Celebrity chef and food opiner Anthony Bourdain has given an interview to Thrillist in which he has harsh words to say about craft beer and its culture:
I would say that the angriest critiques I get from people about shows are when I’m drinking whatever convenient cold beer is available in a particular place, and not drinking the best beer out there. You know, I haven’t made the effort to walk down the street 10 blocks to the microbrewery where they’re making some fucking Mumford and Sons IPA…
Now, Thrillist is a frightful den of clickbait, and craft beer types are easily baited, but Mr. Bourdain often has interesting thoughts and in this case, he makes some good points. For example, this…
[The] entire place was filled with people sitting there with five small glasses in front of them, filled with different beers, taking notes. This is not a bar. This is fucking Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This is wrong. This is not what a bar is about.
…is probably fair comment if you accept that the ideal bar or pub is a lively, even raucous place, which we do, on the whole. He probably wouldn’t like us much — we do enjoy over-thinking beer — but some places are too church-like and sterile even for us.
Having said that, the kind of bar he describes above hasn’t replaced, and isn’t in competition with, a lively dive bar full of characters. If it didn’t exist, the clientele wouldn’t be tossing back shots and lager and dancing on the tables — they’d probably be at a cafe, or at home watching TV, or in the library. And, just as with the other extreme — the rough pub — it’s perfectly fine to walk in and walk straight out if you don’t like the vibe.
There is something weird, too, about the idea that this kind of establishment, and the kind of beer it sells, is somehow threatening ‘normal’ beer: it’s still really, really, really easy to get standard lager the length and breadth of the UK, for example. A general point: critics of craft beer culture need to make up their minds whether craft beer is a minority diversion enjoyed only by a handful of freaks, or an existential threat — it surely can’t be both, can it?
His comments are prompted by frustration at nagging by craft beer drinkers and we can certainly understand how annoying that must be. When we saw that he’d been to the pub with Nigella Lawson the other week we felt a moment’s irritation that he drank Guinness — there’s so much great stuff in the UK, even before you get into the fancy-pants craft end of the market! — but didn’t feel moved to tell him off about it on social media. Others did. As they do every time he drinks any beer on any of his shows. And as they are doing now in response to this article in which he complains about being berated on social media by beer geeks. We sense that lecturing him might be counter-productive — leave the bloke alone. In fact, leave every one alone: STOP TELLING PEOPLE THE BEER THEY ARE DRINKING IS THE WRONG BEER UNLESS THEY SPECIFICALLY ASK YOU FOR ADVICE!
Finally, this bit of nuts-and-bolts behind-the-scenes info helps explain why there isn’t more beer on TV:
Well, beer — visually speaking, it’s why we generally don’t do winery scenes or brewery scenes. Because no matter how good it is — this might be one of only five remaining bottles left on Earth, Napoleon may have put it in the bottle — but visually, it’s red stuff going into a glass.
This was a light-bulb moment for us, and gives another very good reason why that idea for the Great British Brew Off that gets discussed endlessly in cycles won’t work: ‘Please bring your pint of bitter up to the top table for judging.’ [Music swells. Contestant present four almost identical glasses of brown liquid. Music ceases to swell.] Cakes have visual drama, beer has… less. It’s a fact of life.