Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Beer >
May 18, 2014 10:50 PM

Shattering the Myth of Craft Beer

Revenue driven niche craft market has some great tasting items, but with all the fanfare and signage I am left feeling that it is a hyped revenue driven campaign, much like the Microbrew campaign in the 1990s. That campaigned ended with many brewpubs being bought out by lesser qualified but more monied people or groups.

Perhaps it is a distaste for promotion, for if a beer can hold its own, there would be no need for this construct that creates a subculture of consumers.

Craft beer has always been around. The hype is perhaps good, for true contenders to be considered for great products will certainly stand out, for those who get beyond the hype.

Craft Beer is to beer, what Thomas Moore’s Soul Mates and Chicken Soup for the Soul is to philosophy and metaphysics, or psychology.

Craft Beer is to beer, what regarding Guy Fieri, and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, is to geographical survey through culinary and culture excavation.

Fact: He is simply revenue, and repetition.

Craft beer is to the human history of beer making, as astral projection is to serious physics and psychology.

Expounding on ones understanding of a tapestry consisting of depth and variety within what has become commercially, as well as popularly known as Craft Beer, shows one to be un-analytical in ones cultivation of taste for good beer, and failing in recognition of social trends based on revenue and social structure.

In support I have come across articles by beer enthusiasts who state something to the affect of "Is craft beer becoming too faddish?"

Thus said, the real losers are those who fall for the fad, and this is just as with anything similar.

The popularity (fad) of streaming music from a phone has eliminated a sector large of the population who have not a clue of reproducing music at a great quality with sound systems. Those who recognize quality are not lost to the fad.

In the end, it is truly marketing trends, and the bar and restaurant industry's structure of business of supply.

case in point: Recently, at a Russian place in Brooklyn, the offerings were so good, mostly from Europe. On the Upper East recently, the Craft Beer Market was evidently the main focus of this one heavy volume customer venue, and it failed to offer a goodness found elsewhere, with more a balanced offering. I was surrounded by Chicken Soup for the Soul-ers, with not one adherent to serious brewers.

There are some parallel with trends that are international in scope and concern very serious market, that of hot sauce.

Sriracha sauce began to become so popular, from Europe to North America, more than 10 years ago. Non-hot spice connoisseurs began identifying with it as 'the hot sauce' to have, and it eventually gutted the market, so tables all over Chinatowns are littered with one bottle of the Sriacha, and little more, unless you are lucky.

Sriracha is loaded with sugar, for one, and fails to be nothing more than 'a would be one options out of a few' that is the practice at serious Chinese restaurants. Unfortunately the gutting affect has cut into other style-cuisine eating venues.

So, popularity over quality, and quantity over quality leaves much in its trail, such as unhappy customers. It takes a good manager who orders the beer, to take the extra time, and maintain or establish good offerings based on quality, not fads and trends.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I too hate living in this period of craft beer and long for the good old days.

    22 Replies
    1. re: JAB

      Goose Island is just a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch, so let us not feel that we are engaged with products coming from 'small and independent people, in totality.

      Due to the marketing capital of Anheuser-Busch, we can find Goose Island many places, while others do not have the capital for wide distribution over Manhattan, or other cities.

      不公平 (bugongping)

      1. re: jonkyo

        Craft beer is a lot deeper than you understand. And if your favorite Chinese restaurant only offer Sriracha, you may want to branch out.

        1. re: SP1

          No, my favorite chinese venue excells due to it not giving into fed...trend.....popular appeal...

          Thus stated, beer venues follow suite.

          Distinguished tongues will find its deepness.

          1. re: jonkyo

            Isn't your navel tired of being contemplated?

      2. re: JAB

        I don't.

        What exactly were "the good old days"?

        Going to restaurants where the only choices were Bud, Miller, Coors, or Heineken (if you were lucky)? Going to bars with the same, plus Guinness or Bass Ale?

        It may certainly be true that there is a glut of craft beer on the market at this time, and it may also be true that there will be a shakeout like there was in the '90s, for different reasons entirely, but I honestly have no idea what you're talking about when you say "the good old days".

        I love that finding good beer at bars, clubs, and restaurants is now the norm instead of the exception.

        1. re: Josh

          Come on Josh, I was replying to a jonkyo post. Read between the lines.

          1. re: JAB

            Yeah, sorry - by the time I realized my mistake the editing window had passed.

