Craft Rhetorics: the 10 Barrel Brewing Moment

One dominant craft beer narrative has been that of revolution.  For some time now, I’ve been documenting the usage of the word “revolution” in craft beer stories, stories of origins, purpose, objective, etc. In my book manuscript, I have a great deal of that narrative documented. But here is a short snippet from a recent piece I’ve written for an academic journal:

Beer culture, as well, shares this craft revolutionary rhetoric. “Call me a revolutionary,” Jolly Pumpkin’s Ron Jeffries states in the viral video, “I am a Craft Brewer.” Stone’s Greg Koch proclaims, “I must fully admit that I feel a bit of a revolutionary” (Kaplan 26). “The craft beer revolution,” beer writer Andy Crouch proclaims, “has always been about one beer, a single experience that shatters decades of programming big brewery advertising and changes the way people perceive beer” (Great American 15). “We’ve all played a part in the American craft brewing revolution that forever changed the beer industry,” Ken Grossman claims in Beyond the Pale, the story of Sierra Nevada (xviii). Revolution Brewing in Chicago. Revolution Brewing in Paonia, Colorado. Natty Greene’s Revolution American IPA. Olde Hickory’s Saison Revolution. There is no shortage of revolution within craft beer’s overall rhetorical stance.

The other and related narrative to revolution is the “crafty” narrative, based on the label that the Brewer’s Association circulated in order to differentiate between what is supposedly authentic (small breweries) and not authentic (breweries owned by one of the major beer conglomerates). The narrative gained significant momentum when Goose Island flipped to “the dark side,” then subsided with the rush of people last Black Friday who lined up for Bourbon County variants. The crafty narrative is back this week with the announcement that 10 Barrel Brewing, too, has been bought by In Bev.

Notice The Pour Fool’s outrage:

You do NOT, under any circumstances and for any amount of money, sell your craft brewery to a company whose stated objective is to bring about the ruin of that community.

There is, as The Pour Fool notes as well, hyperbole to this reaction of a small Oregon brewery (production around 40,000 barrels) selling out.  Still, The Pour Fool is not alone in his anger. Echoing the revolution narrative and The Pour Fool’s response, Roger Baylor also reminds us that one small brewery does not change the option landscape.

Even more obviously, drinkers of better beer have hundreds — nay, thousands — of legitimate small breweries to choose from, ones that have not been irrevocably bastardized by association (and ownership) with a company that’s the closest thing to a Great Beer Satan as we’re likely to see in this world … as we know it.

Both, though, refer to one’s “soul” and losing it within their responses. The New School, too, refers to the loss of soul like characteristics when they remark that conglomerates such as In Bev

Either forgot or never really realized the popularity of craft beer or microbrew hinges upon the fact that it is made by people, not corporations, and for the love of the craft, not the money.

The Not So Professional Beer Blog posted a screen shot from a disappointed craft beer base upset with the sellout of one’s beer soul.

I’m a rhetoric person. That does not mean I have no opinion regarding small breweries who sell out to conglomerates or whether or not we should support mass production as opposed to the artisanal. It means that when I put on my professional hat, I am more interested in the discourse surrounding a moment (how do people talk about what is occurring; how do they repeat one another; what beliefs do they share) rather than my own moral stand. The narrative and rhetoric of the artisanal vs the industrial can be traced to William Morris’ 19th century Arts & Crafts movement. But the complexities of the artisanal vs the industrial can be seen in the Shakers’ (same time period) mass production of hand made goods (every hand made good looked the same).

What I’m interested in are tales of purity. Food culture and its beer culture cousin are subjected to and subject themselves to declarations of purity. There is an us vs them narrative at the heart of this purity and – real or imagined – it is hard to overcome that narrative when it is fundamental to one’s identity. Globally, purity narratives cause war and conflict (we were on this land first; we are the true nationalism/religion). In consumer culture, purity narratives extend from health issues (genetically modified food, trans fat) to economic issues (stay local) to issues of the soul (selling out).

Purity narratives are comforting. They are also hyperbolic. They also contradict themselves. Purity narratives help us navigate a confusing world of ownership. They also can bog down our choices when our choices are compromised (wait a minute….My saccharine free small production Tom’s toothpaste is owned by Colgate-Palmolive?). Purities turn into boycotts. Purities reflect our frustrations at a world increasingly consolidated into a few companies, into a few choices. Purities, at some point, obfuscate the contradictory makeup of every position we take and perform, what Roland Barthes called the pleasure of the text.

I, too, lined up for Bourbon County last year. According to my RateBeer database synthetic memory, I’ve had seven 10 Barrel beers. I’ve only had two Blue Point (In Bev’s East Coast purchase) beers. I’ve had a great deal of Goose Island, even a month or so ago purchasing a Rambler IPA and still disappointed that The Illinois never made it here.

Does this mean I’m happy that 10 Barrel is now in the In Bev empire? No. But it doesn’t mean I won’t buy another 10 Barrel again either. I’m not a person who is too invested in purity. One reason I left the English Department and am now the magnificent and glorious interim chair of a writing department is because English (in my experience as a member of four different departments) gets obsessed with literature as a pure experience. I like Dylan. But I also like Foreigner. I like Jarmusch. But I also like reality TV. I’m obsessed with craft rhetorics – the various ways members of the craft beer industry and their consumers communicate in writing and in digital environments. But I’m obsessed with them because of their complexity, not their purity.

And will I wait in line for Goose Island again this year? I hope not. But not because of a purity position. I simply hate waiting in line for beer.

The Rumpkin Chase

I’ll pretend that the last couple months of not posting is because of a chase. I’ll pretend that I did not forget to post or get bogged down with the insane amount of letter writing and checking off boxes I do during my one year as department chair. I’ll pretend all of that as excuse. And I’ll pretend that I’m chasing a beer: Avery Rumpkin. For most people, this is not too difficult a beer to obtain. Rumpkin has made its way to Lexington a few times. It has 305 reviews on RateBeer. I’m not typically excited about pumpkin beers, barrel aged or not. But I’ve been chasing this beer for some time.

Overall, I’m pretty good with a beer chase. I obtain beers that I am very clueless to how I got them. Sometimes, when a beer hits and I miss it, it still comes around at some point (a point at which I buy it). Take these two beers, for example, which arrived via a trade last Friday:

I consider these two Hill Farmstead beers somewhat whale-like since they are not in any kind of distribution and it takes awhile to get to the isolated brewery to purchase them. I have never been to Vermont, so someone has to go there and buy these beers. And now I have them. I have them with minimal if any chase.

