Some food for thought for supporting handcrafted beer over mass produced, global brands

1. Tradition. Through the ages a myriad of local beer styles evolved across the world from the use of local ingredients and local methods. Global mass-production of beer eradicates all this, often to the extinction of local styles.

2. Local economy. When you buy a craft beer, you contribute to the growth of small businesses and the local economy of where it originated from. Buy a global beer brand, the opposite happens - your money is funding the corporate machine and a large corporation's shareholders, probably based somewhere in a different continent (which is now the case for the former Anheuser-Busch brands). Global corporations are always looking to consolidate and close historic breweries which they swallow up to save a dime or two. A locally brewed craft beer sale keeps money in YOUR neighbourhood!

3. Skills and employment. Mass-produced beer is made in automated factories, so much so that the technicians in such places would often have a challenge to brew something on a small brewing kit. The brewing of local craft beer in small batches keeps alive traditional skills by creating employment opportunities for people wishing to learn and use such skills.

4. The Balance of Power. Not so much the 'balance' (in a balanced way, anyway) as global brewing corporations have the world's drinkers largely at their beck-and-call with their brainwashing advertising campaigns and cunning promotions. But, in spite of that, craft beer sales have been surging over the last few years while same-old-swill has been flat. The big companies have all sorts of tricks to sell their stuff - introducing new brands which knock out lines and shelf space for craft beer; creating deceptive craft-beer-lookalike brands that bear a fictitious brewery name; buying stakes in former craft breweries; using their financial power for mass advertising; offering cheap and giveway deals that only they can afford to do, etc. I say ignore all their lures and keep craft beer growing unhindered - that's the only way it will oust the swill out of our paths!

5. Local beer communities. A lot is going on in the craft beer world - it brings like minded people together to explore and enjoy, and to learn further about mankind's most sociable beverage. Check out BeerAdvocate.com and The M.B.A.S., for instance.

6. Freshness. You can't beat your local brewery to guarantee freshness. Quite the opposite to skunky old bottles of mass-produced lager which have been shipped from some distant land...

7. Good food, good beer. That fancy meal experience at your favourite restaurant is guaranteed to be much better with a well-chosen craft beer of a suitable style to match, than by just washing it down with something cold and tasteless. Restaurants are finally catching on to the fact that it's not just wine that can be paired with food. Those which only stock cheap, low quality, mass-produced brands probably don't care about the quality of their food either, in my opinion.

8. Support of symbiotic craft industries. Hop and barley growing of unusual varieties, beer journalism and blogging, beer festival management, specialist equipment manufacture, specialist wholesaling and retailing, you name it. Where would these be if all beer was light lager with the odd nitro ale?

9. The obvious - quality and taste, and therefore ENJOYMENT. Craft brewers tend to take pride in their high quality products, almost always using no cheap adjuncts. Global corporations tend to take pride in their profit margins at the expense of using all malt grists - padding out their cheap swill with rice, corn, or maize. Do you want beer that tastes like beer, or beer that tastes like the water that's just boiled a cob of corn (usually chilled so much so that the corn aroma and taste is masked)?

10. And finally, just imagine. Imagine if Michael Jackson had chosen to write books on Great Crested Newts instead of beer... If Fritz Maytag had never bought Anchor way back then... If Charlie Papazian had never founded the Association of Brewers and The American Homebrewers Association... If Jimmy Carter had never legalized homebrewing... If Prohibition was never repealed... We've had some big ups and downs, now we're on a big upward climb with craft beer's popularity - let's keep it that way.


© Alex Hall, 2009.