Monday, July 21, 2014

What TIME got wrong about "5 beer trends you'll be seeing this summer."

When a mainstream publication takes note of a trend, it's a good bet that that trend has long gone to a 'been there, done that' stage ... or that the observations aren't quite correct. As is the case in TIME's online listicle, recently posted by its Money subdivision: 5 Beer Trends You’ll Be Seeing This Summer.

  • 1) The Craft Beer Motel

    Dogfish Head Brewing has opened a 16-room Dogfish Inn in Lewes, Delaware. The actual production brewery isn't exactly across the street: it's located six miles away, in the town of Milton, and the original brewpub is eleven miles away, in Rehoboth Beach.

    This is a fun thing, but it's one such thing, hardly a trendy trend. And, it's been done before. For example, the now-sold, legendary Brickskeller in Washington, D.C was a good-beer bar, restaurant, and an inn; or this Pensylvania cask-ale pub with an inn next door. Not to mention such establishments in Europe.

    UPDATE: Maybe I'm wrong! Bon Appetit has posted a slideshow listing "10 Great Beer Lover's Hotels Across America, from Vermont to California." Just one problem: I can click through the pretty pictures, but not the sidebar descriptions. I don't know where and what these beer-lover hotels are. Maybe that's incompatibility with the Chrome browser. And, then there's the the irritating nature of slideshows, but's that's a gripe for another day.

  • 2) Beer Camp

    Sierra Nevada has hosted brewers, beer writers, and other industry folks to Northern California for an intensive two-day retreat known as Beer Camp.

    Yes, Beer Camp might be a cool thing, but it's not a new thing: the first Beer Camp was held in 2008. As with the first 'trend', it's one event, not a zeitgeist tendency.

    Brad Tuttle, the author of this TIME Money piece, observes that Sierra Nevada is currently shipping 12-packs of beers called Beer Camp, beers that it has brewed 'collaboratively' with other 12 breweries, nationwide. Such collaboration beers have been with us, in a frenzy, for a decade or so. That would have been a better choice for a trend, even if a dated one, not new for the summer of '14.

  • 3) We’ve Got Monks Who Brew, Too

    Mr. Tuttle states that there are eleven extant Trappist monastery-breweries. He's incorrect. According to the very authority that licenses these things —the International Trappist Association— the number is ten.
    Ten trappist beers carry the ATP-label : the beers of Achel (BEL), Chimay (BEL), La Trappe (nl), Orval (BEL), Rochefort (BEL), Westvleteren (BEL), Westmalle(BEL), and the beers of Stift Engelszell (GER), Zundert (NL), and Spencer (USA).

    A “Trappist” has to satisfy a number of strict criteria proper to this logo before it may bear this name:

    The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision. The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life.

    The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.

    Mr. Tuttle may have been confused by the inclusion of Mont de Cats Trappist beer. If he had investigated just a wee bit further, he would have found that the beer is NOT produced at the Mont de Cats monastery. According to the 2014 edition of the Good Beer To Belgium, Monts de Cats beer is brewed for the monastery under contract by the monks at Chimay, which itself is a brewing Trappist monastery.

    So, to repeat, there are only ten Trappist brewing-monasteries, worldwide, and one of those —as Mr. Tuttle notes correctly, and with pride— is indeed found here in the U.S.: St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. The monks have been officially designated since 2013.

    Tuttle then compounds his error with a sin of omission: he overlooks the other American monastery-brewery. While not of the Trappist order (yet related), the Benedictine monks of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert have been brewing in New Mexico since 2006.

    Our products are brewed on the grounds of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiu, New Mexico and also under special agreement in Moriarty, New Mexico [at Sierra Blanca Brewing]. At both breweries, Abbey Brewing Company [controlled by the monastery] directly controls all aspects of the brewing process including the formulations and brewing process details. Abbey Brewing Company is directly responsible for sourcing all ingredients and packaging materials at both breweries. The brewing equipment on the grounds of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert is entirely owned by Abbey Brewing Company. At the brewery in Moriarty, some of the major brewing equipment, such as the fermenting vessels, bright tanks, kegs, and hop storage freezers, as examples, are owned by Abbey Brewing Company.