For a year or so,I waited patiently for this $10.50 bottle of Pirate Bomb to make it to a shelf near me, and I scooped it up one Friday afternoon on my way home for work.  I waited a long time for this bottle of Stickee Monkee to be offered up. Then, somewhere, it was offered. Chase ended.

A very generous Angelo sent me this Jester King, a beer long ago I gave up chasing under the impression that I would never taste it. Chase ended.

But Rumpkin, alas, eludes me. For the last few weeks, I have almost had it, but then not had it. I have seen it available, and then I’ve missed it. A friend sees that it might be in Frankfort, goes to get it for me, it’s not there. People are now chasing for me! Rumpkin became a chase that I, for some reason, become obsessed with. The mere chase overcame me more than the idea of a barrel aged pumpkin beer. As a final, desperate move to get Rumpkin, on the way to work this morning, I stopped at Good Foods and Unbridled Spirit to see if they had any Rumpkin, thinking that they are not on the average beer nerd’s radar. I knew, in my gut, that Rumpkin was sitting on a shelf at one of these two places because everyday shoppers at Good Foods or Unbridle Spirit don’t know beer and had passed it by. Neither store had Rumpkin.

There are different kinds of chases. Modern Times, an off the shelf L.A. beer, eluded me for a long time. Modern Times is not rare, but it takes the right mix of kairos for someone in Southern California to want to buy some Modern Times to ship to Kentucky, and for that same person to want something from where I live. This kind of timeliness or equilibrium is not easy to achieve. Trading is a delicate balance of desire. Even shelf beers can be difficult to obtain and worthy of a chase. I did, though, manage to acquire some nice Modern Times beers recently thanks to Justin. Chase ended.

But no Rumpkin. It will go on tap at The Beer Trappe on Halloween….but I am solo parenting that night and taking the kids out to fill their bellies on trash, er, candy. So, I cannot go to The Beer Trappe to have it either. A chase does not have to end in fulfillment for it to be worthwhile, and yet, as I chased and chased this expensive 12 ounce beer, I felt that I needed that fulfillment, that satisfaction of acquiring, of winning, of not losing out to the forces of scarcity and nerd behavior.

And then, suddenly, as I was writing this, I went to check RateBeer to see (for a paragraph above) how many people had rated Rumpkin. Is Rumpkin rare, I wondered. Does it have few or many ratings? It turns out, as I noted, that the beer has been rated 305 times. And it turns out, I discovered, that I, too, had rated it - earlier this year. One of those 305 ratings was mine! Chase? I had found this beer in April!

I was not on a chase for a beer after all. I was on a simple chase to chase. I had forgotten my rating, and I had forgotten the beer, but even more so, I had forgotten myself by chasing for the sake of chasing. You would think that I was relieved to have discovered a once successful chase. No. I was upset. Now there could be no resolution to the chase. I’ve had this beer already, it turns out.

Chasing is how my beer days progress. I chase. Can I get that? When will that arrive? Is that going to be distributed here? What time will it arrive? The chase never ends, it seems, even when I have forgotten that I already hunted this beer some time ago and got it. Even accomplishment means little, in the end, when we beer chase.

Israeli Beer

I spent the last month in Israel. There was a war on the whole time we were there. There were sirens. There were booms in the sky from Iron Dome. There was 24 hour war news reporting on local stations.  I hadn’t been back for 18 years. Thus, beyond visiting during another war, and beyond all that accompanied this trip early on, I knew I was going to eat a lot of falafel and humous. And I knew I was going to drink some beer.

Let’s face it. I drink a lot of beer. If you follow me on Instagram or Google +, you probably know that already. I spend most of my money on my mortgage and my kids’ fancy Montessori education. I spend the rest at Whole Foods and on beer. In the week and a half since I have been back from Israel, I have consumed 29 new to me beers. How could I not drink beer on this trip? From the first hours of our trip, a Saturday night in Tel Aviv when many shops are closed, and we found ourselves in the non-kosher AM/PM grocery, and my wife insisted we buy a Goldstar Unfiltered, I was drinking beer in Israel.

Not that Goldstar Unfiltered was that much better than my memories of regular Goldstar.

Rather than come to drink beer or hear missile sirens, I had come to Israel to revisit where I once lived. I had come to revisit with my kids, and then to write about that experience for my current book on travel, scholarly writing, eating, and kids. My intent is to shift food writing away from critique and decoding of representation to something more akin to what Roland Barthes calls “the pleasure of the text.” Still, even if I had not come to drink beer, I knew I would.

The Israeli craft beer scene is booming, and yet the craft beer scene in Israel can be difficult to locate when one is out to eat or looking for a beer. Unlike Lexington or many basic American cities, in Israel, there are few craft taps in bars and restaurants (Carlsberg and Turborg still dominate the country’s handles) and American style tap rooms are even fewer. In retail, most beers are sold as 12 ounce beers, and most cost at least $5 a piece. A “deal” on a six pack can run you about $24. Drafts are closer to $9 -$10. Highly taxed, appealing to a still small market (Israelis are not big beer drinkers), dominated by a few conglomerate players, the craft beer scene has many challenges ahead of it. But it is up and coming. And Israeli brewers are trying hard to develop that market with an array of choices – when you find them.

I tried over 30 Israeli beers during those three weeks. I bought them in the Carmel Market’s Beer Bazaar, Jaffa Port’s Beer Market, wine shops in Tel Aviv, and various grocery stores. Each night, I diligently updated photos of my purchases to Instagram. I diligently rated these beers on RateBeer. In some ways, I continued to do what I do in the U.S., only I waited a bit longer for the kids to go to sleep, and living in the middle of the city, my drinking was done to the background noise of the Peacock bar across the street where people, for some reason, felt compelled to stay up until three in the morning watching the World Cup (and letting us hear them watch the World Cup). Life during wartime can still be fairly commonplace or a routine of life elsewhere.

Distribution is fairly poor in Israel. Some craft beers make their way into groceries and wine shops. Basic Belgian beers (Chimay, St. Bernardus, Chouffe) do as well. Some cheap Ukrainian and Czech beers are available. Some basic German beers. Leffe. Heineken, of course. Stella. But not much else. Despite a global presence, Mikkeller is not in Israel. Neither are Scandinavian beers. Neither are Italian or Spanish craft beers. Neither are most European beers. Given Israel’s proximity to Europe and its beer variety, I am surprised no Israeli importer has brought much of European production to Israel to try and unseat the Carlsberg/Heineken monopoly. And forget about American imports in a country that has Pizza Hut, Ben and Jerry’s, and McDonald’s. I saw Sam Adams Lager on tap in a Tel Aviv used book store. I saw a few bottles of Brooklyn Lager on a shelf in Tel Aviv. Not much else. Most people are not aware of craft. Even when ordering a draft beer of Alexander or something else Israeli, I found that the server was not always sure that the Israeli craft beer in question had multiple styles to choose from. And “craft” in Israel is not called craft. It is called “boutique.”

