Here at Aleheads, we enjoy a few of the finer things in life such as:
- Lashing out in anger.
- Lashing out in anger at the inveterate ass Sam Calagione.
- Industry folks ignoring politically correct stances, losing their shit, and “being real”.
- Our friends at Clown Shoes Beer.
- Mocking overly pretentious beer websites, reviewers, and personalities.
- Blogging and/ or conducting interviews whilst possibly ever-so-slightly intoxicated.
- Boston’s North Shore, Essex County more specifically, and Salem Beer Works yet still more specifically.
- A nice MLT. A mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They’re so perky. We love that.
So imagine our delight stumbling across this frank interview with Salem Beer Works brewer Nate Heck, which seems to combine everything we love in life, except perhaps the MLT:
You call yourself a bit of a cynic in regards to the craft beer industry. Why?
It’s really hard to answer this question, for some reason. It feels a bit like trying to reply to “Have you stopped beating your wife?” But, I’ll give it a shot, nonetheless. I have spent most of my adult life making beer. I love what I do and of course, I love beer. However, it seems like over the past few years, something has changed and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what it is exactly.
I guess I’m cynical because I see a lack of appreciation for the history of brewing. Lots of people seem to think that craft brewing started when Sam Calagione started DFH, and believe that “Beer Wars” are the gospel truth about the beer industry and that Stone Brewing doesn’t market their beer.
And that is also something I’m cynical about…the evangelical aspect of craft beer. People feel they have to convert the unwashed Bud drinking masses. Beer is not some binary thing. You can enjoy an ice cold PBR AND like Russian Imperial Stouts…at the same time!
There’s also a nouveau riche thing going on with craft beer. It seems to be all about ostentatious display of IBU’s, ABV, etc., etc. It’s the whole Double Black Barrel-Aged IPA, beer mad lib thing that is completely boring to me. Communities like Beer Advocate advocate that phenomenon more than they advocate the full spectrum of beer appreciation. And just like the arms race brewers have to out “extreme” each other, dudes who review beers do the same thing. No longer is it good enough to say that a beer has a citrusy aroma or a grapefruit hop nose. Now, it’s grapefruit “pith.” Really?! Pith?! Come on….save the pretentious “notes of vine-ripened figs, off-set by a pumpernickel bread crust and grapefruit pith” for the wine world! It’s friggin’ beer, people! ”I hand wash my chalice with spring water, an Indian cotton wash cloth and handmade soap and and store it on a pillow made of the finest crushed velvet between my tasting sessions.” Beer is social and beer is fun and sometimes drinking one out of a red plastic cup is perfectly awesome!
I’m also cynical about the whole “celebrity brewer” thing. And I know quite a few wanna-be celebrities in this area and they make my stomach turn and my eyes roll!
The whole beer-food pairing thing is pretty lame, as well. Beer isn’t wine! Don’t have a geuze with nachos. “Ah…but I find that the notes of figs and grapefruit pith are the perfect complement to a braised leg of lamb and fingerling potatoes.” Give me a break… As a pub brewer, I suppose I should be more into the pairing thing, but I think it’s pretentious, ridiculous and adds nothing to the beer culture, except for pushing it ever closer to the wine world.
Let’s see…what else am I cynical about? Craft fans seem to ascribe a false virtue to the small brewers and false vice to the big brewers out there. We laud some brewers’ success and vilify others for theirs. And the argument usually, and ignorantly, falls along the lines of “the big guys don’t care about beer, only profit.” And, “I know Sam Calagione and/or Greg Koch makes beer because he’s passionate about it.” Try opening a brewery in San Diego or Wilmington and see just what a couple of swell guys Sam and Greg are! Craft fans have taken up the mantel that they are fighting the big guys out there. In reality, however, Mercury Brewing is competing more fiercely with the likes of Wachusett than they are with Anheuser-Busch. But, David versus Goliath is a much easier and intriguing tale to tell if you’re a small brewer, even if it’s not entirely correct.