          2. re: Josh

            I know what "the good old days" were like. A bar was a "tavern" with a limited selection of beer, usually a pool table, and a mostly local clientele who knew each other and the bartenders and owner. Such a place offered more than beer — good company, even when you went in alone.

            I know of one tavern that's a holdover from "the good old days," but I'm not tellin'.

            1. re: GH1618

              I used to go to places like that, but I sure didn't go there for the beer.

              1. re: GH1618

                I have one of those. The nice thing is they also have good beer.

            2. re: JAB

              I believe that there is value in immersion.

              I just can't do it with (American) Craft beer, so it remains a fringe drink.

              I immerse myself in Russian Polish Lithuanian etc beer. This is East of Germany immersion, Craft from that region included.

              I also do much Presidente immersion and Sapporo Draft immersion. Those are venue inclusive.

              1. re: jonkyo

                Every beer you mentioned is the essentially the same style...pale yellow lager.

                1. re: jpc8015

                  No, I did not mention beers save for the two Pale Yellow Lagers, Sapporo and Presidente.

                  The others are differed.......

                  All are good for immersion.

                  American Craft Beer is not immersion friendly.

                  Englash Ales are....

                  Yellow Pale Lagers, do the trick some times

                  1. re: jonkyo

                    Odd, I immersed myself in American craft beers just last night. Bridgeport Brewing Trilogy Ale was pretty good.

                    And seriously are still wearing a scarf in your picture.

                    1. re: jpc8015

                      It is just they do not have the same distinct tastes and deep flavors in differential arrangement. Many are all trying to do the same thing.

                      But maybe this is my fault in that I am missing a possible fact that what I am tasting in the above reference, is the 'American craft beer style taste'.

                      Ommegang, and others I do like, but it is only Ommegang and a few others that I could immerse myself in, though the ambiances of the places that serve those, are sterile, with flat screens peering into ones soul, or should I say, emptying the souls of all in the bar......

                      Bridgeport.....well, since the University was bought by a subsidiary of the Moonies, I can't say I would be too excited about a Bridgeport beer.....just kidding.

                      I am glad you found it good.

                      Trilogy Ale, I will look for it in the glut of Craft beer.

                      1. re: jonkyo

                        You've gone completely sideways.

                        1. re: jpc8015

                          well thats progress at least. I think.

                    2. re: jonkyo

                      Actually not all English Ales are well made, neither are American Craft, Micro Whatever. Some Eastern European beers are good some bad. It is the same with everything.

                      Basically you started off with a notion that all craft beers were the awful design of madison avenue. This was proven incorrect. Then you talked of dirty tap lines, again proven incorrect. Then it was the distribution system systematically preventing you from drinking European beers, again incorrect. You are just trying to latch on to anything to prove your original point that American craft beers suck. You've even tried some and found some you like.

                      Your final assault that ALL American brews are not all good. Well no shit Sherlock. You also just go in with no knowledge of any beers and go to various restaurants throughout the city not known as beer bars. The multi tapped places you've also denigrated usually have the cleanest lines, the most hyper-regional beers and knowledgeable servers.

                      You can also try reading up on various beers and beer styles you might like. I don't particularly like Belgian Dubels, Quadruppels in general but I am not trashing Belgian beers as a myth. Those styles just don't excite my palate.

                      You remind me of the people that go on a nice vacation to say Argentina and then come back raving that Quilmes is the best beer in the world. What they are actually doing is bragging about their travels and their worldliness. In the end the beer still sucks.

                      1. re: MVNYC

                        But what about the marketing? It's all just marketing.

                        1. re: MVNYC

                          "Actually not all English Ales are well made,"

                          This is something very good to state, thank you.

                          I would scour the pubs in England and the shelves of grocers, for the good ones, and they would determine if I entered a pub, and stayed. I would go to a pub and sit, if a woman was behind serving, and if they had a few of my favored ales.

                          I will have to respond the rest of your comment, later.


                        2. re: jonkyo

                          The problem is when you immerse your head in them. You're actually meant to use them the other way 'round.

                      2. re: jonkyo

                        Please don't immerse yourself in my beer. I'm trying to drink it.

                        Go immerse yourself in Busch Light or something of that ilk. Nobody's drinking that, anyway.

