I’ve talked many times about how we’ve entered a golden age of craft beer. With more craft breweries than ever before, and craft beer quickly carving out its own sizable portion of the American beer market, there really isn’t a better time than now to be a beer lover. The regional specialization only adds to the fun. People from every corner of this country have their favorite local breweries and can usually rattle off several selections that make up their region’s beer scene. Take that, and add the handful of craft breweries that have gone completely national, and you have one healthy, thriving beer scene.
As much as I would love to believe that it’s going to be all sunshine and rainbows for craft beer from now until the end of time, there’s a nasty little problem that might not stay little for very long. A few weeks back, Eric Gorski wrote on his excellent blog First Drafts about the problems with quality control facing the craft beer industry in the United States. The whole discussion stems from recent comments made by the presidents of the Brewers Association, Paul Gatza. Gatza, speaking at the 31st Annual Craft Brewers Association in Denver, CO, said that at a recent beer festival he attended, he tried beers from 10 different breweries he’d never seen before, and found 8 out of the 10 lacking in quality. The problem was, these brewers thought they were doing an excellent job.
I can’t speak to the beers that Gatza tasted at this particular beer festival, but I do understand where he’s coming from. As the president of the Brewers Association, I’m sure he tastes more beer than you and I could possibly imagine. I’ll defer to his judgment on the quality of a beer, and if he found 80 percent of what he tasted to be sub-par, that has to be a disappointment. Gorski quotes several other brewing industry heavies who agree that quality control is absolutely necessary. Stone Brewing Co.’s Mitch Steele said, “If you are starting a brewery, please, for God’s sake, hire someone who knows what they’re doing.”
The problem, interestingly enough, is home brewing. People make beers on a micro level and share it almost exclusively with friends and family. Well-meaning people close to the home brewer who either don’t want to hurt their feelings or simply don’t know much about beer give them rave reviews. Home brewers who hear enough praise and have enough gumption start their own brewery, but there’s a big difference between brewing at home and trying to sell beers to the public. Friends and family will probably be forgiving; the public absolutely will not.
It’s absolutely necessary for craft breweries to have consistent quality. It sounds obvious, but it’s something that many of the new breed of brewer seems to not acknowledge. I’m not the expert on brewing, but I’ve tasted a whole lot of beers in my day, and I know that a poorly made beer is far more disappointing than one I simply don’t like. New craft brewers owe it to themselves to serve a better product, and the craft beer drinking public deserves it.
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