Nothing frustrates me more at work than the classic American beer drinker. This is the person who has spent their entire life drinking watered down, absolutely flavorless American style pilsners that we are all familiar with (Budweiser, Coors, Miller, etc.). I could care less that people enjoy these beers and drink them on a regular basis, that is certainly there right and they are welcome to all of that swill they can lay their hands on. I’ll admit there are times I’ve sucked back more than my fair share. What drives me crazy about that variety of beer drinker is when they come waltzing in to a microbrewery knowing full well there is nothing they will enjoy. They come in expecting you to be brewing some Budweiser clone so that they can buy it up and tell their friends they only drink microbrews. Well my apologies to them, but there are already breweries that brew that style of beer with amazing attention to detail and who replicate that tainted water flavor to perfection – they are Budweiser, Coors, Miller, etc. There is a reason the craft brew industry doesn’t make these kind of beers (well okay, there are many reasons, but this one is focused specifically on the business end of things), they are already done in a higher volume and at a far less expensive price than a small industry can compete with. Our industry exists because we offer an alternative to the mass produced brews. There are a growing segment of people who have come to realize that beer is allowed to have flavor.
One hundred years ago making beer in the style of the mass produced American lagers of today was unheard of. During that time the industry in this country was still ruled by German immigrants who had fled Europe because of political turmoil. They brought with them high standards in brewing and a discriminating taste for ingredients. These brewers, while no longer compelled by Germany’s Beer Purity Laws, still held true to them as best as they could in their new homes. Sadly this would all be brought to an end by Prohibition. The governments attempt at regulating morality and decency not only brought about the rise of organized crime, but it laid the groundwork for the production of bad beer. When Prohibition was brought to an end the demand for beer was through the roof. Breweries struggled to keep up with the ever growing demand, and things that once would be unheard of started to become common practice. One of these was instead of using only barley malt, they would add what are known as adjuncts. Adjuncts can be things such as corn, rice hulls, etc. While these will add fermentable material, they do not lend to flavor. Thus by cutting back on the volume of barley used a lighter flavor beer was being produced. After so long a time without legal brew the country was thirsty for whatever the breweries would produce. Big breweries grew bigger and pushed the small regional and local breweries right out of the pictures with the advent of methods to transport beer across the country. The American palette would soon be accustomed to the styles of beer that dominate the market today.
This leads me back to those people who come in here, try all our beers, and proclaim that they only like lagers. I’ve been told on numerous occasions our beers are “too much” (not in reference to price, but to flavor). It’s just another sign of how the average American consumer prefers quantity over quality. Fortunately there are those of us who fight to change that. Who want to educate the average beer drinker on the bounty of quality beers available with a diverse range of tastes. Sure, Budweiser will always be king, but the craft brew movement goes back to the earliest heritage of man, when real beer was king.