To some, craft beer is a kind of art. The focus is on the artisanship of brewing - on locally sourced materials and hand-crafted small batches. To others, craft beer is a fight against monopolization, where the only enemy is the Tri-Headed Dragon of Bud-Miller-Coors. To most, craft beer is about taste - better beers, better ingredients, better flavor.
I don’t believe we can call one beer “better” than another. I don’t believe the monopolization of beer leads brewers to “fight back.” I don’t even believe artisanship is crucial - I know a lot of people who make good beer out of spare parts and laziness.
To me, craft beer is about choice.
It’s American Craft Beer Week. And it’s time to celebrate our choices.
On any given week, I might never try the same beer twice. It’s a testament not only to the variety present in craft beer, but to an availability that even those of us in the middle of the midwest take for granted. We have access to an awful lot of great beers here in Sioux Falls. We have more choice now than we’ve ever had in the past. It’s our duty as beer fans to take advantage.
This embarrassment of riches - hundreds of breweries lining our liquor store shelves, competing for our attention - gives us an opportunity we might not otherwise have: perfecting our taste.
I’m not here to tell you that one beer is better than another. That’s impossible. There’s no such thing as a bad beer - just beers that don’t meet our own sensibilities. Taste defines preference, and our tastes are all different. It’s that dedication to differing tastes that has helped the craft beer world explode - the idea that we each like different things, and chances are there’s a market for every style imaginable.
My challenge to you, as a celebration of American Craft Beer Week, is to explore the choices we have in front of us. Let’s take to the racks and grab something new. Grab something weird. Grab something you’re afraid you might hate. Admit you hate it. Revel in the fact that you hate it, because now you KNOW you hate it and you can try another style.
Make a point to try some of the local breweries sprouting up around our state. Grab a few beers from relatively unknown breweries. Buy something with a horrendous label, or with a silly name, or with whatever else it is that’s kept you from trying it in the first place.
Most of all, remember that beer is made by people. American Craft Beer Week isn’t about beer - it’s about the breweries and people who make beer for us. It’s about a group of people who, through their own hard work and persistance, have decided that they’d rather spend their working hours - or their spare time - helping to provide us with an extra level of choice.
Craft brewers rarely get into the business because they want to be rich. They get into the business because they want to give something back. They do it because they love the process, the experimentation, and the results.
Go ahead. Put back the 12-pack of whatever it is you usually get. Grab something a little different. Start walking the path. Celebrate the choices we have before us, and move forward with appreciation of the time, talent and dedication American craft brewers put into each batch - for their fans, their families, and for us.
Happy American Craft Beer Week, everyone.