thing for the craft beer industry!

"Bring us some fresh wine! The freshest you've got - this year! No more of this old stuff." - Navin Johnson
posted by rings | April 26, 2010, 8:39 AM

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