                    3. Yes... I feel the exact same way about The Enlightenment. At first it was refreshing but it soon grew to be an overbearish marketing gimmick for so called "scientific ideas" and intellectual progress. After all, Franics Bacon used to be independent thinking when he first started out but once he became Robert Devereux's confidential adviser he was just a shill to the court of Queen Elizabeth and therefor incapable of producing free and open true scientific theory anymore. And all because she could provide wider access for his ideas! Posh! And dont get me started on Voltaire and Frederick The Great... What a sell out...

                      Yes, take me back to the dark ages I say when scientific discovery was kept in its place and had no gimmicky title to make it meaningless and to guarantee that its quality was poor.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Insidious Rex

                        As for Voltaire and the use of his name during the protest and art movement in Zurich, the Dada movement, regarding beer I have found this

                        "Emmy Hennings and Hugo Ball, Niederdorf Zürich ... use the backroom for a literary cabaret and to increase the sale of beer, sausages and sandwiches."

                        One of the best beers I have tasted in life, was a bottle of beer, name not committed to my memory, but served in a restaurant on the outskirts of Zurich, about ten years ago. That is fact. I simply pointed to a bottle on another customer's table, and stated "please bring me one of those.

                        I am meandering literally, taking time, with beers within the so called Craft Beer, and have found some good ones, amongst the many. One thing many people may agree or disagree, there is a certain qualities found in British and European Craft beers, that distinguish them very pointedly from American Craft beer.

                        For one, Russian craft is very high in alcohol content.

                        This is of British Craft, I have had while ago.

                        1. re: jonkyo

                          Those are both perfectly acceptable English ales which are great if you're into that sort of thing.

                          1. re: Josh

                            I had them both, I am sure, while in hotels in central London.

                            Here I just have such a selection, I have not bought them. I typically without thinking, aim for the Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Russia beers when shopping. Sort of an involuntary magnetism.

                      2. I have no idea what point you're trying to make here, but I will respond to your assertion that "Craft beer has always been around." Well, maybe if you're under 40; Not in the United States, anyway.

                        I'm old enough to remember when all that was widely available was essentially one flavor of beer made by one of a few corporate mega-breweries. The few regional breweries (most of which had been killed by Prohibition), with a very few exceptions, were mostly making the same style as the majors.

                        If you wanted decent beer back then, you got imported--which as a practical matter was pre-selected not by quality but by marketing reach. There was good stuff available, but it wasn't necessarily the best.

                        So from an historical perspective, that comment makes no sense at all.

                        23 Replies
                        1. re: TVHilton

                          Thank you for that historical note. Very interesting. I can understand this. I witnessed it as a child, in the 70s. as I peered at the adult world.

                          1. re: jonkyo

                            I am Canadian so I don't know all the details, but I believe at some point during Jimmy Carter's presidency there was deregulation of many barriers that kept people from getting into the beer brewing business.

                            For a few decades prior to that time there was almost no access allowed to brewing equipment, unless you were a giant industrial producer who paid a fortune for it. The result was that a few generations of Americans simply did not know how to make beer, and couldn't even learn if they wanted to. Even the concept of a brew-pub was mostly banned by state regulations.

                            The craft beer explosion today is the result of those restrictions finally being lifted and the next generation of people finally being able to learn how to do it themselves, and to be able to access the equipment needed to do it.

                            Here's an interesting look at it from a graph perspective:


                            1. re: JDAWG

                              I am not just being a total homer but I honestly believe that the best place in the world for beer right now is the USA.

                              1. re: jpc8015

                                I envy you. I live in Ontario and there are a lot of people producing great beer here, and attempting to create a great market for it, but it's almost impossible to make it a commercially viable operation since we have the most bizarre beer distribution system on Earth: "The Beer Store". A retail chain, owned by Labatt, Coors, and Sapporo, that was granted a literal monopoly over stores that sell beer. As you can imagine, they sell almost nothing that isn't their own product. The government has their own liquor stores that also carry some beer, but they put very little effort into developing that side of the business (wine and liquor get almost all the shelf space) and getting even local craft beer on to the shelf is a huge hassle.


                                1. re: JDAWG

                                  That is too bad. I could see Canada as a hotbed for some great craft brewing.

                              2. re: JDAWG

                                More or less. There are actually a couple of key events here. The first was a bill making it legal, for the first time since Prohibition, to make beer at home (that's the bill Carter signed). The second was state-level legislation making it legal (again, for the first time since Prohibition) to sell beer at the place of production (i.e., brewpubs); Oregon and California were the first, in the early '80s, but other states quickly followed.

