Since moving to Charlotte over 6 months ago (has it really been 6 months already?!) I have fully immersed myself in the craft beer scene. It seems as though there is always an anniversary party, a tasting event, a beer festival or beer release going on. Having attended multiple of said events, and conducting some of my own research, I have come to a couple of conclusions about the people that make up the craft beer culture.
First off, people love beer!
This is obvious. It is the world’s oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic beverage, and for good reasons. It makes you feel good, it’s great common ground between strangers, it’s an art and a science, and it’s a great centerpiece for gatherings of all kinds.
Second, “Craft” is in the eye of the beholder.
I sent out a survey to my social network and asked some basic questions about beer in general and craft beer. Everyone said they drink beer because it tastes good and makes them feel good (see conclusion numero uno). They all also defined craft beer as basically being locally made, with local or interesting ingredients that make the beers unique, and are from independent breweries. When asked if they thought there was a culture surrounding craft beer, the basic consensus was yes but that it mostly depends on where you are and who you are or what you like. For instance, one responder said that when travelling, they like to go to places where there is hiking or skiing and that those places usually have some great beer. Another responder made a point that they believe half the population drinks craft beer or goes to breweries just for the social aspect of drinking and hanging out, and the rest of the population does so because they truly enjoy craft beer for the taste. That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the “social drinkers” shall we say because that is part of the point of craft beer and tap rooms. I am a mix of the two, I go to breweries because I like to socialize but I go there because I truly love craft beer over any macro beer. Which is why you’ll find me hanging out at a brewery over a bar. In regards to beer preference, most responders said they are open to new styles but sometimes find themselves drawing back to the classics and some will even have a macro beer based on a certain occasion.
As for me I am a die-hard craft beer lover! Though I am not a fan of all, I enjoy the taste and appreciate the passion put into them. I believe that craft beer is defined as experimental, unique and hand-crafted with a touch of home. Most brewers base their recipes on local or seasonal ingredients, or utilize ones that define where it comes from. I definitely believe there is a culture surrounding craft beer and I believe it does depend on where you are. Certain geographic places have better local ingredients, different demographics that prefer certain things, or activities that are associated with a certain type of brew. Sometimes culture in itself plays a role in the types of beer that are brewed. Diving a little deeper into the perception of people surrounding the culture, there are those that are defined as craft beer snobs or nerds and I think some of those people get a bad rep. Most of these “snobs” (like myself) are just aficionados, enthusiasts, true, dedicated lovers of the craft and art of brewing craft beer. They have a passion for the beer and the brewers that goes beyond “This beer tastes good so I’m going to keep drinking it.” However, there are some “snobs” who truly are snobs! These are the people who give the rest of us a bad rep, which leads me to my last conclusion.
Lastly, beer is beer.
Don’t get me wrong here, I am 100% supportive and completely loyal to craft beer and the breweries that produce it. I believe there should not be distribution and production limitations on any craft brewery. (Side note: visit Craft Freedom to help free NC craft breweries from such laws!) That’s like stomping out someone’s dream of reaching new people and showing off a product they are proud to call their own. I will drink craft beer over any macro beer, any time, and if it is not available to me I bring it to the party. I am a true believer in the love and passion that goes into craft breweries and you can tell by the quality of their products that they care not only for their beer but for the people drinking it as well. All of that aside, we cannot “shame” or look down on people who prefer a mass produced pale lager over a hand crafted pale lager. Those macro breweries started out small once, and while they may have gone on to create a recipe that can be mass-produced, it does not mean they should be put down for that, nor should the people who drink their beer. So the next time you are strolling down the beer isle of your local grocery store and you see someone grabbing a 6-pack of Bud Light while you grab your local craft brewery favorite, instead of giving them the side eye or judging them for their choice in beer, just give them a nod and say “Hey, enjoy!”