Bad Craft Beer
by Hal Livingston Jr.
For many people, what’s known as “craft brewing” is synonymous with quality, and the big three with its
opposite. A popular T-shirt on the beer festival circuit captures that sentiment concisely: “Drink Craft, Not
I often come across less dramatic problems as well, like a skunky aroma indicating that the beer was hit
with sunlight, causing the hops to stink; or a slick, movie theater-popcorn smell, indicating the presence
of diacetyl, a natural chemical byproduct of an imperfect fermentation process.
I’ve had other cans of beer (and one bottle) burst. I’ve seen breweries serve their beer out of dirty
glassware and generally poor cleaning practices including, on occasion, signs of rodents during my visits
to more than 1,300 breweries.
When I mention problems like these in the beer world, I’m sometimes treated like a spoilsport. “Don’t
worry about it,” I hear again and again. We need to “support craft brewing.” I disagree. We need to
support good brewing. By upping their game across the board can small, local breweries become better
competitors against the large, multinational brewers?
And guess what? There’s a lot that smaller breweries can learn from the behemoths: first and foremost,
quality control and consistency. At Anheuser-Busch’s St. Louis brewery, trained professionals sample the
Budweiser brewed at each of the company’s 12 U.S. locations, making sure that the liquid tastes exactly
the same. Customers shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the Bud brewed in Newark, N.J.,
versus the one in Fort Collins, Colo., or Fairfield, Calif.
That commitment to a unified consumer experience is one reason why Miller Lite and similar brands have
succeeded across generations, sewing themselves into the fabric of American life. (OK, huge marketing
budgets help, too.)
It’s true that beers produced by large companies can fall on the generic side in terms of flavor. But we
shouldn’t diminish the skill that goes into making tens of millions of barrels of the same beer each year, at
multiple locations, each and every one without defect. These beers are pitch perfect at what they aim to
be: simple, clean, inoffensive lagers.
Some craft brewers seem to think that their independence means consumers will give them a pass if they
encounter problems. But that’s only true of a small segment of the drinking population with an aversion
to mass-produced beer — the fervid craft fans. Lots of people who grew up drinking Coors won’t be so
forgiving if they have a bad craft experience.
A director of a local brewers guild told me recently that selling even one bad pint of craft to a regular
consumer can do more harm to the cause than all the dollars the big breweries spend on ads that mock
craft as somehow effete or elite. If that’s a stretch, the sentiment’s still right.
based on an article by Nina Porzuckii
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Craft Doesn't Always Mean Quality
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