Two years ago I discovered Twitter and how wonderful it can be. Sure, you have to sift past a lot of moronic accounts, but once you find some great voices to follow your knowledge grows exponentially. I use it mostly for hockey, football, and beer. There are a lot of fantastic accounts to follow, such as @goodbeerhunting, @kbernot, @cicerone_org and @TheBeerWench, and those are only a few of my favourites. Spending ten seconds on Google, you’ll probably find an article with the top-20 accounts to follow that has great recommendations. Not all their opinions you’ll agree with, but they’ll certainly encourage you to think more critically about beer.
And while I love beer-twitter, I’ve recently been noticing a trend that’s been bugging me. There is a constant criticism of general aspects of beer. Breweries are studying what the average craft-drinker wants and making decisions based on that. Then there’s an out-pouring of negative responses to these decision even though it has such a minimal impact on their beer-drinking habits. Maybe this trend has been around for a while and I’m just noticing it because I’m pretty new to the beer world, or maybe it is actually escalating recently. Whatever the case, it’s taken some of the enjoyment of beer out of me.
Last Thursday, August 6th, was the fifth annual IPA Day. I think it’s a cute concept meant to celebrate a beer style that really popularized craft beer in the United States. Many cite it as a flaw in the system that a brewery has to produce an IPA to stay afloat (which I don’t think is inherently true), but the reality is, people like IPAs. When I go beer-exploring, I want to try cool saisons and wild ales and stouts, but when I come home from a hard day at work I want nothing more than a delicious IPA in my glass. To some degree I have become fatigued by IPAs (especially the “___ is the new Heady Topper” chatter) but they always have a spot in my fridge. So when IPA Day came around on Thursday, and I got ready to open my IPA (Phillip’s Brewing GrowHop Series: Zeus), I was frustrated to see twitter accounts trashing the day like it was some kind of violation of their sensibilities.
Now sure, Hipster Brewfus uses a brash voice to underscore the absurdity in beer culture. But no one is trying to make IPA day replace Christmas in terms of importance. And no one makes the same stink about National Doughnut Day or Talk Like a Pirate Day, even though those are more absurd in premise. If you don’t want an IPA on IPA day, go ahead and open something else. Doesn’t bother me. But it is neat to pay homage to the style that got me into craft beer, and the style that was a gateway for brewers to start making beers that ‘deserve’ attention. IPAs don’t have to be your favourite style, but if you say they’re a gimmick and they’re all the same, you’re probably a phony who claims to only drink sour beers.
This beer-twitter negativity doesn’t apply towards IPA Day alone. In late July, my Twitter feed becomes flooded with Ned Stark’s warning “Brace Yourselves, Pumpkin Beers are Coming” and posts about seasonal creep. Just type in ‘Seasonal Creep’ into Twitter’s search bar and you’ll get hundreds of posts about how its unacceptable to have Pumpkin + Fall beers out already. And the thing is, “Who Cares?!” I’ll say it again: Who cares if these beers are on the shelves? If you don’t want them, there’s still tons of other beers being brewed. You can still find beers of different styles fresh on the shelves. You know why breweries are selling their Pumpkin beers in late July and August? Because 1) They move and 2) They move better in late-summer than in early-winter. My local dinky bottle-shop in Baltimore, Eddie’s Liquor, moved so many bottles of Southern Tier’s Pumking in August and September. But by November, the excitement stopped and they’ve sat on a bunch of bottles that were still there when I left Baltimore a week ago. And the same people that are complaining about seasonal creep are probably going to go out, buy a case of Pumking, or Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale and do a fall tasting and create a ‘Ten Best Pumpkin Beers of 2015’ list. Jason Notte (who is another good Twitter-follow) is my favourite voice when it comes to discussing seasonal creep.
The last example I’m going to bring up of negativity (although there are plenty out there) was from a few weeks back. Josh Noel is probably the first beer account I followed, and I do like reading his work. But this tweet just made me groan.
Ok, this isn’t so much negativity as it is speculation about the viability of a trend, but I still shook my head in disapproval. A few years back, we hated beers in cans because it was synonymous with ‘big brewing’. Then brewers like Oskar Blues and Founders were using cans, and we loved it and saw more brewers switch over to the format. And now were already speculating (emphasis: He did specify he was speculating, rather than predicting) that local canned beers is booming in part because it’s ‘novel’ and we don’t know how long it will survive? Can we not ride this wave for a little while? Yes, I’m sure in a year or two I won’t be as impressed hearing that X beer is switching to cans, because I’ll have heard it so many times. That being said, I’ll still probably give slight preference to canned beers, if only because they’re slightly easier to carry home. And to Mr Noel’s credit, when I tweeted at him questioning his serving preferences, he did take time to respond to me and explain his reasoning that “Can fatigue is just wondering about the future and potential saturation”.
These examples, when they start to pile up just make me so exhausted with craft beer culture. We’re ragging on these insignificant issues. In all honesty I consider myself a pretty negative person, quick to poo-poo ideas, but even this is too much for me. We rarely talk about which beers and breweries we’re displeased with, that aren’t living up to a quality standard. But we’ll go on rants about how Session IPAs aren’t a real style, while the ‘average’ craft-drinker explores the latest release. And we’ll keep whining about Pumpkin beers in August, ignoring other examples of ‘seasonal creep’ like Sierra Nevada’s Snowpack in early October, or New Belgium release ‘Spring Blonde’ in mid-January (which I also have no issue with). By all means, we should be constantly vigilant and willing to criticize when breweries do something wrong. We shouldn’t shy from our opinions. But lets please stop criticizing arbitrary things; we don’t have to gripe about every little thing. Let’s have quality discussions instead of random noise.