Am I “over” craft beer?
Editor’s Note: This also appeared on Review Brews. Read it here, or on that site, but visit there anyway. Tons of great craft beer-related news and content.
Allow me to get nostalgic here. There was a time when trying every new beer, getting to every brewery, and immersing myself into the culture of beer was the primary focus of my craft beer hobby. I browsed message boards and looked up breweries, planned visits. It was all very exciting, very fun. It was new for me, a honeymoon of sorts.
I didn’t know much about the brewing process, nor did I know much about different styles, but I knew something different was happening within the walls of the industrial park or farmhouse breweries I was visiting. My palate improved. I began to distinguish not only styles, but types of hops and types of yeast.
I made friends in the industry. Brewers, salespeople, public relations, bloggers, journalists, and beer drinkers all become part of some cache of people I knew. As many people who have been writing about beer can attest, it’s pretty cool to walk into a brewery, brewpub, or even a good craft beer bar and have people know your name, what you drink, and be as excited to see you or have you try a new beer as you are to be at that place, drinking that beer.
It’s a very six-degrees of separation industry, too. Everyone knows everyone else, has worked with someone else, or took over for that person at X Brewery. Writers collaborate, share information and contacts. We trust going blindly into a brewery tasting at a place we’d never had their beers simply on recommendations from Twitter friends.
Being a part of the craft beer world – and I firmly believe I am, to some degree – is, for lack of a better word, cool. It’s almost as if I’m on the ground floor of some cutting edge industry, one that is revolutionizing the culture in America, even if it’s in a niche area like beer. Truthfully, I think I may be. Craft beer is running a parallel line to the food revolution in America. Sure, there will always be a section of Americans – probably the larger one – that prefers Big Beer and fast food, but people are beginning to care about, for one part, the quality of what they’re putting into their bodies. That’s where well-prepared dining and craft beer collide. By eating well and drinking craft beer, we’re promoting quality eating and drinking. I don’t think that’s going away any time soon.
That being said, I find myself at some odd crossroads. My desire to take trips to breweries I’ve never visited is waning. Take Trillium, for example. Trillium, and I’ve had their Fort Point Pale on tap at The Kinsale and I’ve had their Dry Stack Farmhouse Ale. These guys make terrific beer, but I’m less likely to visit their brewery now, not because I don’t want to try their beers, but because I’d rather they be more accessible to me on the northern part of the state. (Note: I see my logic failing here because I do champion local, fresh beer, I just wish I didn’t have to travel into Boston to get it).
Too many times I go to the local beer store and I find myself leaving empty handed, which is bizarre because the amount of beer – craft beer, from breweries I’ve enjoyed and even visited – available to me is staggering. I just find that I’d rather drink a couple 750 mL growlers than a bunch of bottles that are overpriced at the store. Maybe in that regard I’m being snobbish. But these trips to breweries like Tree House or Blue Lobster (or somewhere else I really enjoy their beers) to fill these growlers, when they happen, are the special ones and they don’t happen all the time. These are the trips for which I find myself excited to be a beer drinker again, as opposed to simply going to a store and picking up a Stone IPA six-pack, or even something seasonally awesome like a Nugget Nectar.
So, am I “over” craft beer? No, probably not. But I am maybe lacking the excitement of the newcomer, who is essentially learning as he goes. I don’t know everything about craft beer, and I hope this doesn’t sound like I think I do. That’s not my intention. When I travel, I spend probably too much time researching my beer options – breweries, bars, beers to try – than I should. Since I “discovered” Barrier Brewing, there hasn’t been a trip to Long Island where I haven’t had one of their beers (and I go to Long Island a lot).
Maybe my life is effectively changed in my habits of eating and drinking, inasmuch as I care very much what the source of my food and beverage is. I don’t eat McDonald’s like I don’t drink Coors. And my lifestyle has changed to the point where I only drink craft beer, but it’s not the only thing that I drink. I enjoy red wine and bourbon and drink these as much as I drink craft beer (well, maybe I don’t drink straight bourbon as much as I drink beer, but you get the point). But craft beer isn’t the defining characteristic of my drinking life as it was two years ago, maybe even one year ago.
It’s a weird feeling.
Fellow craft beer nerds: Have any of you ever found yourself at that lull where you found yourself unenthusiastic about the choices at the beer store? What does this say about our relationship to the craft beer world? Do we have to be super enthusiastic about craft beer 100% of the time? Call it an existential crisis.