Who is there to stop a brewer releasing a bad beer? To say, before it reaches the public, that it is simply not good enough?
Depending on your point of view, editors/publishers/record companies/film studios are either parasitic middle men standing between artist and audience, dragging everything towards bland ‘marketability’, and taking ten per cent; or they are heroic gatekeepers protecting the public from a tide of dross and/or pretension.
In larger breweries, there are plenty of mediators — blazer-wearing board members who tut at ‘weird’ beers and marketing people with focus-groups and survey results — and perhaps that is why you rarely see any spectacular misfires from that sector. (Or much that is spectacular at all.)
Perhaps smaller breweries get their ‘editorial’ feedback from third-party middle men such as distributors, bar-owners and retailers: ‘We regret to say that, at this time, your beer is not the kind of product to which we feel we could do justice in a crowded market-place…’ Perhaps the best are capable of being their own toughest critics.
But we suspect vanity usually wins out.
As a consumer, if you want your beer mediated — if you demand that only product polished to a sheen is allowed into pubs and shops — then you might have to accept a compromise to creativity, and to the idea of brewer as ‘auteur’. (‘Great!’ say many.)
If, on the other hand, you want to buy beer direct from a ‘cool’ person whose work is not meddled with by ‘suits’, then, every now and then, you will get something undrinkable.
The occasional Metal Machine Music is the price to pay for the ‘cool’ stuff.
We’re in the process of having our book edited at the moment which is perhaps what brought this to mind.