Sean authored his post in response to negative comments he was seeing online and hearing around town in Durham, North Carolina. That state is blessed with over 40 local breweries, and apparently some folks are starting to take it for granted. It’s natural for people to have favorites and prefer one brewery’s beers to another, but if you make the leap from preferring one brewery over another to trash-talking the one you don’t like, you’ve crossed a line.
At the heart of this matter is not a plea to be nice just for the sake of niceness. It’s not about kindergarten platitudes like “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” (although that’s actually pretty good advice). The point Sean’s argument really turns on is that in spite of their apparent ubiquity, North Carolina’s in-state breweries only sell about one percent of the total volume of beer purchased in the state. I can promise you Alabama breweries sell far less than one percent of beer purchased in Alabama. For local breweries to grow and thrive, they need support even when they make mistakes or bad decisions.
Sean’s not suggesting beer drinkers remain silent when handed inferior beer. He invites constructive criticism. But if you like a really citrusy West Coast style IPA and a particular local brewery produces an earthy English style IPA, that doesn’t mean the brewery sucks. Likewise, if you like a big, bitter and hoppy brown ale but one local brewery produces a sweet, easy drinking session brown ale, that doesn’t mean the brewery sucks. Taste is subjective.
Sometimes, though, there is an objective problem. Maybe equipment malfunctioned and a batch fermented too warm and the brewery sold the beer anyway. If something doesn’t taste right, call them on it. Or maybe the bar where you’ve ordered a local beer didn’t clean the lines after switching from an imperial stout to a pilsner. You probably wouldn’t even know that was the problem, but the beer in that instance would not taste right. Make sure that if you don’t like a beer the first time you have it, you try it a second time at another bar.
Local beer is a uniquely wonderful product. There is no other “adult beverage” you can consume fresher. In the case of a brewpub, you are sometimes able to drink a beer less than two weeks after brew day (there is a minimum time of several days required for fermentation and conditioning) and even have a conversation with the brewmaster while you drink it. The people who make it are most likely making far less money brewing than they could make in another profession. They do it because it is a passion. Buying local beer keeps more money in the local economy, supporting local jobs.
As the number of Alabama breweries increases, competition will increase and the selection of beer available to consumers here will grow.
You will not like every beer made by every local brewery. You likely already know of beers brewed in our state you don’t care for, and you might have even cast aspersions on an entire Alabama brewery because you find their beer boring or in some other way not to your liking. Regardless, that brewery does not suck. That brewery is awesome. The people who work there are pursuing their passion and improving Alabama beer culture one glass at a time. If, somewhere along the way, one brewery truly does suck then it will eventually fail and a better brewery will take its place. Behold the free market in action. In the meantime do your best to help Alabama breweries grow from less than 1 percent of the state’s beer market to something much, much larger.
“Hopped Up” is a weekly brew review by Danner Kline, founder of Free the Hops and coorganizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to email@example.com