The “Artisanal” Conundrum.

This is not the first time I touch on this subject and likely won’t be the last. When you invest a lot of time interacting with the Craft Beer community, you see the many differences on how people view things. One might have a strong opinion and other views may be completely written off. As a person who loves to figure out what makes people tick, I actually like to look at different views and why they feel that way. It’s not to say I don’t have strong opinions of my own. Actually, I pride myself on have strong opinions. At the same time, I realize that I can be an idealist. Unrealistic with my expectations, I may set myself up for many disappointments. It is my attempt at understanding reality that allows the disappointments to not have major effects on me.

So why am I rambling? Even more importantly, why do I continue to beat this worn drum? Inspiration. People, words, actions, beers… they all drive more than just emotions out of me. There are times I think or say “it’s just beer”. There are times where I defend Craft Breweries fight against big beer as defending “business”. In this case, I’ve picked to use the word “Artisanal” instead of the broader Craft Beer label.

So here’s the inspiration, Shaun Hill’s interview with Vanity Fair. Give it a read, you may disagree with me. You may turn around and say, “Os, you’re just a Hill Farmstead fanboy”. Ok, perhaps there is some bias. My next example may also be biased. This past weekend I was down at Tired Hands again. I spoke to Jean Broillet IV, he had just returned from a trip to Chicago from brewing with Pipeworks. He mentioned how amazed he was to find beers that he could have envisioned having been brewed by himself. He said it was crazy to see two breweries with similar “art”. That’s where the title of “Artisanal” comes in. I chose to focus on the art of the beer these smaller breweries are making. There’s a reason why Jean was so in awe when he got that feeling from someone else’s beer.

Now to the conundrum. Distribution. It seems to be the most polarizing argument in the craft beer scene. We all seem to be fighting to help craft beer grow… so what’s the deal with me not being able to get these beers? Now, we can argue about how to do things “better”, but that always seems to only work for some people. Are the fans 5 states away getting the short end? Are the locals getting overlooked? What affects the prices? Demand? Supply? I deserve and should have the right to buy that beer dammit!

Well, that is where art comes in. This product is near and dear to some breweries. I have nothing against a Craft Brewery looking to just make good beer and make good money from it. I also have to respect an artist who does not want to compromise his craft. Shaun Hill’s words in that Vanity Fair article seem to reflect the passion for his beer that far exceeds the overall business success that we try to help craft breweries attain. That’s not to say that Shaun Hill is not successful in beer or in business. He has ZERO debt and he is making some of, if not THE most sought after beer in the world.

So why not respect what they are doing with their art? Why not let them be? I wouldn’t change a thing about these breweries, unless it was their vision to do so. I think they’ve earned the right and the respect to sit back and just appreciate what the next step may or may not be. Would I love to have Hill Farmstead or Tired Hands 5 minutes from my house? Absolutely! Would I want them to overproduce and make it to the shelves out here? I’m not so sure. I would hate for the art to be compromised.

Make it a point to go out and visit these places to appreciate what they are, not just their “products”. I know it’s not easy or even doable for everyone, but that’s why you also have great local breweries (like Carton and Kane for me in NJ) that I can get to if I feel the need to visit a place with great beer.

Your not so normal, beer geek from NJ.

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One comment on “The “Artisanal” Conundrum.
  1. It’s easy to be a, “Hill Farmstead fanboy,” once you’ve tried their beers. Before I did I thought, “come on, it can’t be THAT good!” But their beer is actually THAT good.

    But it’s a chicken and the egg problem, isn’t it? A) You can’t get their beer without being there on the day it’s released. B) You can’t get there on the day it’s released. Do I want the beer? HELL YEAH!!! Am I upset I can’t get it more often? HELL YEAH!!! Do I wish they distributed more widely? HELL YEAH!!!

    Do I respect their wishes to run their business the way they want? Yes, yes I do.

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