Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

May 21, 2012

Beer Diary:

Those Were The Days

Craft beer’s exploding popularity can make it difficult to be a beer dork.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
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I never considered myself being on the cutting edge of this whole craft beer “thing.” I always felt I discovered great beer a little late. I wasn’t homebrewing with cobbled together equipment and scavenged ingredients back in the ’80s or making multi-state road trips to snag some Sierra Nevada or Bell’s during the early ’90s. Hell, it was probably less than 10 years ago that I cranked out my first home brew that blasted me off into my craft beer odyssey.

But after reading Rings’ article last week about hard-to-get limited time offerings from craft brewers, it got me to thinking: despite my relatively late beer renaissance, I seemed to have been lucky enough to experience the movement at one of its sweet spots, when breweries were maturing into masters of their craft but before their beers’ popularity exploded into the mainstream.

I rememember road tripping to Grand Rapids a mere five years ago for American Craft Beer Week, before Founders opened their gorgeous new brewery, and sitting in the cozy but far from crowded tap room, drinking Kentucky Breakfast without having to wait in line or even rub elbows with another drinker.

In 2009 I attended Dark Lord Day, when you could still just walk in without a ticket, hauling a cooler full of home brew and a couple of lawn chairs and just hang out with the laid back crowd as they waited to buy bottles of Three Floyds’ devilishly good imperial stout.

And I can recall attending brew fests that weren’t crammed to the gills, where you could just mosey up and sample Bell’s Hopslam, New Holland Dragon’s Milk, or Lake Louie Warped Speed Private Reserve without having to wait behind even one person.

This is NOT one of those rants bemoaning that my societal niche has been co-opted by latecomers and poseurs.
And while there is some merit to Rings’ concerns about brewers purposely creating hype around their limited-release beers, I think it’s equally if not more so a product of the skyrocketing popularity of craft beer. Dark Lord Day getting regional TV coverage and KBS getting hyped in national food magazines is something that would have been completely unheard of only five years ago. The days of brew fests consisting of a few hundred—instead of 6,000-plus—beer enthusiasts casually hanging out in the park are gone.

(And before I get any further, this is NOT one of those rants bemoaning that my societal niche has been co-opted by latecomers and poseurs. Other than the latest uptick in the wave of marketing people who think they’re brewers like Big Bay and Finch’s, I don’t see how the sky-high popularity of craft beer can be a bad thing.)

So what’s a beer dork to do? Easy: go have a beer at your local brew pub. Chances are they’re making at least one fantastic fucking beer that you can’t get anywhere else. Plus, there are something like 800 new breweries slated to open in the United States this year. Seek the nearest one out and try their stuff. If they’re douchebags trying to cash in on what they think is the latest trend, ditch ’em and don’t look back. But if they’re passionate about their craft, they’ll have some good, maybe great, beer to drink. Support ’em. Who knows, they just might be the folks with a limited release beer in a few years that’s just as sought after as Kentuckey Breakfast and Dark Lord. And you can stand in line with the rest of us, reminiscing about walking into their empty tap room five years earlier and ordering up that glass of nectar without needing a ticket to get in. Ah, those were the days …

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

Beer Dorks News

Want to know how healthy the craft beer industry is? As always, look to Portland. Craft pioneer Bridgeport announces sudden closure, adding to a growing list of PDX casualties.
Did Anheuser-Busch Chicago offer their shit beer to Cody Parkey before his missed field goal? Because that may explain why he "accidentally" biffed it.
Chicago now has the most breweries of any city in the country. Other things Chicago has the most of: murders, mobsters, and Ditkas.
Trying to spin it positive, BA releases end of year graphic. Only 5% growth in the craft sector when nearly 1000 new breweries opened? That's a collapse waiting to happen.
R.I.P. Tallgrass... another casualty as the regional/national craft beer market continues to get squeezed.
Wait... Constellation Brands cut all of the Ballast Point and Funky Buddha sales staff? They merged it with their Corona/Modelo staff?? We're SHOCKED!!!
Pizza Beer founder crying about failure of company, blames everyone else. Reminder, the beer tasted like vomit. Try having better ideas or making better products so you're not a failure.
It's Bud Light so doesn't really matter, but we expect this beer to be sitting around for awhile.
Indiana brewery to open with controversial beer names to "get the conversation going". Translation: taking advantage of serious issues for free publicity.
Hundreds of amazing beers in Wisconsin and the Cubs took back the one everyone drinks just because it exists and people have heard of it. How fitting...