    Brothers, forgive him!

  • 4) Sour Beers

    Although sour beers have been with us since beer was first brewed millennia ago, modern production has long relegated them to a specialist niche. And, although, Belgium and Germany (and Africa and Central and South America) have been producing sour beers in more modern history, it is only recently that U.S. 'craft' brewers and drinkers have given 'sours' widespread attention.

    I'll 'give' Mr. Tuttle this one, with a proviso. He quotes one sour beer description as "horse butt dabbed with vinegar and blue cheese." Sour beers are, to be expected, tart; but they are not all funky (although they might be). Reading one of the sources he links to —the Brewers Publications' American Sour Beers— might have been helpful.

  • 5) The Sad (But Righteous) Decline of Light Beer

    I'll give him this one, too.
    Any beer nerd worth his salt wouldn’t bother talking about a pathetic pale American "beer" like Coors Light or Bud Light Platinum. [...] Light beer sales have been declining for years, as has the market share for big beer brands in general, but lately the drop must put the world’s biggest brewers in an especially bitter mood. Businessweek recently cited data indicating that light beer sales fell 3.5% last year, including a 19% dip for Bud Light Platinum, and that domestic light brew sales will hit a 10-year low in 2015. And in beer-crazed places such as Oregon, more than half of the draft beer served is now craft product that’s brewed in the state.

    But, please, TIME. Ditch the misuse of quotation marks as "emphasis" 'emphasis.' And, please check your facts. That's your paid job; I do this gratis.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, you're wrong.

    First, if you take the time to read the article, the text clearly states that these are "some trends and hot topics being discussed in craft beer circles this summer." Yes, the title only says trends, but the author made clear that these were trends and hot topics. You can't criticize the mainstream media for being superficial and then be superficial yourself.

    Likewise, you can't criticize them for not checking their facts and then not check your facts. The Bon Apetit article works fine in Chrome, if you disable ad blockers and privacy tools like Privacy Badger, and lists beer hotels set up by Rogue (2 of them), Napa Valley Brewing Company, McMenamins (9 different breweries with lodgings, Fredericksburg Brewing Company Bed & Brew, and a variety of other examples and models. Really, the author just listed the Dogfish example as a "hot topic" and missed out on identifying a bigger trend in craft brews- creating breweries as destinations. We see brewers increasingly moving out of the industrial park and into elaborate tasting rooms as gorgeous as any winery.

    Also, you act like the author didn't know Beer Camp has been around since 2008, when it was clearly mentioned in the article. But, more importantly, is is a "hot topic being discussed in craft beer circles this summer?" Yes, it is. Don't bash mainstream media for taking notice and putting it out there for non-beer nerds to discover. It helps craft brewing.

    Also Mr. Tuttle does NOT state "that there are eleven extant Trappist monastery-breweries." He says, "there are only 11 breweries in the world allowed to have the Trappist label." And that is exactly what the International Trappist Association says- "Of all the beers in the world, only eleven may carry the name 'Trappist'." You changed his wording to make him seem wrong when he wasn't.

    On sour beers, Tuttle correctly sources a number of outlets that identify sour beer as a current trend in the craft beer drinking community and includes a humorous quote from one of them- so you want to bash him for not including every nuance of the style?

    Finally, on the light beer topic, Tuttle does not use quotation marks around "beer" for emphasis. He does it to convey the sneer with which many craft beer drinkers would use when referring to Coors Light as beer.

    For a click-bait article, this one was actually pretty well done. We should be encouraging more of these types of articles in mainstream media rather than getting a hipster holier-than-thou attitude about them. Craft beer benefits when more people understand it, and that means lovers of craft beer benefit as well.


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