Boutique culture is on the rise – at least since I lived there 18 years ago – in Israel. Boutique wine. Boutique beer. Boutique spirits. Boutique cheese (man, what amazing cheeses are now being made throughout the country). Boutique ice cream. In a tiny culture and a tiny country, boutique is the appropriate word. There is only so much one can grow into. One must remain boutique. Ice cream chains, specific to Israel, can be multiple and in multiple cities, but they are still boutique in a way Baskin Robbins or Hagen Dazs could never be.

Because bars tend to open late, because we had two kids with us, and because most bars are for the night scene and not for casual middle of the afternoon I’m a professor and can work on my laptop while drinking an Against the Grain draft hanging out, we had few drinking options. In Tel Aviv, Dancing Camel was one. Dancing Camel is a brewpub located on an industrial street in Tel Aviv (the street is called “The Industry”). Founded by am American, it showcases American styled beers. APA. IPA. And so on. While we were drinking and my kids weren’t eating the sandwiches I ordered for them, we noticed my sons’ backpack was full of ants. That was not Dancing Camel’s fault. That was the fault of the apartment we were renting.

Pavo, on the other hand, is located in beautiful Zikhron Yaakov. Nestled down a dirt road behind the Carmel Winery and a restaurant whose name I forget (barking dog and all), the brewery is difficult at first to find (and we had to ask where it was after several miscues). Perched up high, the taproom looks out over the valley with a fantastic view. At noon on a weekday, no one was there but us and a TV blaring VH1 hits. My daughter loved the videos and developed a sudden interest in Ke$ha for some reason. She also loved drinking her first ever Pepsi, a guilty acquiescence on my part for dragging her to a brewery on a hilltop in a small town south of Haifa where the only other thing to drink was grape juice and Pepsi, and no food was available (kitchen only open for dinner). My son settled for the grape juice, much to my relief. I have now allowed my daughter one time to drink a Pepsi, and she drank said Pepsi at an Israeli brewpub. That must be worth some parenting points if somewhat exotic travel can counter the failure of drinking a Pepsi.

At Pavo, the beers were superior on tap than they were in the bottle. Maybe the best beers I had in my three weeks. One reason tap trumps bottle may be the stacks of bottles sitting out in the sun that travel via the sun and heat to various locations around the country, where they often sit on warm shelves or in a small Carmel Market store in Tel Aviv that does not have air conditioning. Coming straight from a cooled keg in a brewery seems pretty easy next to that process.  The sign on the wall in the Pavo brewpub reads: “Why is it preferable to drink beer over water? Because in beer there is water, but in water there is no beer.”

 

Out of those 30 or so beers I tried during my recent visit to Israel, I can’t say one was stellar. Many were fine. Some were pretty awful. Some lacked character. Some were fairly good. What impressed me more than quality, though, was the 18 year difference from the last time I had been in the country. At that time, Israel knew nothing about beer. And I knew nothing about beer either. I often bought four packs of Elephant from a liquor shop next to the Chinese embassy on Ben Yehuda Street. As the world has turned to craft, though, so has Israel. As I have turned to craft over the last 18 years, so has Israel. With great arrogance and confidence (rhetorical gestures of the age of new media), I will pretend that there is a personal connection. I will pretend that this little country has followed my lead. I will pretend that we are on the same cosmic beer drinking wavelength, hip to the wonder and aesthetic and taste and obsession of craft beer. I will pretend. I will pretend that I just wrote this post without stating what I felt about the war. I will pretend that my kids will remember this trip. I will pretend that we will be back next summer. I will pretend that boutique and craft are not just anomalies stretching from Lexington to Tel Aviv but overall cultural aesthetics that drive human obsession as much as human daily interactions.

 

 

Nice Gatherings: Beer in Lexington at the Alltech Fest

It was a strange feeling to be standing outside a beer festival, only minutes from its opening, and seeing no lines to get it. Maybe I’m too used to the feeling of Dark Lord Day or GABF where, even if you have tickets and have been allotted a time to enter or pick up beer, there is still a massive line hours before the doors open. And in such lines, people traditionally are sharing beer and beer war stories: bottles are exchanging hands, travel tales are being related, mentioning of other festivals attended can be heard (“Oh yea, I was there in ’09 when you could ten bottles and bathroom lines weren’t long”). Community gets built while standing in line. Waiting in line changes the nature of a gathering of “let me in” to “tell me about your beer history.” I’ve bonded with many strangers while waiting in a beer line.

Alltech’s Craft Brews and Food Fest, held on May 18th and the Lexington Convention Center, began in silence. Just me and a couple other people sitting around, checking our cellphones, waiting for noon to roll around for a festival with an eight hour block setup indoors for the day. I was lucky enough to have been invited to the event. It’s not often that professor of writing gets a “press” pass for a beer festival. I felt special with my credentials. But as I sat just outside the fest’s entrance, where an electronic display greeted visitors with images of Alltech’s image and its beer, no one else was around. The building that joins the Convention Center with Rupp Arena is a silent building to begin with. The mall like atmosphere is often barely inhabited. One or two people eating a Subway sandwich. The stores fairly empty of customers. The escalators carrying no one up or down the three floors.

When I arrived for the festival, Lexington Craft Beer Week was coming to an end. We had already spent time at Arcadium, Country Boy, West Sixth, Lexington Beerworks, and The Beer Trappe earlier in the week. After a day of sampling beers at the Alltech event, I’d be back at Country Boy and West Sixth once more. The Alltech event would help close out a week of craft beer drinking throughout the city. And it would do so in grand style. This is only the second year Lexington has hosted a Craft Beer Week.

By mid-afternoon, the silence at the Lexington Convention Center had changed, of course. A reported 4,500 people made their way from booth to booth, maneuvering around Alltech’s larger, circular, bar shaped booth in the middle of the site, sampling beers as rock bands played on a small stage, and impromptu gatherings were encouraged at small Alltech tables and barrels placed throughout the hall. By the time I had left, the longest line I had yet to see was a thirty person deep wait for a pour of Bell’s Black Note. Having experienced events elsewhere, I can attest that a thirty person deep line is nothing in the grand scheme of beer festivals. In that line, I bonded with a fellow from Colorado in town for a wedding. Or we bonded as much as is possible while waiting ten minutes for the 2:45 tapping. This kind of bonding involves me recommending places to visit in Lexington, and he commenting whether or not he has time. Or me remembering places I’ve visited in Denver, and he reminding me that those places are still in business.

