The Session #123: CyberBrew - Is the Internet Helping or Hurting Craft Beer?

It is my great privilege to host the 123rd rendition of "The Session," the brainchild of Jay Brooks (of Brookston Beer Bulletin fame) and prolific beer writer Stan Hieronymous, coming up on May 5th.

What's "The Session?"

To quote Jay: “The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. Over time, it is the hope — of me, at least — that a record will be created with much useful information about various topics on the subject of beer."

Interesting - what's the topic?

This month, we're taking on the internet and craft beer: is it a help, a hinderance, an annoyance, or all of the above?  How is beer drinking/brewing different in the internet age, and how is the internet changing the way brewers and craft beer drinkers do business?  

Topics might include:

  • Marketing beer in the internet age
  • The astounding influence of beer bloggers to make or break breweries (just kidding, but seriously, what's the effect of all of this quasi-journalistic beer commentary on the drinking and brewing public?)
  • How are beer reviews (expert and mass-market) affecting what gets brewed and drank?
  • Are beer apps for tracking and rating overly-"gamifying" beer (or does that make drinkers more adventurous)?
  • Just how fast do aleholes on message boards and elsewhere turn off prospective craft beer enthusiasts?

And, of course, I'm sure that you're all more creative than me and there's a lot I'm missing.

Cool - how do I join in? 

Leave a comment with a link to your post in the comment section of this post, preferably by May 5th (the first Friday of the month, also known as "next Friday").  Even if you're running a little late, leave your comment and I'll catch it.  The roundup will publish in mid-late May (I'd say that the 15th is a likely target), and we'll see what everyone came up with.

Keep it simple.

JJW

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A Year of Unique Beer - First Quarter Update

I'm a believer in making one's own fun, setting challenges, and turning life into a game whenever possible.  This year's game?  2017 will be a year of unique beer.  I don't mean that I'll try to drink interesting and different beers this year - I mean it literally.  Every beer in 2017 will be singular.  Today's post is the first quarter update, and I'll also lay out the rules.

Getting to Here 

I drank 381 pints of beer last year.  How do I know?  I was tracking it, thanks to a fun conversation I had with my wife.  The question we had was, "do I drink a barrel of beer per year?"  Turns out I do - about 1.54 barrels, to be precise.  

The "roughly one beer per day" average, though, started us down a different track: what if they were all different beers?  A new beer for every new day?  Not that I'd be limited to one per day or would HAVE to drink one a day, but just that there would be no repeats.  

Challenge accepted.  Why?  Well, because it might be interesting, but also because it struck me as a great way to test the depth and breadth of the craft beer world (at least in our area) in 2017.  If this is easy, then it says a lot about the variety of beers we get to choose from.  If not, then it might suggest that there's not as much choice out there as we think (what if bars all have roughly the SAME 25 beers on tap?).  

The Rules

Pretty simple, really - no repeated beers.  I'd better enjoy that one Celebration Ale, because it's the only one I'm getting all year.  Now, inevitably, we need to work out some kinks here, so here's the general setup (if you want to play along at home):

  • All beers will be tracked in Untappd, and checked-in when drank.
  • A "counted" beer is a pour of more than 6 ounces, but not more than 22 (unless poured into a liter mug or boot as part of a festival situation).  As a result, samplers are fine, as is a small pour of a shared bottle, but anything else checks it off the list for the year.
  • This applies to homebrew, too (even my own). 
  • Beers served in different ways (nitro, cask, etc.) ARE distinct, but ONLY if they exist separately in Untappd.
  • Beers that are tied to a specific year or version/batch number (Luponic Distortion, Black Ops, etc.) are distinct, but (again) only if they exist separately in Untappd.  

That's it.  

The Year So Far

BEER COUNT: 108

Bottom line up front?  So far this has been a breeze, with just one notable exception.  Even though (like most people, I imagine) I frequent the same 5-6 drinking establishments most of the time, I've found it to be no challenge at all finding new beers to try at each visit. Surprisingly, to me, this is true even at brewpubs; their seasonal rotations and one-off beers are more than enough to keep me covered, at least for now.  It's also interesting because I find myself ordering more beers from breweries I don't know well, or trying more seasonal beers, or going for that nitro-IPA even though I don't generally go in for that.  It's been a great excuse to drink outside my comfort zone a bit more!

I also found that most of the beer I drink at home tends to be the more unusual or rare beers, anyway.  I don't generally pop open something just to drink it while watching football or to unwind at the end of the day, so that's been no problem, either.

No, the only real problem is when I'm going calling on friends/family who aren't beer people, or when they visit us and there's social drinking going on.  Since we're talking about 12 oz. cans/bottles in most cases, it isn't that hard to check off four or five in a single happy hour/dinner situation.

Do you know how hard it is to keep a supply of single bottles on hand?  I mean, mixed cases usually give at LEAST three of each beer, so that's no solution.  For now I'm getting by with the "mix your own six-pack" option at Wegmans, but those bottles/cans aren't always in the best shape and I'm concerned about how much they rotate.  I've also been making a LITTLE progress with trading my "extra" beers with others, hunting for equitable trades for things I haven't had yet, and asking friends who are traveling to pick up something local and cut me out some single bottles from their haul.

I'm going to see if there's a more-systematic approach to this that I can utilize.  Maybe cut a deal with a local beer distributor for a full case of singles?  But in any case, it's interesting that so far the major challenge isn't variety, but logistics.  

