It’s a glorious era for the American beer drinker. We’ve got talented and passionated brewers making stellar beers in every single state across the country, an IPA revolution that’s brought us hops we didn’t even know existed, and a community that’s spilled over beyond our borders to inspire folks in countries as far-flung as Norway and Japan. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to remember that 20 years ago, the landscape was a whole lot different, with just a few brave breweries on the front lines struggling to convert the first wave of craft-beer fanatics.
But just because times are swell doesn’t mean everything’s all good. The industry is at a cross-roads, ushering in the third-wave of craft brewers and drinkers while shaking off its image as a mere underdog. As tap and shelf space becomes more competitive than ever, breweries have to balance their “we’re all in this together” camaraderie with a survival instinct that doesn’t always mean playing fair. And as the age of bigger-means-better extreme brewing plateaus (this means of differentiation from mass-market beers eventually became the prevailing attitude in the business), craft-brew fans are forced to reconsider what they really want from their beers, and to call BS on gimmicks that don’t deliver.
So, just as we’ve done with kale and sketchy fish, we decided it was time to open up a conversation about some big issues in the beer world that too often get swept under the rug. Do we believe in all of these statements 100%? No—as you’ll notice, some of them are even at odds with one another. But these are topics that tend to come up with brewers, publicans, and fellow beer lovers once a few pints go down the hatch and taboos go out the window.
Good beer and honest conversation have always been fine bedfellows, so let’s talk, shall we?
Written by Joshua M. Bernstein (@JoshMBernstein), Chris O’Leary (@brew_york), and Chris Schonberger (@cschonberger)