Alltech, no doubt, wanted to insure a bonding over its brand name at the festival. To enter the festival’s site, one had to first walk through a giant Alltech barrel. Along the walls, Alltech images were projected, and Alltech’s name graced each brewer’s booth. Alltech’s position in the Lexington craft beer scene is an interesting one. Established before any other Kentucky brewer who is currently enjoying interest and growth (Country Boy, Blue Stallion, West Sixth), Alltech sometimes seems on the outside looking in regarding the local craft beer community. No tap room. A smaller portfolio. No one offs or special releases. No fanboy culture. Thus, it’s difficult not to think of the Craft Brews and Food Fest as a response to this overshadowing by smaller beer operations with even smaller operating budgets. “We’re still here, guys,” the event seemed to say. “And we’re still important.”

 

 

Beer festivals, in general, are about presence, the presence of an emerging market focused on consuming liquid. And such festivals are about the presence of people. The beer festival, wherever it may occur, seems to toggle among a number of potential audiences.

  • The nerd. Aka, the enthusiast. The one who is quickly looking for new ticks or ratings, rare tappings, unique offerings. That’s me.
  • The generalist. The person who likes beer, is into craft beer, but doesn’t buy enough to really know all the offerings, even if they are fairly basic.
  • The curious one. The person who knows: “There’s a beer event downtown. Let’s go!” And shows up totally new to everything.

Since it’s difficult for me to view any beer event except through the lens of the nerd, as I first made my way around the Alltech festival, I wondered about some of the fairly basic offerings from representative breweries and their reps. Does a festival need to showcase 60 Minute IPA or Goose Island 312? On the other hand, when I look at the event through the lens of the other two potential audience members, I see a very good display of offerings, stretching from the local (Kentucky beer) to the national (Kentucky distribution from other states) to the international (Shelton/12 Percent distribution). If only a small percentage of the 4,500 people in attendance left thinking: wow, I didn’t know beer could taste so good; where do I buy this stuff, the festival would have done its other job. That job would be building growth and awareness overall for local beer sales.

In many ways, beer festivals are giant commercials. People pay to consume 3-4 ounce samples of beer, but they also pay to be exposed to a new product. While beer enthusiasts and many industry folks believe that the world revolves around craft beer, few people who drink beer drink craft beer. Even if 10% is an actual representation of national sales, that still means that 90% of beer drinkers don’t know what craft beer even is. Maybe in baseball you can hit the ball less than 30% of the time (70% of the time you fail!), but that kind of percentage shouldn’t be deemed a total victory in any industry that survives on sales.

Still, we feel compelled to influence or spread the gospel as fanboy festival attendees. It’s difficult for me, as well, to not talk the talk as I meet people or interact with booth representatives while I’m enjoying my 3-4 ounce pour. “Are you in the industry?” one brewer asked me after we talked for a few minutes about his brewery’s offerings and possible future offerings. “Nope. I just like beer,” I replied. It’s not a secret that fanboy influence on craft beer has created, at times, a bad image or conclusion to the beer event. The 2014 Cigar City Hunahpu debacle might be craft beer’s Altamont. When fanboys and nerds are about to riot over beer, a problem exists. When brewers have to fear for their lives because a bunch of people didn’t get to take home $15 bottles of imperial stouts, the time, we’d think, has come for self-reflection regarding release day, beer festivals, or related events.

These are the pivot points, the metaphoric moments where it feels that a narrative has shifted. With the Cigar City fiasco, we might think that the glory days of craft beer events are over. In such grandiose statements that pin history on one or two events, we quickly summarize our situation as either: We’ve lost our way or we’ve gained our spirit. Whatever Hunahpu means to the overall craft beer industry’s never ending fascination with one day releases, Alltech’s event could mean the complete opposite for Lexington and Kentucky. The Craft Brews and Food Fest could be the moment where the average beer drinker woke up and realized that there is a lot of good beer in town and it’s not called Bud or Lite. We might look back on the Alltech extravaganza in a year or two and think: that’s the pivot point. We gained our spirit.

Our have we? I’d rather view the event through a different lens altogether. I’ll call this lens the “nice gathering” lens. It offers no pretentious summaries or statements regarding the future or the past. It’s not about overshadowing local brewers or trying to reclaim the crown of local beer king. It’s not about hyperbole or hype or rarities or special anythings. The nice gathering lens merely reflects on the enjoyment those who attended a day like the Alltech fest,no doubt, felt.

When it was all done, I headed home. I had a sandwich. I watched Adventure Time with my kids. I dropped the kids at a friend’s house. And my wife and I, along with our friends, went to Country Boy to try the new Alpha Experiment #291. Another nice gathering occurred.

Narrative Piss

The 86th Session is about beer writing. Having just organized and hosted a symposium, Craft Writing, on beer writing (and I appreciate the shout out from the session’s host, Heather Vandenengel), I would think I have something (no matter how partial) to say. After all, Craft Writing did not receive one complaint about the bathrooms, possibly a first for a beer related event.

I’m a writer. But I’m an academic writer. I’ve written books, but they are academic books. I’ve written articles, but they are academic articles. Despite being about academic issues related to rhetoric and writing, both of my books begin with the same nod: I’m going to tell a story. And the book I’m working on right now about craft beer begins the same way, with a nod toward storytelling: father daughter stories and anecdotes about craft beer. I’m very interested in stories (narratives) that shape ideology, thought, belief, hype, behavior and so on. Because of this interest, I write about such issues, and lately do so regarding social media (and on the side, beer). Stories repeat, as I often see. The stories we think are original, no matter how grand in nature or theme, or often repetitions. Craft beer, too, enjoys a number of repetitive beer stories (revolution, first times). Those who write craft beer stories often repeat one another.