                                The former sparked explosive growth in the craft/hobby of homebrewing. Some of those hobbyists, obviously, went on to turn it into a profession.

                                The latter, though, is what made micro-brewing economically viable. It created a channel for selling beer that didn't depend on distributors, on fighting for shelf space, on bottling facilities, and so on. You could produce beer in miniscule amounts (compared to the big breweries that dominated the market) and actually make it pay.

                                And if you look at that graph, you can see that the single greatest leap is from 1988 to 1998. The 1988 figure reflects some of the brewpub laws, obviously, but the explosive growth comes in the following decade.

                                The legalization of homebrewing wouldn't have led to much of anything if brewpub laws hadn't created a commercial outlet for experimentation and specialty beers.

                                1. re: TVHilton

                                  Very good, though I am not checking any of the details of the history, so taking your word for it, it does match the history that I can retrospectively, see first hand.

                                  Practices of regulation are often in favour of powers of domination. Liberal thinkers, like Carter, in the end, supports policy that is more towards egalitarian, to the disadvantage, to some extend of the privileged and monopolistic.

                                  I had heard that money corrupted the microbrew scene with large companies buying out the small business brewing enthusiasts, thus killing to some extent, many brew pubs.

                                  In NYC, it was early 1990s that may have been the best for the brew pub scene.

                                  What I detect here now is distribution and marketing that has distorted the advantageous aspects of what you state: "It created a channel for selling beer that didn't depend on distributors, on fighting for shelf space, on bottling facilities"

                                  In Ithica, The Capter House used to brew their own beer, making it a special place, though in the recent decade or more, they have gone al out serving from dozens of taps, though none their own.

                                  "I used to go their often after jazz gigs in Ithaca. .... It is my understanding that they no longer brew their own, which is a shame"

                                  "or a little while they had their own brewing setup, but it took valuable floor space.."

                                  So it seems revenue is more important than the actual art of brewing and serving for some these days. The market seems to be going national, and that is a turn off. I suspect that brew pubs are not feasible to open these days, unless one has large overhead first from good distribution on the beer one makes.

                                  Possibly, the distribution network has killed to some extent, the more localized brewing market. I remember in the early 1990s, getting a bottle in the mail from friend out west or elsewhere, some interesting rendition of ale or stout.

                                  Property value in some areas kill some enthusiast's opportunity to open brew pubs.

                                  If it is a rarity and unique, by all means ship it across the Mississippi, but otherwise, there are beers brewed right in ones own state or regions, the likes for this beer drinker, have yet to sample due to Craft major players crowding out the smaller ones. These might be the taps that one is unable to avoid seeing, staring you in the face at every turn.

                                  Such major players are Lagunitas Brewing, Firestone, Flying Dog, Dogfish, Founders, etc. just to name a few of them.

                                  Being in NY, anywhere in NY State or New England New Jersey, I expect to see a Brooklyn Lager or Ale taps, but what is craft beer with migrants from California and Michigan crowding the row of taps.

                                  'Top 50
                                  U.S. Craft Brewing
                                  Companies" based on 2013 sales


                                  1. re: jonkyo

                                    Another sleeve of crackers from the briefcase for CH's Travis Bickle talking to himself in the mirror.

                                    1. re: Silverjay

                                      outings audio take while ordering at the bar, example of what is repeated weekly:

                                      customer"where is it brewed"

                                      server "ah...good question..I don't know..let's see..."

                                      customer "I take it you just started working here..."

                                      server "nah....not really....been here awhile, since noon"

                                      customer "No, I meant at the job"

                                      server "nah...stared last year sometime....I can look online if you wait a sec...or find my co-worker...hang on..."

                                      customer "well, I will get this one instead, had that before..."

                                      1. re: Silverjay

                                        You've shattered the myth of Internet know it alls

                                        1. re: MVNYC

                                          Projection is the tendency whereby one denies negative or bad traits in oneself, that he or she actually possesses, while at the same time, has a propensity to apply the guilt of possessing such traits, to others.

                                          1. re: MVNYC

                                            I do not know what beer goes good with projection, but surely, it is a craft beer.

                                            1. re: MVNYC

                                              The comment about "an internet know it all" is gone. That was the projection I was referring too.

                                              Maybe it was an apparition.

                                              Moon River Brewing Company makes Apparition Ale.

