I was listening to the radio the other day, when I heard an ad come on for Bud. Or maybe it was Coors, it's hard for me to keep all the big macros straight. Anyway after trumpeting the glories of cheap beer promoting togetherness, enhancing sporting events, and generally making you a "cool bro," the ad signed off by saying, "This summer be sure to drink America's beer," followed by joyous hoots and cheers.
This got me thinking: macro is America's beer? Really? I'm just about as jaded as they come, but it even makes me uncomfortable admitting that American is represented by mass-produced shlock that gets sold by pushing a glorified image to go with a rather tasteless, boring product. I mean I'm sure that's how lots of other countries view America, but I don't really want to concede to the point that America is just flash but no substance (just like 'our' beer).
To avoid this I began to seriously think: if I had to, what would I label America's beer as? In terms of hard sales and maybe even ideals (big business v. small, etc) than I would lean towards Bud and Coors. If I wanted to be idealistic (which I honestly do) I would say that craft beer is more American. After all craft beer is made regionally and has all the eccentricities, tastes, and strains of personality that come with that particular region of the USA. We have the weird and wonderful new beer varieties out west.
We have the multitude of IPAs in the mid-west. Out here in the east we thrive on big beers that can be drunk both in cold weather and warm. No matter where craft beer comes from in the USA, you will find the very fabric of the region that made it floating in the bottle amongst the hops, malts, and water (plus whatever other ingredients us crazy American's make our beer with).
If we're talking taste over units sold, than craft beer would win the mantle of "America's Beer" for sure. But if we are considering the business side of things, how would craft beer stand up against the bigmacro brews?
On one hand we kind of have the (arguably unfortunate) reality of the "American Dream." That is, a business (let's go with Anheuser Busch) that started small, but now is a national company. Their product is mediocre at best, and their marketing team is top notch to ensure position as a top seller. As for market practices, AB is doggedly persistent to staying on top, and will do just about anything (besides make good beer, zing!) to make absolutely certain that people keep drinking their beer.
Let's look at craft beers now. It's hard to make a blanket statement that includes every craft philosophy, so I will generalize based on the few dozen reps and craft brewers I've talked to. A craft brewery is also the fruition of the "American Dream," at least the more idealized version. Here men and women have taken something that they love (beer) and struggle to bring this product to other people. They sink nearly all their time and loads of money into making sure that their brand can compete in a tight market, all the while trying to satisfy the down-home roots that they sprung from.
Success for a craft brewer is usually having a great place to eat attached to/close to the main brewery and/or having someone on the other side of the country taste the beer they made. The product is what makes craft brewers happy, so marketing usually plays second fiddle to a product that (should) speak for itself.
As it's the 4th of July, everyone seems to have some bit of patriotic fervor. Beer, being a huge part of American culture, is lumped right into this mania; but I think it's fascinating (and unsurprising) to watch macro-breweries latch on to this patriotic pride to sell beer. Because if you ask me, working with your community to make a product you can be proud of is way more American than mass producing an inferior product with great lawyers and market experts backing you up.
However, the greatest part of America is the freedom to choose. So if you want to grab a Bud this summer, great! If you want to go to a local tasting somewhere and try something new, great! Some people worry about where beer comes from and what it supports, and others consider beer to just be beer. At the end of the day, the choice is yours. As for me, I'm going to stand with craft beer, as it's a product I can be proud of drinking and it supports people who have put everything on the line just to follow a dream that some may have deemed foolish or crazy. And that is about as American as it gets.
If you want to know more about the local beer scene, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Blogger, and also check out the CT Beer Trail. I hope you all enjoyed the 4th of July, and I look forward to bringing you more summer beer releases and news as time goes by!