It’s been a long spring full of travel and new beers in distant places, but it seems like just a couple weeks ago I was in an auditorium at the CBC listening to Brewers Association director Paul Gatza address thousands of craft brewers:
After retelling the story of visiting a beer fest and sampling a number of subpar offerings, Gatza fired a warning shot at new craft brewers paying less attention to quality.
“Don’t f*ck it up,” he exclaimed, a rallying cry that was met with cheers and applause from the entire audience.
And those new beers he sampled at the above-mentioned fest?
“They thought they were doing an awesome job but, the truth is, they are not,” he said.
Does craft brewing have a quality problem? was a question the beer media asked.
At a news conference that followed the opening conference session, Gatza said quality problems include off flavors, oxidation and the presence of dimethyl sulfide …
Diacetyl is a major boogeyman omitted from that list, IMO, but in any case it’s hard to argue – with 2500 breweries operating in the US and another 1900 in planning, the output can’t all be uniformly sublime; and subpar beer is subpar beer, no matter what size or category of brewery it came from.
I wandered away from that opening convocation thinking a little closer to home. The basement, specifically. The takeaway message there could be much the same for the one million-plus homebrewers now saving bottles and cleaning carboys in America.
A few months back, I wrote that “Homebrewing in America has always been a refuge for and the domain of the weird, the commercially unviable, and the personal narrative in liquid form, and I hope it always will be.” That is as it should be – but it’s no excuse for bad beer. Whether one gallon or twenty gallons, extract or all-grain, if you’re going to step up and brew a garlic-and-basil pesto beer (or bacon beer, or gruit infused with raccoon penile bones, or what have you) then make the best damn, most accomplished, technically proficient garlic-and-basil pesto beer you can.
A thirsty nation is watching.