My Argument Against "Craft" Beer

Ok, ok. Just hear me out. It isn’t what it sounds like. If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with craft beer. If you don’t know me, that’s pretty odd that you are reading this… BUT THANK YOU!!! I hope you come back!

I recently got my BJCP tasting exam results back and I’m preparing for the written, as well as planning on taking the Certified Cicerone Exam within the next couple of months. So I’m getting deep into every aspect moreso than ever before.

Brewers Association Craft Beer Production Volume
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A few years ago, I was just one of those happy kids who was first getting into craft beer and I chased down every new release from all of my favorite breweries. I still do that with my number one favorite, but how could I not support them?

In all of my research and studying, I was taken back. I began to think about where we are today and all of the changes I’ve seen in this very short 5 year span in the grand history of beer. Things I didn’t even begin to notice until about my third year in beer. So, just think about everything I still have to learn and experience.

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Where we sit now is the greatest time that has ever existed for Craft Beer. Thinking about that, was it not common to hear Microbrew when referred to “our” beers not that long ago? To my understanding “craft beer” first began it’s usage in the 1980’s. And it wasn’t even a commonality at that time. “Craft Brewing” was how it was referred. It was about the movement that was happening in America. The way our beer was hand crafted vs the industrial methods that were sadly sweeping the country. Recently it has been used to describe the new generation of beer around the world but it’s origins seem to be with the early pioneers that were tired of what they were tasting, and for that, we praise today.

Now I understand that we want to differentiate ourselves. Make the market distinction obvious to those casual consumers, especially the ones that don’t know any better. But as one who is well versed in our community, and flipping back through a little history, why can’t we simply call it beer?

Do you see what I mean, now? I don’t go around telling people I drink craft beer. Or that I’m going out for a few craft beers. I just use “Beer”. I’m going to “X Brewery”, “X Bar”. I feel at a point, the thing speaks for itself.  It becomes quite obvious. I make sure to know who, to the best of my ability, makes a profit off of each pour I purchase. This is something the majority of consumers don’t think about… but then again, maybe it’s the appeal of the word craft, that people love.

Before the time of the microbrew, was it not just a pint of Ale or Lager? In 1516, do you think they had fancy names for the beers being created at that time? In today’s beer world, the distinction between craft and not so is being blurred. Crafty is a thing. Big business tactics are happening in the wake of the little guys. Certain aspects are still about the joy and community, but others quickly pull you back in to realize beer is a business. First & foremost. So where is the point where you quit acting like a little guy and accept that you are in fact in another league?

craft-vs-crafty
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I don’t mean like the big three. That is a whole different ball game. But the way a business operates and sells across the country. The number of barrels that are produce and sold each year. There is a difference between those just scraping by and those who can essentially rely on their consumers for years to come. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just the way things are.

To me, craft isn’t about a definition. It’s about the way you treat your product and care about your community. While a company may try to separate themselves from corporate beer, does the scale of your brewery not introduce you into that world? The number of breweries or specific off shoot locations you own, do they not paint that picture?

Even with the Brewers Association defining craft beer and then adjusting the definition to keep the biggest brewers from losing the distinction, I wonder, why does it matter? Even if my favorite brewery went above that line, their beers, again, speak for themselves. No if, ands, or butts about it. Everything they do for the beer community as well as the charitable events and support they offer, really goes to show their passion. A side of their character you wouldn’t see from those that we do not label with the craft name. And surprisingly enough, at the end of the day, they still need to worry about their profit margin.

These breweries are machines, filled with passionate people. Creating experiences that we all share. Ones we look far into the future for. While I’m not saying they don’t deserve to use the title craft, I just feel we are at a point in time where it is not necessary.

Cheers!

My Argument Against "Craft" Beer

BJCP Tasting Exam

After such a long wait, the time has finally come and passed. It has been about a month and a half now and I still have a lot to cover when it comes to learning the history of the styles, etc. but the BJCP Tasting Exam is finally OVER!!! I was stressing a lot about it the first few days to a week or so after the exam but now I am just over it and want my results. Before I wanted an 80 or better, now I just hope I got a 60 so I don’t have to test with the updated guidelines… JK!!! I still hope I did great but this waiting period is killing me and seriously all I want is a pass at this point.

The main advice I have for anyone taking this is exam is to make sure you learn the styles. I know that may sound kind of obvious, but maybe I should phrase it this way. Make sure you know the differences between the styles. You are there to judge each beer presented to you based on what you sense. Not what the guideline says. Write down everything you notice and then afterward, consider what you tasted. The proctor told you this was a Sweet Stout. Was it really? or was it an under-carbonated Oatmeal Stout? There are differences but if you can’t pull out what they are, you are stuck taking their word for gold.

Overall I think I feel pretty good about it but we will see when the results come back. One more thing when it comes to taking the test. Or even when it comes to life: NEVER SECOND GUESS YOURSELF!

I showed up on test day not knowing what to expect. I signed in, sat down, filled out preliminary paperwork and just waited… I don’t know why I showed up so early. About an hour but I stayed in my car. I got in the testing room about 30 minutes before the start of the exam… Just waiting… I guess it is better than being late.

I was relieved when the first beer showed up. I feel it set the pace for the whole exam. The category was 1A: Lite American Lager. A pretty good one, too. At least I thought it was. Drinking it was honestly just like reading the guidelines. The only thing I knocked that one for was the fact that it was hazy. This is not a style I ever really drink but I would drink several of them no questions asked. People just get so stuck on the BMC is bad kick, that they cannot relate to a good beer in those styles. Just about every beer has its time and place. Lite American Lager included.

I thought I got pretty lucky with the choice of beers. The remaining styles went as follows; 5B: Traditional Bock, 10A: American Pale Ale, 13B: Sweet Stout, 19A: Old Ale, and 18C: Tripel. Each of those beers had their own strengths and weaknesses and there was only one I found nearly undrinkable. I felt everything was good until the very end of the exam where I finished up Beer Number 6 and had about 10 minutes remaining… That second guessing yourself thing comes into play here.

The Tripel that I thought was pretty awesome, started to taste funky… like really odd. Like odd enough for me to lower my score from a 34 to a 29! I should have left it because it seems I was right in line with everyone that I talked to after the exam before I went back. I guess one beer won’t really hurt me when it comes to grading but I was hoping to have all 6 be good. Just to hopefully score fairly well. And who knows what else I may have slipped up on. I thought the Old Ale might have been infected and then I go back to taste it after the exam and it was not as “bad” as I thought it was.

I did not adjust that score because I had given it a 19. It was a bad example of an Old Ale, regardless. Other examinees I talked to scored it right in line with me or in the low 20’s, so I am not too worried about that… unless it was not infected and I get knocked for that. But it is still only 2 beers out of 6… I feel I nailed the other exam beers and I was not too far off here, even with my changes or perceptions.

I will send out an update as I get my results back, but don’t expect to see that for another two or three months… or so I hear. Twitter or Google Plus will probably have the first look at that, but that is like breaking news. Until then,

Cheers!

BJCP Tasting Exam