06 May 2009 @ 3:07 PM 
 

I Am a Craft Brewer: Lessons in Perspective and Context

 

Wow. So, predictably, we’ve started to see some backlash from the I Am a Craft Brewer video (embedded here, in case you missed it). There was a little right after it came out, but for the most part there was a lot of fawning. As it has been pointed out, the video has “gone viral” (though I’m not sure that a constant push into the memestream can be considered “gone”) so it is now subject to John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. It’s started off fairly low and, in some places, almost polite, but for a real view of what you can expect in a few weeks, go take a look through some of the Beer Wars comment threads (though it looks like a lot of the REALLY negative comments were deleted).

Myself? I love it (especially the snappy 3-minutes version). But then, I’m its target audience; I was present when it was played as a toast at the beginning of Greg Koch’s keynote. However, there are some fair points being made that bear inspection. Here’s a short sum, and my comments.

  • This video is missing its audience. Or rather, it hit its audience, mostly dead on, and then, for better or for worse, got pushed outside of its audience. It was made for an audience with knowledge of the subject and the industry politics. I recognized most of the people in the video on sight. Even most of your knowledgeable craft beer geeks will watch half of this video going, “Who the hell is that chick? Check out that dude’s beard! Do they make beer in that van?” One of the things I learned in my years of theater is that if you’re too self-referential in your scripts you turn people off because they just don’t get it. (Example? Saturday Night Live.) It’s possible that this video is a little too self-referential for the general public audience. I’m not sure that it is, but I have a hard time telling. Regardless, some people are going to see it and like it and some people aren’t. Even across the CBC when it was first shown there were probably a solid bunch of people who were underwhelmed. My main reaction to this is: meh – big deal. You can’t make all of the people happy all of the time, you can just wish that the unhappy people weren’t so goddamned noisy.
  • Greg Koch is getting a lot of face time. Yep. Like one of the blogs I linked to up there, prior to the CBC and this video what I knew about Greg Koch is that Stone makes beer I like to drink (and that I love his taste in plaid jackets). Now he feels like a minor celebrity. Bad? Not really, except that, by nature, celebrity breeds criticism. Part of me wonders how much of this is by design or by mistake. Greg was the keynote speaker of the Craft Brewers Conference. Presumably, it’s because Stone is a rising star and an innovator and was asked to do it. He’s a creative dude with a history in entertainment in L.A. and had an idea for a video. He followed through with it. He’s also pretty plugged into the internet, pushed his ideas out through his intertube hole and thus you get instant internet celebrity (just add troll). I think the new cut of the IAACB video is a lot better precisely because it has a lot less Greg Koch in it. It’s not that I don’t like him, but it seems a little less about him and a little more about the community, that way. On the other hand, you also have to figure that 99% of the country has no idea who the hell Greg Koch is. If the video did get played during the Superbowl most people would just think he was some random actor, anyway.
  • Craft beer is being passed off as a snobby drink. Sure works for wine, though, doesn’t it? Oh yeah, and a lot of liquor. Why shouldn’t beer be on a level playing field? Is craft beer the Apple of the beer world? I don’t think so. For one thing, market share isn’t even comparable and I don’t have an beerPod. It’s more like the linux of the beer world. But I can sure see how someone could get the impression that it’s the hoity-toity beer. We (beer geeks and/or brewers) come off as a little snotty sometimes, and maybe we should work on that. At the same time, nobody’s going to be an evangelist for our products for us. I see no good reason to stop preaching. If we make a product that we think it superior why would we characterize it as anything but that?

Arguments it being over-produced and/or poorly written are kinda moot. There’s no way to satisfy that. So.. what.. it should look shitty to have cachet? If it had a really awful script it would be more awesome somehow? There’s no argument to this.

The only thing that really bothers me about all of this chatter is how much is being taken out of context and re-hashed for the sake of argument and criticism, either out of the video or out of GK’s keynote. Come on, guys. Anybody can pull quotes out of a long text and find something about it to argue. Walk through a city sometime, I’ll give you 10 minutes before you run into some crazy dude on a street corner that gives you a pamphlet telling you that you’re going to go to hell for something that you enjoy based on one random quote they pulled out of some random religious text. 10 minutes of solid research and you can completely deconstruct their argument. Let’s not play that game. Constructive criticism offers both pros and cons and includes suggestions on how the subject could be improved. Anybody can be an asshat. I do it every day.

On the other hand (this is like my FAVORITE phrase, lately), a lot of people think this is a good little movie: If you REALLY think it sucks, then by all means: How can it be improved? Is the message wrong? What’s the right message? Is it too long? Too short? Too shiny? No story? Are your dreams of what craft breweries are like shattered knowing that they own bottling lines?

It’s not like I can do anything about it, but I’d love to hear how it could be better rather than just hear about why it sucks.

 

Responses to this post » (One Total)

 
  1. insightful post. critics need to zip it about Greg unless they have met him and he was an ass to them . this is a man who loves what he does and just wants to share it with others and from everything i have read…he isn’t an ass, and most people appreciate him pushing craft beer. just compare the number of positive comments and total number of views of IAACB.

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