Saturday, February 16, 2008

Animated against animus against Koch

Comments to blog posts, by their very appended nature and often brief content, are easily overlooked. Here is one, written in response to my post ...

Now what are you going to say about Sam Adams?

... which by its length and (strong!) opinion, gets its own post here. The writer is Bob Skilnik, author of Beer & Food: An American History. Here:

I've always been fascinated with the early animus towards Jim Koch.! He didn't brew his own beer; he contracted another brewer to make it and used his money to nuture the other important components of good beer...distribution and marketing.

This smudge campaign went on for years until he startd to win a couple of awards at the GABF. Of course that wasn't good enough and the rumors started circulating that he had bribed or stacked his way to the winner's circle.

Now I have my theories where all this purism began, who subtley insinuated that Koch's way was the wrong way, but I do know this...when he started advertising in all the Papazian/BA/Zymurgy/New Brewer rags, suddenly he wasn't a bad guy. Hell, he was even being quoted in these mags.

He started the LongShot event for homebrewers and yet still, go over to one of the beer rating sites and there continues to be a lingering animosity towards Koch, the latest being that it's somehow it's his fault that homebrewer Mike McDole’s LongShot winning double IPA couldn't (wouldn't) be made. Forget the fact that the brew uses something like 11 varieties of the more esoteric and unavailable hops; somehow it was Koch's fault. In actuality, McDole agreed with Koch to wait until next year when the hops might be available for the brewing of the IPA.

So yeah, now how will the geek squad react because Koch's releasing a boatload of hops to brewers? Should be interesting.

On a sidenote; When I was writing Beer & Food: An American History, I contacted Boston Beer Company to see if I could use a few of their beer/food recipes in my book. Koch's people liked the book's theme and the next thing you know, Jim Koch's writing the foreword for the book.

What makes this interesting, and to me, shows how open and approachable Koch is, I had the hardest time trying to work with another brewer icon (HINT: West Coast, trolleys)) who was more interested in preserving his place in American brewing history than helping out a broken-down beer writer. Honestly, I never got to talk to him since his staff seemed more interested in me devoting page after page about "him" rather than the theme of the book.

Koch, on the other hand, embraced the larger scope of the book, beer and food and its place in American brewing and culinary history and didn't try to have me instead write a chapter devoted just to him.


  1. I believe that the problems of this nature in the craft brewing industry are formed by enthusiasts, who are looking for more meaning in life. Yes, there is a lot of bad beer out there. However, people would be more happy if they looked elsewhere for meaning and looked for enjoyment with what they have. You don't have to enjoy swill, but you can enjoy the journey through life's endless variation and interpretation. If you concentrate too much on the negative, it generally means that you have a hole in your own personality and are generally dissatified with life. I don't spend too much time on it, but I pity those "hop heads" or "beer geeks", who are in search of the best beer. If you only look for the best, then you will damned to disappointment. If you look for what is good in life, then you will enjoy yourself more.

  2. The best beer...I once interviewed someone connected to a Chicagoland brewery who had become increasingly irritated with the local beer geek crowd.

    Paraphrasing him, the issue was loyalty. For some reason, drinkers of macro brews have always seemed to have more loyalty to their brand than craft beer drinkers, and he understood this. But at the same time, his brewery was bending over backwards to cultivate loyal customers, giving frequent beer tastings, handing out do-dads like t-shirts and such, and sponsoring local events, even homebrew happenings.

    And yet, the moment something new caught their (the geeks) attention, they were gone, except when they needed the brewery for some free beer or some swag for another event.

    The search for the "perfect" beer can be frustrating for the people who have put their money and time on the line, he went on, and while no one expects blind loyalty, remember that your local brewery can one day disappear, and when that happens, the geeks will bemoan the fact that "their" brewery couldn't make it.

    There was also a minor controversy about one of the beers at the time; they called it a certain style, and since they were brewing it, you'd think that they knew what they were talking about. But the local "experts" disagreed and insisted that the beer was not the style that the brewery said it was; the experts insisted it was something else. And this irritated the hell out of the brewery owners. "Everyone's an expert," said the brewery rep, "and that's a problem because it's like saying 'We [the brewery] don't know what we're talking about.' We're brewing the beer. We know the beer. We know what goes into the beer...and we know what style of beer we're brewing."

    In a sidenote, Tom recently posted that he would no longer rate beers. I say "Bravo!" Taste is subjective, and haven't we all had a fantastic beer, surrounded by good friends, good food, good music, that tasted sort of average the next time you drank it, sans friends, food and music? Tasted like a "10," and now it's a "5."

    Years ago, the story used to be how we were different than pretentious wine drinkers who would study a wine label, swirl their wine (in the appropriate glass, of course), talk about its various tastes, and look down their collective noses at those who didn't understand the wonders of wine.

    We were just simple beer drinkers who simply enjoyed a good beer, without all the pretentious nonsense that wine drinkers were displaying.

    And look at the beer scene now. It's a Frankenstein monster, encouraged by ratings, contests, magazines, and too many "experts" telling brewers why their beer is good or not, or why it's "not true to style."

    Enough preaching. I'll take a look inside the fridge now and decide if I'll sit down with an IPA, maybe a porter, heck...I really do like German pilsners, or maybe I'll just grab a Coors Lite.

    Taste, after all, is subjective.


Comment here ...