Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Reclaiming Our Lost Culture, Through Delicious Beer

I'm sure Garrett Oliver, semi-famous brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, has said many things worth quoting, but this one really jumped out at me. It summarizes not just the appeal of good beer, but really, good anything. There was a long period when our country was in danger of losing quality, hand-crafted foods in favor of convenience and branding. Large corporations are brilliant at creating a baseline perception in consumers that generic, mass-produced goods are "good enough," and anyone demanding quality is some kind of prissy snob.
"It’s hard to remember now that back in 1989 there wasn’t a whole aisle of bread at the supermarket and there weren’t cheese departments either. Back in 1989, sushi was considered exotic food — now sushi is at baseball stadiums. Our food culture has been transformed by diversification. We’re no longer a meat-and-potatoes nation.
Craft brewing is not a trend or a fad. It’s a return to normality. One hundred years ago, we had the most interesting beer culture and the most interesting food culture in the world. We forget that, but we did. Our immigrant culture meant that we had everything from everywhere. We took bread and made it into sponges, we took cheese and made it into plastic, and we took beer and turned it back into water. Now we’re in recovery. And I have a message for every 55-year-old beer salesman who figures he’s going to ignore craft beer because he’s only 10 years from his retirement. And my message is simple: you don’t have 10 years. If you don’t learn this stuff now, you simply aren’t going to make it. The world has changed and it isn’t going back — it’s accelerating."
That quote is from this article, a pretty good interview that's kind of (weirdly) framed around a Brooklyn vs. Portland thing.

It boils down to this, for me: if you like something, why wouldn't you try more of it, and different kinds of it? If you like movies, would you just keep watching the same 2 films? No, you'd check out new movies, unless you were some kind of asshole. This applies to almost anything, but it's what makes beer so appealing to me. Not only can I try a different beer pretty much every day of my life, with no risk of repeating anytime soon, but even entire beer styles are diversifying rapidly. There are dozens of styles of beer, commonly available today, that were essentially extinct 30 years ago. It's hard for me to ever name my "favorite beers" because I so rarely drink more than a few bottles of the same beer. 

Some people just like to try new things, others don't. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with sticking to what you know, but... okay, fuck it, yes there is. It's boring. You are boring. Trying new things is what makes life interesting. People are realizing this, finally. Big corporations can't keep up with it, thank god. So buy the 5 dollar block of weird cheese you've never heard of instead of the same rectangle of yellow cheddar. Not always, not when you just need some cheese for tacos, but sometimes. A world without good beer and good cheese, made by small companies with a passion for such things, would not be a world worth living in. For example, the 80's.

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