A market with only big breweries is pretty miserable, but that doesn’t mean we want a world with only small ones.
Alan McLeod is the global beer blogosphere’s Contrarian in Chief and he likes the Budweiser Superbowl advert that has others up in arms:
Poor widdle cwaft thinks that it is all about the big bad brewer running scared but it’s not. It’s gleeful assertion meeting commercial reality. The upstretched middle finger to some. The assertion of tribe to many others. An umbrella for those who buy the 80% or more of beer that is still light, inexpensive and easy to drain. It’s lovely.
(Stan is right — that’s a great blog post.)
We kind of agree with Alan here: there might be an oblique dig at craft beer and its drinkers but, in its own way, the ad is positive, and it’s certainly honest. Rather than pretend, unconvincingly, to be small and artisanal, Budweiser is being upfront about the awe-inspiring scale of its operation.
There’s almost something romantic about it, really, just as we were moved by the realisation of the town-within-a-town size of the old Bass brewery in Burton-upon-Trent when we visited the museum a couple of years back.
(Having said that, it’s hard to summon any sentimental feeling for the multi-national corporations that now own these beloved brands.)
We do reckon that, on the whole, the output of smaller breweries tends to be more interesting but most of our favourite beers — the ones we actually enjoy day to day — are from slightly larger ones, and are far from ‘wacky’.
So, no, we don’t want every beer in the world to be an IPA or an imperial stout, as long as we can get those things when the urge takes us; and we don’t expect every single beer to be made by a small business. But nor do we want every beer in the world to be a variation on pilsner made by a giant company, and we would like a choice of stouts.
It’s not a battle between good and evil which only one side can win — it’s about achieving a balance, or even a tension. At the moment, there’s probably room for the Craft side to tug a tiny bit more of the duvet to its side but, really, things are looking pretty good aren’t they, with something for everyone?