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The Session 103: The Hard Stuff

The first Friday of each month brings together beer bloggers around a common topic under the banner of The Session. This month Meta Cookbook hosts, giving us the topic “The Hard Stuff”:


We have such a good time with our libation of choice that sometimes we fear bringing up the issues we see.

Well, stop that. Air your concerns, bring up those issues. Show us what we’re not talking about and should be, and tell us why.

A disclaimer

I want to make this very clear: if you don’t care about any of this, that is completely fine. At the end of the day I’m talking about something you drink (although that leads to the question of why we spend so much time talking, reading and writing about “just a drink”). Being a person who drinks craft beer does not align you with any sociopolitical movements.

And yet, there’s a whole lot of “making the world a better place” rhetoric everywhere you look. Support small businesses! Use local ingredients! Fight soulless corporations with your purchasing options! Getting past there being no ethical consumption under capitalism, a great many people see good beer as a small way to do some good. Hell, an entire book has been written on the subject. I would like to see us held up to that.

Drink the rich

Here’s the thing: I believe in the quote “if it’s inaccessible to the poor it’s neither radical nor revolutionary.” And, while good beer is a great many things, it is not accessible to the poor. And, frankly, I’m not sure it ever can be: by its very nature I produce and we all consume a more expensive product, because of ingredient cost and economies of scale and any number of things.

I feel uneasy at times when craft breweries are portrayed, by others or themselves, as “the little guy”, the downtrodden, the freedom fighters. I haven’t looked but I’m sure there’s a direct comparison to the Rebel Alliance of Staw Wars out there. We are, to an extent, but I would like us all to be more aware of the fact that a $6 glass of beer does not make us morally superior to someone drinking a $12 16 pack.

(While we’re at it, yesterday was Labor Day so I’ll take a moment to being up the flip side, how rather than being titans of industry most brewers work long hours for very little pay, and in at least one case have to start a GoFundMe to pay for health care. On this front I also have to balance my ideal world with the realities of economics.)

The unbearable whiteness of being

We are very aware that we are a bunch of bearded white dudes. We think it sucks, and what sucks even more is that we are the norm, one more dot in a Seurat painting of mayonnaise.

The beer scene has made great strides in being more inclusive of women (although we’re still far from perfect), but for the most part (though not entirely!) beer events have very few people of color in attendance. On this front I have no ideas or suggestions: I don’t think that beer makers or drinkers are particularly insular or hostile, with the exception of the occasional obliviousness mentioned above, so hopefully this will change itself with time.

I’m just zis guy, you know?

I don’t have any answers for these problems. I do my best, and we do our best, though at least personally my best probably isn’t very good.

And, again: I do not think you have to care about hear things. I do personally think it would be swell but I don’t make the laws. (…yet.) I do not intend this as a broad indictment of an industry and its consumers. My issue comes not with everyone, but with the particular subset, of which I am a member, which talks a good game about beer’s place in the greater good while not really doing anything to make that good a reality.

Beer either is just a drink or it isn’t. Either is fine, but you can’t have it both ways. If you want it to be more, to be capital I Important, you need to put in the work to make it live up to that. Until then, we’re all just fussing over our pumpkin peach ales.