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Beer Yard Bullies vs. Imbibing Locally

I saw an interview today where Dogfish’s Founder Sam Calagione spoke to a response he posted on the Beer Advocate site addressing a less than thoughtful berating of his company. The poster provided their “Top Overrated Breweries” list which aimed to call out those craft breweries they felt had become “too big” in their not so humble opinion. Well I say Kudos to Sam for defending his brand. DFH makes some killer beers and they follow a path uniquely their own which I can absolutely respect. While all of their beers might not “speak” to me personally, I must admit they are all quality and all are made with the signature DFH artistic touch. Much like the world of theatre, I don’t care for romantic dramas but I know a good performance when I see one.

Much the same vitriol that is spit upon the “big dogs” is shared amongst the little guys….the new kids on the block if you will. In today’s day and age of social media, everyone’s a critic and everyone’s a self proclaimed expert on all things in which they’re passionate. I first experienced this phenomena in my early years of introduction into the wine community. I was a regular on all the wine forums though mostly as a “lurker” early on. New wineries were often bashed for charging too much for an unproven product. Wineries that commanded top dollar for highly rated wines were virtually stoned for charging premiums for a broadly recognized luxury product. Too small, you suck. Too big, you suck. Too expensive, you’re greedy. Too cheap, you must suck or you’d charge more for your product. The opinions of the “experts” rained down like a literary monsoon. The more controversial the opinion, the more fodder for the audience. Oh the glory of a well built soapbox!

This brings me to the point of today’s post. In this industry, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a number of avid craft beer fans, beer bloggers and amateur critics. The experiences shared in their company has taught me so much about this path that I’ve embarked upon. To be honest, I have only a fraction of the experience with beer as many of these men and women so I embrace the opportunity to learn from them any chance I get. Whether their feedback is positive or less so, their honesty is appreciated and very much considered as we move ahead in the development of our “children”.

But there remains another side to the world of criticism that I feel lacks in sincerity or at a minimum in introspect. It’s the folks who believe that a quality product can only stem from some recognized establishment located in some far away place . It’s those that believe that a brewery is only valid after X number of GABF medals or X amount of write ups in nationally recognized publications. I’d challenge these folks to consider the possibilities. Consider the idea that maybe….just maybe…an artist somewhere in your own backyard might be just as worthy as the esteemed artist plastered across the billboards of some far away place. Seriously, wouldn’t it be exciting to think that rather than clamoring over a product that’s nearly impossible to acquire that there might be a similar opportunity to experience an equally worthy product a few blocks from your home?

We all love to immerse ourselves in the mental images of tropical islands or foreign metropolises but the fact remains that beauty surrounds us always and everywhere. The grass is always greener on someone else’s side of the fence. The sooner we realize the possibility of a similar utopia here at home, the sooner we can get to enjoying the opportunity to experience it. All I’m asking is that the few of you who want to believe that the best of our world MUST reside elsewhere consider the possibility that the very best of that “thing” you’re so passionate about might very well be put together by a guy or gal right down the street from where you live. You don’t have to live small but you should certainly appreciate your surroundings. For you beer nerds out there, take a look around and know that supporting your community and embracing the craft movement at home, you’re ensuring you’ll have access to the very best beer being made. Your Vermont and California friends will likely be happy when they’re receiving some extraordinary Maryland beer in exchange for that Heady Topper and Pliny they’ve been persuaded to ship to you on a monthly basis.

And in case you haven’t had a chance to imbibe, Evo’s #3 and Raven’s Tell Tale are some super high quality IPA’s. Send a few to your out-of-state friends. Trust me when I say they’ll appreciate it.

6 thoughts on “Beer Yard Bullies vs. Imbibing Locally”

  1. It’s troubling that I notice so much more vitriol and name-calling in recent years of the craft beer world. From the beer geek who doesn’t claim to like any beer except whatever the latest cult IPA is to the bar manager who talks tons of shit about every other brewery besides the one you’re drinking. There have always been friendly rivalries between breweries, but ultimately there’s a real camaraderie there. I’d hate to think of that going away.

  2. Great piece Justin. You know I share your distain for the forum hounds that hide in anonymity. Dogfish Head to me is a brewery that has had many sides over the years. They have had some real growing pains along the way. But I think their new brewhouse has solved a lot of the problems they had. But their quality is better than ever.

    Maryland beer has not been well respected historically. People perceive we all just drink Natty Boh, which isn’t even a MD beer now. A recent article summarizing each state’s beer scene stated that Flying Dog makes most of their beer here. They haven’t made a drop in Colorado in years.

    It’s great having brewers like you in the state who are passionate and opinionated. By the way another great MD only IPA is Flying Dog’s The Truth. They don’t export that sucker.

  3. The macro-brews have created a completely unnatural impression that a certain brand should be trucked all over the country. I believe good beer should local and reflect local tastes and signature talents and techniques of hands-on brewmasters. Traveling to different areas should include the the possibility of discovering a local treasure.

  4. Very nice piece.

    Your beer is truly a work of art! It’s poetry in a glass! Nothing beats your bourbon beers. The flavors in beers like the Scoville are so bright and fresh that you can see the green on the chopping board as you imbibe.

    The case for drinking local is right in your brewery if you live in the area. The case for traveling thousands of miles is right there for those who live outside.

    I have brought people from Scotland, England, France, and South Africa to Jailbreak — and they all marvel at the art of brewing that you demonstrate every day.

  5. I moved to Vermont last summer from Maryland. I always enjoyed the local brews in MD, and there are some delicious ones. I look forward to paying Jailbreak a visit this summer when I’m back in MD, and bringing some back to share with my Vermont friends. I was so happy to see some more local breweries showing up close to my home in Catonsville. I have heard lots of good things about your brews, can’t wait to try one! Thanks for keeping it local.

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