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Tuesday 30 June 2015
Dan Fox
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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.

4857424_orig 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.

Click here to read the original article.

3 Responses to “Could insufferable self-righteousness stifle craft beer?”

  1. Dom says:

    Very interesting article and well thought out and written. I am originally proffesionally from the wine industry and when I got into the craft beer world in Spain I found that there really isn’t anywhere or anyone that tells you what you need to put on the label. With wine you have the D.O. (Denominación de Origen) that tells you what you have to do legally and what you can’t though a lot of the times they pass their jurisdiction and strangle the wineries freedom of design. It would be wonderful if there was some type of organization that you could get help from but in Spain this is still not available and if you contact the government officials you are passed from one department to another and until you do a full circle. Well done.

  2. Chris says:

    Dan, Your article was not what you are now claiming it was. You misrepresented craft beer labels to pass moral judgement on them. The focus was not on changing standards in label enforcement, it was you trying to take pot shots at the craft beer industry. The hypocrisy is thick coming from someone whose business was built on misogynist advertising to sell a watered down product. Now when you get criticism you try to find another outlet to cry on.

    You take cheap shots and now your are complaining about the criticism. You certainly have chutzpah, but I guess that is to be expected from your background

    • Hey Beer Dan says:


      No craft beer labels were “misrepresented” in any way as you claim, but fail to support. Then you suggest a motivation which I did not have, and which you couldn’t possibly know anyway. And after all that, your tone aims to place you on some higher moral ground? “Chutzpah” seems to be a characteristic you know quite well.

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