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.

Share
 23 Apr 2009 @ 11:20 PM 

Day 3 didn’t start out very well for me, mainly because Day 2 ended so well. Turns out that at the end of Day 2, I forgot to eat dinner. It took me a little while to get out of bed this morning. Heh.

But get out of bed I did! And I had another fantastic day.

First off, I mentioned yesterday that I was hoping that the movie that Greg Koch showed at the beginning of the keynote would be available on line, and it most certainly is. View at your pleasure, it is truly awesome. I think it actually brought a tear of pride to my eye.


I Am A Craft Brewer.

Today, I had lunch with a good friend of mine who’s working as an indie video game developer. He’s in the process of starting up his own company, very much in the same way I’m working on starting up mine – he’s a little ahead of me on the track, but in comparing notes about the industries, we found remarkable similarities. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that these are both comparatively young industries. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they’re both rooted in passion, or that they’re both working full time against lowest-common-denominator preconceptions. Hard to say, but we were a little surprised that we felt like we had so much in common when the two end products felt like they weren’t related at all. He’s got a deadline coming up in a couple of weeks, so I won’t push now, but we’re looking at – in the future – doing an industry comparison across our sites so that we can fully explore the similarities. The way my mind sees it is that we might see some really unlikely partnerships bloom sometime in the future.

After lunch, I attended the panel Beer According to Women: How Women Brew, Present, Pair and Sell Beer. The panel was moderated by Sebbie Buhler of Rogue, full panel was Candice Alstrom of Beer Advocate, Teri Fahrendorf – Road Brewer and founder of the Pink Boots Society, and Jodi Stoudt of Stoudts Brewing Co. Really fantastic panel, with a good range of opinions. There’s a list of questions and answers laying around somewhere on the internet that I need to dig up and post here so that I don’t have to reiterate the entire panel. For the most part, the panel agreed with my feeling on the matter: How do you get women to drink good beer? You make good beer. The key word that all of the panelists emphasized was “balance” and I might argue that that’s important for every beer drinker, not just women.

In fact, I found myself thinking, almost across the board, that any of the good points about how to reach women really applied to men equally and that bringing gender into the equation really made things more complicated than they were. What I found most interesting is that there seems to be a bit of an age divide on this issue. It was evident right away in the panel, the first question asked was: Does gender matter? While 2 out of the 3 panelists said “No” (my position), one said “Yes” and continued to return to the point throughout the entire panel. I hesitate to use the world “older” to describe her because the age difference between 99% of the people in this industry is not that wide and “older” sounds like I’m saying “elder,” and I don’t want to give that impression. We’re talking maybe 10 years, here, both in age and in experience in the industry. However, it is enough, I think, for traditional stances on feminism to change significantly. It’s a tricky subject. What is clear to me is that while we might be talking about this now, we’re going to be talking about it completely differently in a few years and my theory is that we won’t be talking about it at all after a small time. Why? Because craft brewers continue to get better at their craft, they continue to put good beer out in front of consumers and in time the women will drink it as equally as the men.

The second panel I went to was Keeping it Real: Brewery Owner Perspectives. Moderated by Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, the panel consisted of Larry Bell of Bell’s Brewery, Kim Jordan of New Belgium, David Walker of Firestone Walker, and Rob Todd of Allagash. It was phenomenal. The entire panel was anecdotal. Managerial advice took the form of stories about the startup years of each brewery, how they found their vision, when they had to finally delegate responsibilities, how they manage distribution, etc. It was funny and warming and is one of those times (like the video above) that I feel really warm about becoming part of this industry.

The only question that I felt wasn’t particularly well addressed was one by Scott Metzger of Freetail Brewing. He mentioned that a lot of the people up on the stage were in his homestate of Texas through large A-B and MillerCoors distributors and that those distributors actively choke out local Texas beers due to their current legal restriction on self-distribution. David Walker responded something along the lines of, “Hang in there, it will all be okay, things are changing.” which is probably accurate, but Scott’s point remains valid. All of these guys can say to their distributors – don’t take tap handles or shelf space away from other craft beers to put my product in, and that might be agreed upon from a managerial standpoint in the distributor, but the local guy who’s actually going into package stores or supermarkets or dive bars or whatever might not give a shit, and that’s where local breweries are going to get hit the hardest. When something of similar quality to their product comes in from elsewhere and has the advantage of being a well-known brand – a Sam Adams, a Dogfish Head, a New Belgium, etc. – and the local rep won’t follow through on the intention of the regional brewer.

Kim Jordan might not have wanted to take tap handles away when Fat Tire came into North Carolina, but I see it in bars everywhere now and I can assure you that the tap handle that came down to put Fat Tire on was almost definitely NOT A-B or Coors.

So Scott’s question, in my mind, is: When a large regional brewery starts to become a threat to local brands due to the unscrupulous actions of their distributor: what do we do?

I don’t know the answer to that question, and I think it’s going to be a tough one to answer until the three-tier system is better regulated, but it’s interesting to think about.

I, unfortunately, did not make it to the Cask event at Harpoon tonight, though I had originally planned to. I ended up meeting up with my old roommate and fantastic friend at dining (again) at the Cambridge Brewing Company. Harissa Rubbed Lamb Steak paired with Gruit? That’s the kind of meal people write about. Heh. I just wrote about it. Awesome.

Tomorrow? More women and beer and the sad conclusion of the conference.

Share
Tags Tags: , , , , ,
Categories: Brewers Association, industry, media
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 23 Apr 2009 @ 11 28 PM

EmailPermalinkComments (3)
\/ More Options ...
Change Theme...
  • Users » 128751
  • Posts/Pages » 204
  • Comments » 2,671
Change Theme...
  • HopsHops « Default
  • BarleyBarley

About



    No Child Pages.

Shirts



    No Child Pages.

Tour



    No Child Pages.