If you didn’t know, this happened yesterday.
And with one somewhat-over-the-top comment from a very notable individual, an entire message board was whipped into calls for heightened morality, rallying the troops and reaffirming their commitment to the craft beer cause. Any twenty-something who was debating on what brewer to shove into the conversation was effectively silenced by a guy who is way more important than they are. You wouldn’t dare perpetuate the discourse after reading such a comment, at the fear of the Beeradvocate wolves tearing apart your every word, whereas moments before the comment, they were fueling the very fire they were now attempting to put out.
I don’t know what to make of all this.
Do I think the thread “most overrated brewer?” is kind of dumb? Well, I don’t think the idea of discussing an overrated brewer is dumb. But the way it was executed throughout this thread certainly was. Of course, such is the nature of the internet; a magnet for dissenting opinions. It’s very easy for Craft Drinker A to type “Founders Brewing Company,” hit the “enter” key and provide no supplementary comments. I don’t care if you think Founders, Dogfish Head or Avery are overrated; tell me why. And the reason has to be better than “I don’t like some of their beer.” Well yeah, I don’t like all of Dogfish Head’s beers, either. But that doesn’t make them overrated. All of these brewers make a lot of different beer; the idea being that we have more potential choices to make, and everyone will feel differently about each of them, so there’s something to please everyone. Some beers will hit, some will miss. That isn’t enough to make a brewery “overrated.” It’s overrated, though, if you’re paying a lot for a relatively average product. And in the craft world, that happens.
Then there’s Sam, who I do admire. He could easily be the president of the “60 Minute IPA Brewing Company” and he isn’t. He deserves credit there, and I admire his spirit in delivering such a thundering response to the Beeradvocate faithful. But it seems part of his argument (implied) was that it’s silly to discuss what brewer is overrated because most of these breweries are still too small to even be rated to begin with. To an extent that’s true, but that doesn’t mean that they’re beyond criticism. You and I are paying for their product. We’re what make them grow, and our discussing of them, positive or negative, is publicity for their name. And you could indeed argue we have a duty to declare what’s worth our dollar and what isn’t. Being a relatively small brewer does not mean you’re not subject to the same criticism that a big brewer is. And the “small brewer” bulletproof only holds so much water when you have the aspirations that a brewer such as Dogfish Head does.
Nobody was talking much about craft beer 15 years ago. Now, a lot of people are. The bad is inevitably going to come with the good, and these brewers are going to eventually have to learn to take the hits. Craft beer consumers will no doubt have respect for passionate, honest breweries, but that isn’t enough of a reason to support them. The product has to be good, and if you think a brewer’s beer (no matter how nice the brewers are) isn’t up to par, you’re allowed to tell them so. But we should be doing it better than this. Which of these two statements do you think is a better assessment?: “Dogfish Head is overrated because some of their beers aren’t good” or “Samuel Adams’ Utopias is not worth my $150.”
So craft beer consumers and craft beer businesses can all be doing a little better here. Then again, this is the internet we’re talking about. What 400 people on a Beeradvocate thread think is not necessarily a reflection of what people are thinking in the real world. Take it with a grain of salt.