Several situations in the past month have made me think about beer snobbery, which is impossible to write about without coming off like a snob. Again, my apologies for what follows.
Part I of “On Beer Snobbery” dealt with a backlash towards some of the more popular craft beers on the market, but the target of most craft beer drinkers’ ire is macro beer. After all, New Belgium‘s popularity (in 2009, they sold 582,797 barrels of beer) pales in comparison to Budwiser (over 18 million barrels sold that year). I suspect that many, if not most, readers of this site, which covers craft beer in and around DC, do drink macros from time to time.
Macro beers have their time and place. I play softball on the Mall once a week from May to August. On a hot day in June, a teammate brought some bottles of a local IPA for post-game imbibing. They did not taste good. After a sporting event, loosely defined, in 90-degree heat, I want Miller Lite (note: drinking alcohol on the Mall is against the law and we here at DCBeer.com do not condone this practice).
As many residents of the mid-Atlantic know, the best use of macro lagers is for hardshell crabs. Even the delicate Schalfly Kolsch overpowers them. But Natty Boh, with corn notes that suggest summertime, a hint of something approximating Saaz hops, and a saline finish, pairs very well with crabs. Macro beer, Old Bay or JO seasoning, and a bunch of crabs is a win in my book.
My take is that if it makes you happy, if you derive pleasure from that beer, then go for it. But at the same time, I am a craft beer evangelist. I’d like macro beer drinkers to at least try a Kolsch if they’re drinking Bud. True, the latter is nominally a pilsner, or an “American adjunct lager,” for those keeping track of beer style guidelines, but the flavor profiles of many Kolsch, to me, taste like what macro lagers would taste like if they were, you know, good.
Another thing to think about: craft breweries are small businesses, providing jobs, taxes, tourism, and a sense of regional place and pride. While many ingredients come from far-flung places (malt from Canada, and hops from the Yakima Valley, for example), some craft brewers are partnering with local farms when possible. Flying Dog and Stillpoint Farm in Mt. Airy have one such relationship. The profits from macro beer usually don’t stay in a community near you. They go to South Africa, Belgium, and August Busch IV. One is an artisanal product, and you’ll pay more for it. The other is an industrial product. But again, it’s your choice, and the brewers at Bud, Miller, and Coors are among the world’s best. To brew the same thing, over and over again, in different locations, using different water supplies, and have the beer taste the same each and every time is a remarkable talent. Please don’t ignore that feat when considering macro beers.
What’s the difference between preaching the gospel of craft beer and being a hectoring snob? It’s a fine line. But if you’re making someone feel bad for their choice of beverage, please knock it off. After all, as a wise man once said, the best beer you have is the one in your hand.
Will you admit to drinking macros from time to time, or do you want to rail on me for being a sellout? Use the comments below to give us your thoughts!