I’m not, though, a beer writer.What is a beer writer? I suppose it is someone who devotes most of his/her writing to the issue of beer. This blog is (sort of) about beer. I began this blog in June 2007 as a food blog, and it took a whole four posts before I started writing about beer. I was still living in Michigan then. My own beer story does not begin in Michigan but becomes more significant when I buy a six pack of Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout from a Ferndale corner grocery in 2002, shortly after moving to the Detroit area.  Heather’s call for the session asks, “What stories are not getting told and what ones would you like to never hear about again?” The one story that is repeatedly told, and that I do not tire of is the first time story.  Kalamazoo Stout was not my first beer, it was not my first craft beer, and I didn’t write about it at the time. But that 2002 purchase is indicative of a first time: first Bell’s, first purchased beer in Michigan (I think), first purchased Michigan beer, etc. Many first time craft beer stories begin as father son stories (drinking while mowing the lawn, a taste of dad’s beer) or as the conversion from mass produced lager to flavorful craft ale. Many first time stories point toward the larger tale: the awakening, the epiphany, the bonding. My first time story, in this case, involves spending about $8 on a six pack of beer and then drinking that six pack slowly over the next week (my daily consumption then was far lower than today). That is the story.

First time stories, though, are often unlike mine because they are romantic in nature. If there is some “navel gazing” needed, as Heather notes, regarding beer writing, and if beer stories are too much fluff in nature, as she cites some responses to current beer writing, then the first time story might fall into the category of a genre of beer writing that is too often fluff and in need of some gazing. Most first time craft beer stories, as I’ve discovered through a great deal of research and collecting, are based on the fond memory that led to a life of either joy or participation in the so called craft beer revolution. The first time, we are told, is highly important. It feels like the first time, Foreigner told us. It fees like the very first time for a reason. It is important.

If I were in the beer industry or if I were a beer journalist, I might track down and discover the beer story often popular in these areas of expression: the brewer’s tale, the history of a style, the important date in the industry’s history, the emergence of a specific type of brewery, a profile of a significant person or place, the saving of urban plight, and so on. But I’m not in this industry. I don’t track down those stories to write about them, as much as I enjoy reading them.

When I write, I’ve turned most of my academic attention lately back to the personal (we are known for often excluding the personal from our objects of study) story. In this way, a given craft beer story (such as a first time) might be juxtaposed with the story of the object (the beer) and that merger might produce a narrative worthy of attention (the great awakening) Typically, this is how the craft beer first time story concludes.

Instead, I’ve spent time focusing more on the banal than the story worthy of greater attention. This focus might include daily moments, interactions, something akin to Facebook status updates in scope and breadth. And because I am interested in the fragmented (as influenced by social media fragmented narratives: tweets, updates, posts), I don’t find myself drawn, all the time, to larger stories of importance. Not all anecdotes must lead to the larger issue even if that is the readerly expectation.

With that in mind, I want to find, as the session requested, a piece of beer writing that was inspirational. While I’ve read such pieces, I leave them aside for now. Instead, I’d rather focus on something banal. Something fragmented. Something supposedly unimportant. I consider this anecdotal excerpt from Michael Jackson. Writing in the 2001 All About Beer article “Blue Collar Brews,” Jackson quotes his father’s admonishment for being interested in beer:

You pay good money for beer, then piss it all away. Why does an intelligent Jewish boy behave like this?

This is a fragmented anecdote written a year before my Bell’s purchase. I leave aside the context and rationale for its appearance. I don’t care why it appears. I remove it from that context and merge it into my own. I do so via three levels of identification: beer, piss, being Jewish. Piss is a common thread throughout beer, if not beer writings: having to constantly pee, waiting in line at portable toilets or bar restrooms,  Mannequin Piss (who dumps urine on the opposing troops and whose Brussels fountain pees), Jeremy Cowan’s anecdote in Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah about being inspired to name his beer “The Chosen Beer” while urinating, and so on. Cowan, like Jackson, is among a few Jewish beer figures (writers and brewers) in the craft beer industry. I identify across these terms in a way that I cannot explain as meaningful or even ethnic (I am working with a mere overlap of terms, not causal relationships) nor as complete story (I have no larger narrative to tell). I identify in terms of keywords. Markers. Tags. Points of identification.

I identify with fragments.

Craft beer can become too caught up in larger narratives – such as the “revolution” or who is craft and who is crafty – and less in the smaller moments, the banality of brewing, drinking, pissing. At the end of the day, Jewish or not, the average craft beer drinker pisses it all away. Many of my most memorable beer moments (tastings, being with my family, traveling, experiencing a release, hanging out at local breweries) ends with piss. This experience of enjoying craft beer, as joyful as it is, must end accordingly by standing over a toilet, in front of a urinal, outside next to a tree, leaning against a dumpster or otherwise. And that moment need not be reduced to a critique of capitalism and consumption (we piss money away) nor need it be reduced to frivolity or superficial experience (beer is just about piss). Instead, peeing might just indicate the fleeting nature of many moments we encounter – in beer or elsewhere. Peeing, like the fragmented narrative, is brief and is gone quicker than the content (beer or story) is absorbed. In an industry that must devote much of its time and resources to what is not fleeting (economics, markets, quality, saturation), spending a few moments on the fleeting may not be a bad idea. It might not be so bad to have a few narrative pisses to explore.

So my story for now is: a narrative piss. A fleeting moment. A chance citational encounter with Michael Jackson. And so much more. That is the role I, who is not a beer writer, try to convey and hope to see a bit more of as well.

Whale Fail

I grew up in Florida, but I’ve never been to Cigar City. The last time I was in Tampa I was probably 12. We went on a school field trip (chartered from Miami) to Busch Gardens and a showing of The King and I (because, hey, 12 year olds are just dying to see a remake of a Yul Brenner classic). The school said I needed “pants” for the play (my wardrobe was probably all jeans), and my mom bought me a pair of red pants. I was mocked the whole, long bus ride to Tampa. Red pants be damned.

I’ve also never visited Cigar City nor stood in line on Hunahpu’s Day. But I have had Hunahpu’s. When I lived in Missouri, I traded it for it a few times without any difficulty. And I remember a moment at Dark Lord Day some years back where I met up with a complete stranger who poured me a generous pour from his 750 bottle.  Since Dark Lord Day, I’ve sworn off release day festivals and that particular type of whale hunting. And for good reason: long lines, disgusting port o potties, drunkenness, massive littering, and a nerd atmosphere that moves out of the comfort zone I enjoy (banter, chatting, exchanging favorite beers, etc.) to odd, hoarding, obsessive compulsive behavior.

I have no problem being a beer nerd. Nor do I have a problem with the thrill of experiencing a hard to get beer whose hype has largely overshadowed any sensory moment I will ever know. But the insanity that comes with this hype and nerd like behavior is the same type of insanity that causes otherwise normal consumers to trample each other in a Walmart over some crappy DVD player or Dora the Explorer Lego set. Consumption is cool. I like consuming things during my short time on this planet, a time where there are amazing gastronomic pleasures to be had, pleasures that do allow me an enjoyable distraction from my everyday experiences at work. But I don’t have to go insane to have pleasure.