Next update: July.  In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for how to source singles, please feel free to let me know at [email protected]!

Keep it simple.

JJW

Please help support BEER SIMPLE by visiting the Support page and saving the links there as your bookmarks, especially this Amazon link!  Every dollar you spend will help keep BS coming your way, and more often (which is at least as much a threat as a promise).


Beer Yoga Is Stupid (or the "Taking Beer Seriously Equilibrium")

For any thing that anyone cares about, there's someone who cares insultingly little about it and, at the other end of the spectrum, someone who cares way too much about it.  This week, we're going to see if there isn't some kind of "sane middle" that we can agree on.  Because if there's one thing I know, it's this: "beer yoga" is really stupid.

I'll admit that some of us take beer too seriously - me included, probably, since I actually pay money to produce a beer blog that generates virtually no revenue.  But at the same time, I don't think it's out of line to suggest that maybe people shouldn't use craft beer as some kind of artisanal prop, either.

You're Taking It Too Seriously

When I saw an April Fool's joke that suggested Cantillon was soon going to begin distributing in cans, I laughed my ass off - which is a massive warning light that one might be a bit too "into" a certain hobby.  That's a seriously esoteric and geeky joke.  But geekiness, in and of itself, isn't really something to be too concerned about.  If anything, it's a natural pendulum-swing away from a postmodern society that's "so over" almost everything, and where enthusiasm is almost something to be ashamed of.  

That's not what I'm talking about here.

I'm talking about the people who feel the need to treat beer as an almost theological enterprise.  We've talked before about the dogmatists among us (and thanks for the "you're not insane" support from Brulosophy on that one).  Beer, brewing, homebrewing, beer judging, and other cognate/tangential sectors of the beer world are lousy with martinets, sticklers, and pedants and purists who sound off on normative absolutes and generally suck the fun out of this whole thing.  We've talked about them before, and at length, as being great personifications of "aleholes."  These are often people who start from a position of taking beer too seriously.  

When your approach and attitude to beer start to spill over into a desire to dictate to others how or what or when they should be drinking, then you need to take a hard look at what you're asserting to ask if it's reasonable.  

Am I a hypocrite for saying that drinking beer while doing yoga is dumb?  Maybe.  But I think I can defend it reasonably, so I'm still OK with doing it.  Yoga requires significant effort and concentration, so drinking while doing it makes as much sense to me as holding a footrace over an icy parking lot.  I'm not telling you not to do it - I'm saying I think it's a really inconvenient way to drink beer (if that's what you want to do) and a poor way to do yoga (if that's what you want to do).  Why not just go to a yoga class and then go drink beer afterward?

But, for example, if I say that if you're drinking a beer that's a few degrees above or below its optimum serving temperature that therefore you're doing it wrong, then I'm now entering a different arena - that's not just sharing an opinion, it's imposing a standard and actively judging people that don't hew to it.  That's wrong, and when I do it I hope people point it out.

You're Not Taking It Seriously Enough

OK, so what about the people who don't take it seriously enough?  They're out there, too.  Our "beer yoga" people are probably in that category.  

Here's the thing: making good beer is a challenging endeavor undertaken by people who (usually) care a lot about what they do, and they do it knowing that it's almost certainly not going to make them rich.  The Jim Koch's of the world are rare.  Most people in brewing know that the way to make a small fortune in the beer world is simple: start with a large fortune (rimshot).  

When you treat their work as a trendy prop, they might be grateful you bought it in the first place, but it's still kinda disrespectful.  Craft beer has fought long and hard to get to where it is, often against competitors that use ethically (and, sometimes, legally) questionable practices to fend off legitimate competition.  I'm not saying that you shouldn't have a craft beer-themed fundraiser for your nonprofit or host a "beer tasting party" for your non-beery friends - I'm saying that you shouldn't be doing it so that you can make fun of the "hipster in the work shirt and beard" that is your stereotypical image of a craft brewer/drinker.

I used to joke about yoga, that it was just stretching and laying (hell, there's a yoga pose that's literally called corpse pose where you lay flat on your back).  Then I tried it, and it kicked my ass for a little while.  It made me realize that I was being a bit of a dick about it, even if I wasn't making fun of people who did yoga, maliciously and mercilessly mocking their efforts.  I was just being dismissive and (mentally) treating them like dilettantes who were just engaging in a trendy hobby - and while, almost certainly, some were, a lot weren't, and what they're doing deserves our respect even if we don't share their enthusiasm.

The Balance Point

So where's the balance point?  After all, we're talking beer and yoga, both of which care about balance.  

I think it's here: don't let your attitude about beer (or just about anything, really) be either a cudgel or a punchline.  If you're browbeating people with it, you're taking it too seriously.  If you're (even passively) mocking people with it, you're not taking it seriously enough.  

And for those who are (inevitably) going to criticize this as being "obvious," I just have to say that I don't think it is.  Most often, people say something like, "yeah, duh - we know 'too far' when we see it."  Years of experience in/around this world have shown me that those on either side of this divide very, very often do NOT know "too far" when they see it.  

A modest suggestion: be a little more self-critical.  Err to the middle.  We'll all be a bit better off for it, I think.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm literally going to go do yoga before writing an article about becoming a certified beer judge.

Namaste (which is Sanskrit for "Keep it Simple").

JJW

Please help support BEER SIMPLE by visiting the Support page and saving the links there as your bookmarks, especially this Amazon link!  Every dollar you spend will help keep BS coming your way, and more often (which is at least as much a threat as a promise).