This might seem like a silly exercise, after all I believe what I believe. But rather than let myself just jump to some conclusion, based on gut feel and general belief, I like to be consistent in my beliefs, basing them on evidence and a ratiocinative process considering the evidence. Like any person, however, I am subject to some inconsistency in my beliefs so every now and then I try to examine them objectively.
Now what does all this mean? Yesterday, during a pleasant lunch, I ordered a new beer (my new hobby), the Goose Island Sofie. It was interesting but not really to my taste. Since I’m now trying to experiment with the diversity of beer (the lunch was after signing up for a class on homebrewing at a good homebrew supplier nearby) I keep a OneNote journal of my tastings. So I was collected “clipping” to my journal, starting with the Goose Island website (useful info). But then, using one of the rating sites as additional information, I was shocked to see this beer (the entire brand) is now a Bud product (actually AB InBev since Bud itself is now owned by a global megabrew). So Goose Island is a “crafty” rather than actual “craft” brew (like Blue Moon is really just Coors, but pretends to be craft). There is a formal definition of “craft” and now Goose Island (which started as craft) no longer meets.
But so what! That’s what I’m trying to examine in my beliefs. Does it matter than Goose Island is owned by Bud which I normally wouldn’t ever consider as a product I’d consume?
What I’m getting at here is consistency in belief. In general I tend to tie my beliefs to evidence-based and scientific framework. Facts matter. And whether forming just an opinion or making a decision as a consumer I believe my beliefs should tie to this, if you will, “meta-belief” (science as a way to know truth).
So for example I believe (in the evidence) of evolution (instead of the myth of creationism) and global climate change (instead of vested interest denialism). These beliefs are generally consistent with “liberal” and/or scientific (as opposed to religious) meta-beliefs. But I also believe in vaccines (i.e. am hostile to the anti-vax crowd) and accept (not so much pro as anti-anti) GMO. But generally evolution and climate change are lefty views and anti-vax and anti-GMO are also lefty, but being pro-evolution and anti-vax is horribly inconsistent (not my problem). So lefties, just like the rightie deniers, base their beliefs, not on science, but some other point of view (anti-government by righties, anti-corporate by lefties). But all holding all four beliefs, as I do, is consistent with a science-based worldview (rather than purely political, or self-interest (like the Kochs, who knows what they believe in except more money), or religious).
But craft beer falls into a different category. Is it scientific to think craft beer is better than megabrews or just a bias? When it comes to food (or beverages) I generally fall in the foodie group, i.e. fond of taste and interesting products. But is ownership of a brewery by a global corporation inconsistent with liking their products?
When it comes to food I find much of the beliefs silly. We look at terms like organic, local (the newer fad) and natural (a stupid undefined concept). Organic was popular and then became profitable and then became corporate (i.e. Walmart is now the largest “organic” supplier, so the lefties have largely begun to rebel against “organic” (hence local as the more politically correct fad). Local is very vague but for the purpose of this post tends to incorporate many of the same concepts as craft. Natural, OTOH, is just woo, since almost nothing we put in our mouth is “natural” and all food is the product of breeding, either conventional or more high-tech (which is why I think the anti-GMO position is not only wrong, but stupid – does anyone who rejects GMO and endorses “natural” actually know what a “natural” apple or banana or corn or kale really is – it’s all the product of industrial breeding, only the method is different).
So the local food movement encompasses more concepts than just the old organic (although it’s very similar to the original idea of organic before organic became popular and thus agribusiness too). So local food is supposed to taste better and be healthier. And the most local food I eat (from our garden) I actually do believe is superior, even to the pricey organic at Whole Foods. But local has a political and economic element to the belief, i.e. sustainability (which is actually false when you do the accounting (energy, environmental impact, etc., correctly and not just according to leftie dogma) or supporting local lifestyle (this works, real people actually do real work in real dirt producing local food). And that’s where this compares to craft beer – i.e. small scale production done by people who actually care about what they produce rather than just another business opportunity as InBev so relentlessly pursues.
The craft beer movement (original microbrew) is fantastic, presenting consumers with both more tasty products and an amazing variety of choices. Megabrews took over the U.S. beer market (which started as what we’d call “craft” today) and dumbed-down the product so badly it’s insipidly tasteless, aimed at the lowest common denominator of people who merely want fizzy alcohol with no taste (after all when a good has taste it’s bound to turn off some people, how many Coors Light drinkers would like an imperial stout or a saison).
And like local food craft brewery creates a lot of jobs, not just in production, but in service, but then creates a very pleasant experience for the consumer. For example, recently I started stopping at Keg Creek brewery in Glenwood Iowa (on the way back from Wabash Trail hikes). Their beer is OK but not great. In fact, it’s possible Bud might actually produce something better. BUT, and this is a very big but for me, Keg Creek is fun – a pleasant little place with sampling and tasting, friendly people (both staff and customers), and very diverse (they have more styles from a tiny brewery than all of InBev has).
Now if you’ve followed my blog you know I liked baking bread. Why? I live in a large enough area to buy decent bread, not just limited to mass produced crap. Well, making bread is fun as well as tasty. I doubt it qualifies as “sustainable” but I don’t care about that, so much in this case. Mass agriculture or food processing can be very much more efficient than “local” or “craft” and that’s part of the definition of sustainable as well (and part of the reason I support GMO, it creates more food with less environment damage or energy requirements).
Now I’m thinking about getting into homebrew (it’s way harder than bread), but for the moment I’m having fun discovering all the “local” beers. Even outside the beer meccas of Boulder or Portland or Bay Area there is still interesting craft beer around here and that makes me happy. Sure these people are just trying to make money too (nothing wrong with that, despite being “liberal” I very much believe in entrepreneurial capitalism (it’s monopoly capitalism I don’t like)).
So there is a politically correct definition of “craft” and now Goose Island doesn’t meet that definition. But is “craft” then just another elitist “fad” for foodies. Does it matter who makes the beer if it tastes good and is interesting? Many people, even beer fans, don’t think so, but my “belief” (based on feeling and that’s what I’m exploring here) is that BIG IS BAD and small is good. Why? Why do I believe that?
I think it comes down mostly to choice. Big also means uniform and ultimately means bland (in beer or bread) and mostly means inferior (since accountants, not brewers, run InBev and find ways to cheapen their product). But it’s the friendly environment, the fun of experimenting (not all craft beer is good, some is downright bad), and most importantly choice. I could spend the rest of my life (and retirement savings) visiting all the craft breweries in the U.S. and trying all of the 200 or so styles of beer and have a lot of fun doing it. I don’t want to go back to the bad old days of a few insipid brews.
Like most of the people involved in good beer I learned about beer in Europe. Sure I drank megabrew swill as a kid, but then I went on a two week bike trip to Germany and got to drink “good” (although today I’d find most of that beer rather boring) beer (and ate good bread as well). I marveled at the idea that an area as small as Bavaria would have 1000 breweries (like the U.S. in the 70s, but delayed a couple of decades, most of those are gone now and Germany is mostly ruled by megabrews these days).
So my “belief” (preferring craft brews, believing in the strict definition of craft) I’m just like the other lefties supporting local. And I think maybe I’m being inconsistent, being swayed by irrational biases. Beer is beer, good or bad, interesting or bland, and does it really matter whether it comes from a craft brewery or Bud. I think it does, but this gives me some hesitation because I’m not sure my “belief” is really rational (as I’d like to have my beliefs be) versus political/emotional.
But for now I’ll shun megabrews (even possibly good ones) and go for craft and be inconsistent in that I don’t (very often) buy local instead of mass market. So much for consistency.