Even with the cost, Cigar City’s decision to stop holding Hunahpu’s Day is likely a good one. It likely is not a precedent (these one day releases generate a significant amount of revenue). And I would never argue that breweries should stop devoting some time and money to creating very tasty limited beers stuck in a barrel or aged or spiked with a wild yeast or whatever. These releases are part of the overall network we call “craft.” And these releases are important for brewers (creativity) and consumers (pleasure).  But what about the insanity?

Humans are stupid by nature, and the human reaction to limited quantity is to go insane. The other day, I stopped by the beer store closest to where I live and picked up a couple four packs for a get together the next day. I came home, checked Facebook, and saw a note that Schlafly’s Milk Stout was now on tap at the craft bar I like to frequent. That bar is nowhere near where I live, and by that time of day, I no longer had the chance to get down there to try the beer. The insanity started creeping into my blood. I could feel it. I need that beer. I want it! Schlafly’s Milk stout is no whale by the Hunahpu’s standard. But it is limited. It is not bottled. I had read about it and knew that it was getting some hype. And who knows how many more kegs will make it to Lexington. I had to have it!

I did. But I tried it the next day while in the neighborhood located near our friend’s house, the get together I had bought the two four packs for previously. I did have it. The next day. The next day is the kind of metaphor insane, hoarding beer nerds need to consider when they are screaming about not getting an allotment or when they are camping out for……beer. The next day. There is always the possibility you will have that …..beer……the next day. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in a year. Maybe never. Even if it gets to the point of never, you’ll be ok. The next day, you can have something else. And you don’t always have to stand in line to do so.

 

 

 

Craft Writing Recap

I should probably write something about Craft Writing: Beer, The Digital, and Craft Culture. After all, Hoperatives has. And Stan has.  And Kevin has. And Digital Relativity has. And a few others have as well. I know I need to write something about the event I organized. But what? I am a writer. Shouldn’t I, too, write?

This is not the first event I’ve organized. I’ve organized many events at four universities. But this event, this event about craft beer and writing, was different than anything else I have done. I am used to inviting academics for academics. Craft Writing was not that kind of event.

A year ago, as Networked Humanities ended, I had an idea to do an event on craft beer and writing. There are plenty of events devoted to drinking beer. But how many are devoted to the writing we find in craft beer? Every industry supports writing (food, science, medicine, technology) and yet, we often don’t showcase the professional writing being done in craft beer. The blogs, journalism, memoirs, histories, arguments, tweets, social media, reviews, and so on. . .. we know that they exist, we know that they are important, but why are we not discussing them in an organized event? I knew of no event that focused only on the writing in craft beer. So, I began to plan this event, and I worked on it over the year. Finally, during the week leading up to February 15, I realized: This shit is about to go down. When you realize this shit is about to go down, you get nervous. When you realize this shit is about to go down, you realize people (people!) are about to descend upon your city and campus, and that these people expect something to occur. And that point accompanies every event I organize. The week it is about to happen, the nerves can really kick in. Shit is about to go down.

Shit did go down. In a good way. When I started planning Craft Writing, I asked myself: will people come? Will academics look down upon the event (beer? WTF?) and would beer people look down upon the writing aspect (hey, where’s my beer?)?  I’m sure some colleagues thought the concept not worthy of their more “serious” attention: social justice, global politics, identity and the other repetitive trademark gestures popular in academia. I can’t say that university promotion or marketing beat down my door to help push the event. The local beer community immediately was supportive. DH and Country Boy were among the most supportive and enthusiastic. Still, I wondered: Would anyone come?

People came. From Portland, Baltimore, Chicago, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia. People came. Academics. Industry people. Brewers. Beer bloggers. Beer writers. Enthusiasts. People came. People came to hear about beer and writing. About beer and writing. I have to keep repeating that last point. If there ever was any doubt that a general interest in this industry’s writing exists, this event proved that doubt wrong.

Often in academia, we claim a desire to be involved in a given community, to contribute to the community, to perform outreach. These communities include the town the university or college is located in, a specific group of people bound by a common identity or cause, a business. With Craft Writing, I wanted to position UK and my department to be (Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies) within a specific part of the specific community we call the Kentucky craft beer scene. The success of craft beer over the last 30 years is no secret. But in recent years, we are seeing that success explored and discussed in a variety of writing platforms: magazine articles, blogs, books. Not that there wasn’t writing all along during the industry’s trajectory; there was. But the maturity of the industry has also given way to a maturity of voices interested in discussing that industry. If Craft Writing has played a small part in helping support the young craft beer community in Kentucky (and “small” is the right word), then I’m happy. If that is so, we have brought attention to craft beer and writing, of course, but also to craft beer in Kentucky and the amazing, smart people who are not only making the beer, but who are also contributing to the overall knowledge and ideas shaping this young industry. In the larger network we call “craft beer,” Kentucky has a part to play. It has ideas to share and help develop. Craft Writing hopefully has helped a bit in foregrounding the state’s role within that network.

Because with each brewery that comes online, with each new beer made, with each new market developed, with each new person affected by what is really the overall effect of food culture, we see the metaphoric database of ideas and stories associated with craft beer grow. The growth of craft beer is about the development of a market, of course, but it is also about the growth of culture. And culture is always about writing.

I know Garrett finished the day with the declaration that “beer is people.” But I want to add to that declaration my own take. I invited seven people who had no idea who I am to speak at a beer writing event at the University of Kentucky. And all of these people said yes. Why? I am not in the craft beer industry. I am not a craft beer writer. These folks did not know me. During Craft Writing, attendees kept asking me: how did you get these people to come?

I have no idea. And if there is a story to be told here about how an academic who specializes in writing, rhetoric, and digital media could convince (without much effort) individuals from a completely different industry to mine to travel to Lexington and to talk about something that is not always showcased as the main part of that industry, that story may not have a South Park “I learned something today” styled conclusion. My answer to the “how” is only: I don’t know. But even that point is not entirely true. If there is a reason that these individuals came to Lexington to speak about writing and beer, it is because: Beer is people. These are some excellent people.