                                              Love that song, Moon River (月河), I often apply beers to my appetite while listening to it, Craft or not are permissible.

                                            2. re: jonkyo

                                              Buddy there are plenty of local breweries that are available at the beer bars you denigrate with multiple taps. Try looking for Single Cut, Barrier and Defiant to name a few.

                                              You bash th distribution system and our local beer bars with multiple taps. Yet those are the places where you can find hyper local stuff.

                                              What I've loved about chowhound over the years is the ability to learn from others that know more than I do about a particular topic. This ain't a soap box pal

                                              1. re: MVNYC

                                                "Single Cut, Barrier and Defiant"

                                                I shall check this out.


                                                1. re: MVNYC

                                                  how many thank you or thanks from me on this thread....

                                                  prior to the last...

                                                  1. re: MVNYC

                                                    'What I've loved about chowhound over the years is the ability to learn from others that know more than I do "

                                                    I like that too.

                                                  2. re: jonkyo

                                                    My point above is not to be a wise guy. My point is, there are levels of serious connoisseurs, and then there are casual connoisseurs. Also there are people who are not connoisseur.

                                                    Never any hard feelings in these exchanges I sketch above, but it does impinge upon the topic here.

                                                    That being the quality one gets with die hard enthusiasts behind the bar....even if it is just for a casual chat one what they have and how popular those beers have been.

                                                    1. re: jonkyo

                                                      I find it funny you have a problem with someone wanting to know about the beer they're about to consume.

                                                      1. re: Josh

                                                        The problem is that I have a problem not getting answers, to questions directed at servers in bars...bartenders, such as 'what state is it from....where is it from.....etc"

                                                        "you have a problem with someone wanting to know about the beer they're about to consume"

                                                        I am the consumer.

                                                  3. re: jonkyo

                                                    I've worked in Ithaca for the last couple summers with many other fans of high quality beers. Chapter House has plenty of great beers from small producers but 5 minutes away, you can hit up Bandwagon that can do a flight of 8 beers all made entirely on the premises with their own hops. Not to mention the actual Ithaca Brewery, the cider producers at the farmer's markets, etc. These places are mobbed all the time and proud of serving true craft brews. I had similar experiences in Ashville, NC and even the gas station near the place I grew up in NH now stocks beers made in tiny quantities at a one-man operation. In any case, I don't know that Ithaca is the best example of a place that has forgone small-scale quality for profit.

                                                    1. re: JeremyEG

                                                      Love the Chapter House. Went to Cornell in the late 80's early 90's so I was there when it was in its true brew pub phase and as a poor but curious student I found the beer amazing and I wanted to know more and experience everything... now 25 years later im old and jaded have had every bourbon barreled imperial sour super rare one off you can name. And I still have fond memories of eating stale popcorn and playing darts at the Chapter House and drinking the house porter... That being said the multi tap set up they have now makes it a must stop when Im back visiting the old school.

                                                      1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                        I love old days myself. Have not been there in ages, so can't say anything about their newy-ness aspects. I am sure it keeps them in business.

                                                        There is always McSorely's.

                                          2. The market appeal reduces "Craft Beer....[to ].. what Thomas Moore’s Soul Mates and Chicken Soup for the Soul is to philosophy and metaphysics, or psychology. "

                                            That does not mean that within the market, or out of it for that matter, there does not exist a value that is quenching.

                                            I had a German Craft beer, recommended to me by an individual who stated "it is the best beer in the cooler" or something similar to such a statement.

                                            It was not bad...but it was not as good as some old brewers in Germany. It was far below Kostritzer, and almost level to Stella. I enjoyed it, but not to the extent that it was stated I would enjoy it.

                                            The beer:

                                            Some smoked beer, with 'f' as the first word.

                                            They reach, and some achieve, but the arms of many of these crafts, are not long enough.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: jonkyo

                                              Probably Freigeist. They make a lot of experimental beers, and definitely aren't "the best" anything. It's not the fault of the people making all this beer that, as with any scene that becomes popular, nudniks may not really grok the concept.

                                              1. re: Josh

                                                rec'd for Stranger In A Strange Land reference!

                                                1. re: Josh

                                                  Yes, that was the name of the smoked beer. Interesting assessment. Thanks.

                                              2. My bad. I missed that this was another "jonkyo" thread. Time to move along...

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: SP1

                                                  I'm sorry. I shouldn't have encouraged him. I didn't know.