Could insufferable self-righteousness stifle craft beer?28th March, 2014 by Dan Fox
I recently published an article here about craft-beer labels. It seemed to me a double-standard existed whereby Big Beer played by stringent label rules established years ago, but craft beers were getting a pass.
Why so nasty?
I expected the article to stimulate discussion, perhaps even controversy, and I wasn’t disappointed. But I was less prepared for a barrage of truly nasty, personal name-calling hurled my way.
Simply because I dared speak critically of an aspect of the craft-beer world. In spite of my statement at the end of the article that no brewery people were involved or aware of the article in advance, I was even accused of being on the take. “Troll” was among the nicer epithets (one we’ll no doubt see again).
Here’s more of the bile from the comments section where the article was re-published.
To be sure, the internet is no place for the timid, so we took all the mean-spiritedness in stride. Hey, it’s just beer. But looked at another way, so many craft-beer drinkers so quick to spew viral venom toward any critic could stifle the momentum of their favorite beers. It’s a matter of simple marketing.
Beer = sociability
Most beer is consumed in social settings where bonhomie and good times are the norm. Traditional beer advertising routinely celebrated this camaraderie. And generally speaking, back then, comments from one drinker to another about someone’s beer choice – if they were made at all – were amusing and playful. Possibly because, before the internet, aggressive opinions on another guy’s brand of beer, delivered face-to-face, could end in fisticuffs.
So, to the extent distinctly unsocial commentary and social-media snarkiness begin to be associated with craft beer in general, it’s not just unbecoming, it’s alienating. Whether in the form of unrelenting snide commentary about Big Beer, or hyper-ventilating reactions to even mild criticism of an aspect of the craft business, “socially welcoming” it is not.
Same goes for “disingenuous.” If the craft beer movement really is all about seeing that people can enjoy interesting, more flavorful beer, what difference does it make who brews it? Brands like Shock Top, Goose Island, and Blue Moon are good beers, and perceived as such in blind taste tests. Tarring and feathering them simply because of their corporate parentage – as is customary in craft-drinker commentary – is thoroughly disingenuous. Would Sierra Nevada suddenly cease to be good beer if Heineken purchased the company?
An inviting personality
Marketers rightly obsess about creating an inviting brand personality. What sense does it make to cultivate an insufferable, self-righteous, disingenuous persona? No matter how good the beer, a personality that annoys people can put a finite – and unnecessary – limit on craft growth. Maybe that’s why two respected craft brewers* got in touch with us, and distanced themselves from the kind of criticism we experienced. No doubt they appreciate the wisdom behind this longtime Anheuser-Busch slogan, apt no matter the size of the brewery:
Think about it. In a dramatic marketing miscalculation, Big Beer allowed important beer attributes to slip from its grasp. Craft brewers seized this historic opportunity, and now, as a category, own some highly valuable space in the consumer mindset. “Flavorful,” “higher in alcohol,” and “carefully brewed” belong to the new guys.
Why on earth would any craft lover want to add “insufferable attitude” to that remarkable list?
* We did receive some positive feedback, too, notably including from principals at two craft breweries. One of these brewers expressed his chagrin at the name-calling to which we’d been subjected. We won’t mention either brewery’s name lest their reputation be maligned.