I was fortunate to spend a considerable amount of time with the speakers during the two days that they were in Lexington. These are amazing, friendly, funny, smart people who not only do I respect and admire for the writing they do (and in some cases, the beer they make), but who also were open, down to earth, people who I enjoyed talking with and getting to know a little bit. They took my tiny bit of advice regarding what to speak about, and they rocked it. But in addition to their talks, they rocked it in person. Shit went down. In the best way possible. I met and interacted with some fantastic people. Beer is people, indeed. And these people are brilliant people who I hope I am lucky enough to spend time with again in the future, whether in Lexington or some other event (maybe even another writing event) somewhere in this little world we call craft beer.

 

Thanks to Oliver Gray (who I was also glad to meet) for these images:

Beer Hoarders

Beer Graphs’ excellent piece on beer hoarding. This passage stood out right away for me:

Hoarders, however, are by their very nature fickle consumers with little retailer loyalty. They have their local spots like anyone else, of course. But they also spend a lot of time popping into bottle shops and big craft retailers to buy up whatever’s being kept behind the counter that week, leaving less of the new hotness for that retailer’s regular, loyal customers, the people in the store three or four times a week buying Lagunitas IPA or Left Hand Milk Stout.

I’m not a hoarder. I have some beers in my cellar that I’m waiting to share (which inevitably accompanies the anxiety of: have I waited too long with this one?). If there is a special release of a Founders Backstage, KBS, GI Bourbon Stout, or whatever, I buy one for me. Maybe one to trade, but seldom.  I do pop into shops frequently to see what’s new. I do buy the retailer’s regular offering (Schlalfy, Founders, Bells, West Sixth, Sweetwater, etc). In fact, I buy too much beer. But that is another issue.

I used to buy a lot of Three Floyds. But one thing I noticed in the last year was how Three Floyds’ beers, no matter what the beer was, went from being on the shelf to being behind the counter at the main liquor chain in town. The first year we lived here, Dreadnaught was everywhere and easily available. Behemoth didn’t have to be purchased right away. It would be on the shelf at the next visit. Even Robert the Bruce was all over town. Now, nothing from Three Floyds gets put on the shelf and two other retailers who used to have plenty of Three Floyds suddenly sell what they get in a day or two (if it even is put out for customers to see).

Why did Three Floyds go from a regular beer to a hoarded beer here? It’s not like there’s nothing else to buy and we live in a beer desert. In fact, there are more beers today on the shelf than there were three years ago. A lot more. One would think that the variety of available craft beer would dilute overall interest or turn a beer that has been distributed here for some time into another regular offering. It hasn’t.

Who made Three Floyds a hoarder beer suddenly in Lexington? The consumer? Or the retailer? When certain bars/restaurants insist on putting a Three Floyds beer on tap at a specific time (always at night) and then spending a week or so announcing that tapping, is that part of the process of turning the everyday into the rare? At one such place, our pizza place known for its craft taps, I saw a sign once for a 6pm tapping of Zombie Dust. It was 5pm. They wouldn’t serve it. There was no one else there. Serving a pint or two would not have prevented the onslaught at 6 from enjoying Zombie Dust. By not serving it, by metaphorically hoarding it for that hour or so, Zombie is turned into something it really isn’t: rare.

A lot of hoarding is based on an emotion of the moment. When an establishment in town waits until a designated time to tap a beer, it is cultivating that emotional moment (OMG, I have to get there by that time or the beer will all be gone!). Putting the same beer on in the afternoon wouldn’t diminish the effect of having the beer on tap, after all. Few people are like me; few people can go and have a beer at three in the afternoon. Few people, in other words, are professors. At two or three in the afternoon, if I’m having a beer, I’m usually the only one in the bar. The special release will still be on at 8pm.

I have felt that emotion of the moment when buying a special release. I know, after the purchase, that if I quickly make it to Store X, that store will have some as well. The beer nerd emotion builds, and I have to say to myself: No. You don’t need another six/four pack of this particular beer. If you buy another six/four pack, it’s just going to sit in the cellar for a year. Save the money.

All products of quality are tied to emotion. That is, as well, what terroir is about: emotion. Instead of land, however, hoarding is tied to another kind of emotional build up: ownership, bragging, showing off, consumer ability, and so on. And, of course, hoarding is tied to the tricky emotion of pleasure. Pleasure doesn’t always mean taking part in an actual enjoyment (such as drinking the beer). Pleasure, as we see with other products like comic books, can just mean consumption without the benefits of consumption (plastic bag encased).

Last Call on Last Calls

I (and a few others) had a Twitter debate yesterday with Money’s Jason Notte about his recent piece “Why 2013 Could Be Last Call for Craft Beer.” Contrary to Notte’s rebuttal, the piece tapped into a popular – and cliche – summary of craft beer that has been predicting the industry’s fall or decline.

Much of this prediction is based on a false comparison with the bubble of the ’90s, when craft beer did not resemble today’s industry at all. Most of this prediction, as well, depends on a “what comes up, must come down” narrative. If craft has experienced success – after, we are also told by a parallel narrative, finally recovering from the disaster of Prohibition and consolidation – then failure must await. Notte’s piece begins with the rhetoric of decline:

If the term “craft beer” wasn’t wheezing its way into irrelevance before 2013, it collapsed into oblivion at some point during this year.

The observation is based on challenges to the term craft (challenges that ring false within the craft community itself and with the consumer base that rushed out on Black Friday to buy supposed “crafty” Goose Island products), but the suggestion is that the industry, too, is wheezing away. Business Insider’s Noah Davis concluded his “brewers are worried about collapse” piece with the metaphor of a potential “hangover” awaiting craft beer. Time’s Brad Tuttle questioned craft’s taxonomy (small, independent) in the same way Notte did by worrying over the growth of breweries such as Sierra Nevada, growth, we are told, that will make craft too much like “big beer” (even though 1 million barrels is nothing to InBev). Beer Advocate users ask about a bubble.  Even Draft magazine’s Joe Strange asked “Will It Fall?

The headlines of “bubbles” and “too big” are attractive, of course. These keywords lure in a readership quickly by repeating a similar theme: “while growth was good/now it may be bad” without much evidence to support the claim other than the citation of how many breweries now exist or are in planning. We don’t hear about any actual bursting. We do, however, hear a lot of suggestion. Suggestion is powerful. It does not need evidence. Journalism headlines are good at suggestion.

But the catch is this: most people who drink beer do not drink craft beer. Only 5-7% of the entire beer market is craft beer. That means almost 90% of beer drinkers drink Heineken, Coors, Budweiser, Miller, etc. When people write about bubbles or the fear of metaphoric hangovers or “last calls,” they are typically referring to, at least, two things in their suggestion:

  • The large markets where choice is abundant: Portland (Oregon has the highest percentage of craft beer drinkers), Chicago, Philadelphia, etc.
  • SKUS. And mostly in grocery stores. The Brewers Association framed SKUS as important to the discussion, though, because it represents the industry, its outlook is positive: “A well stocked craft shelf makes money for retailers and also says something about the image of a store. There are good reasons for the increase in craft SKUs.” Industry insider Harry Schumacher expressed more concern saying that the jury is still out for 2014 and 2015.

No one, though, shows much evidence or any evidence about craft beers not being stocked nationwide. A store in Chicago may be out of space (though I do not know if that assumption is even true), but nationwide, most stores are not. Do an experiment. Check out all the liquor stores, gas stations, and grocery stores across one’s state. How many are out of room? Where I live, none.

I don’t live in a major city like Chicago. But I do live in a city of 300,000 people. Craft beer is growing in the city and the state; there are four breweries in our city and two are about to celebrate their second anniversaries. We have zero brewpubs. On the south side of town where I live, where a significant portion of the city lives as well, I can think of three restaurants with craft beer taps, two of which sell mostly InBev related craft (Goose Island, Leffe) or brands carried by the local InBev related distributor. Restaurants are key to beer success even if they don’t fit into the traditional SKU narrative. Most restaurants in Lexington do not serve craft beer. A new mid to high level restaurant just opened by a local restauranteur. We were invited to his “soft opening.” Only Bud and Bud related products were on tap.

If Lexington’s beer market is 5% craft, I’d be shocked. Most people don’t even know what craft beer is (I love hearing the guy drinking a West Sixth at Lexington Beerworks and asking where it’s brewed; the answer is about two miles down the road). There is a healthy craft enthusiast scene in Lexington (special releases sell out quickly), but enthusiasts don’t support an entire market. The major grocery store chain, Kroger, with at least a dozen stores throughout the city, sells very little craft. Most of its cooler is full of Bud and Miller cases. The major liquor chain, Liquor Barn, has six retail stores throughout the city, but only devotes one aisle in each store to craft (the stores are huge). And even with such a dominance, at least four other retail operations (The Beer Trappe, Shenanigans, Unlimited, Whole Foods, and Good Foods) sell craft. If the market was overcrowded or there were too many SKUS, then there wouldn’t be so much available retail.

There is no bubble in Lexington. In fact, more breweries will distribute here next year, and there will likely be more brewery openings. 300,000 people is a pretty solid number to sell a product to. Even if only a third of the population drinks beer, that’s a lot of people to sell a product to. Will craft go flat in 2014, as Notte asks at the end of his piece? Not in Lexington. Not in Kentucky. The market has only been growing for two years! Are business writers at Money and elsewhere so caught up in a cycle of impatience swings (like a TV investment show) that they have no vision of the whole picture? Two years….AND IT’S ALL OVER!!!! No. Of course it is not.

Given his writing about craft beer, I invite Jason to come to Lexington in February and hear from brewers who write and from professional writers in craft beer. Come to Craft Writing: Beer, The Digital and Craft Culture. Visit what people are doing. Hear what people are saying. I was once in trade industry writing, too. I know how easy it is to recirculate commonplace ideas and to not be on the ground.

Craft Identity/Contracted Identity

On Facebook, Evil Twin’s Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø takes issue with a New York brewer’s posted sign that “Contract brewing will be the death of craft beer.” The conversation unfolds as many respectable brewers offer their own position on contract brewing vs. owning and brewing on one’s own equipment. Facebook, after all, is a site of conversation.

This, of course, is a debate about authenticity. The same debate trails Goose Island (particularly after its over hyped Black Friday promotion), whose InBev ownership diminishes, for some, the brewery’s “authentic” status. Goose Island, we are now told, is crafty. Terrapin, Schell, and others have found themselves as well lumped in with the crafty designation because of ownership issues. Craft vs. crafty makes the claim of authenticity all that more important to some who are invested in beer as consumer or producer; if one is not authentic, the narrative tells us, one is crafty. Sneaky. Not real. Not true. Not to be trusted.

Most of the debate regarding authenticity, though, is based on the binary of right and wrong and the belief in such binaries’ staying power (as seen in political conversations as well). Or one is authentic/or one isn’t. Or one is craft, or one is crafty. Of course, contract brewing cannot be the death of craft beer since some of the industry’s established entities – Sam Adams, Brooklyn, Shmaltz – and many of its artisan gypsy brewers – Stillwater, Evil Twin, Pretty Things –  or even its rising stars – Prairie – all use or have used someone else’s equipment. That’s not death. That’s life.

But beyond the debate and the limitations of placing a brewer or brewery within a fixed taxonomy of good or bad,  it can be difficult to see that debates, like this one, are signs of maturity. Debates about authenticity or identity are indications of industry maturation (no longer asking for one’s identity to be believed in, but rather, recognizing that within the industry, multiple identities exist and contradict one another). In my discipline, in a field that traces its origins in the modern age to either 1963 or the turn of the 20th century (depending on which narrative one believes), debates regarding authenticity, legitimacy, status, etc. are common. Craft, which tells its own story partly through the narrative of camaraderie (see the “I am a Craft Brewer” video), is starting to experience how disciplines or professions can remain friendly and supportive but still engage in debates over issues essential to identity and its preservation.

That’s not to say that in debates of authenticity one shouldn’t take a side or cling to ideology. When I buy bread, for instance, I don’t buy my bread from the Panera chain, but instead go a bit further down the street and buy from the local Bluegrass Baking Company. I find Bluegrass to be an authentic bakery. In this instance, the rhetoric of authenticity means something to me. For whatever reason, the owners of the brewery who posted the sign felt that contract brewing is not authentic for them. To me/for them – these are not “everybody has a right to their own opinion” cliche responses. Instead, they are responses that emerge from ideology, and ideology is based on experience, reading, the repetition of ideas, watching, interacting, etc. Maybe a one year old brewery has a specific position that a 20-30 year veteran does not have because of the network of interests and responses (to paraphrase Nahon and Hemsley) that the others don’t. That network, after one year, is likely more limited than the network the 20-30 year veteran exists within.

And yet, that network partly isn’t different. The network of revolution, the romance of fighting the good fight, the hyperbole of overcoming all odds, the rhetoric of locality – these are the elements of the overlapping networks both sides of the debate occupy and have occupied for some time now. In the end, they are still occupying similar identities even as they challenge each other. And that, as I noted, marks industry maturity.