What craft beer can learn from metal
I originally sat down to write about more of my San Diego visit, but then I found inspiration from another source: Sam Calagione’s rant about overrated breweries. (which you can read here: http://beeradvocate.com/forum/read/4343008)
Since I picked up …And Justice for All, I have been a metalhead. Through Metallica, I discovered Slayer, then Iron Maiden, then Testament, S.O.D., Death Angel, Sodom, and the list goes on. Next thing I know, thanks to accidentally tuning in to 91.5 college radio (back in 1994), I was plunged into a whole new world of darkness. I discovered extreme metal. Metallica, Testament, and Death Angel were replaced by Darkthrone, Cannibal Corpse and Decide. What does this have to do with beer you ask? Follow with me.
I used to hate beer…HATED it. Budweiser, Coors, Corona. I asked myself how anyone could drink this crap (Note: I still do.). One day at a wedding, my friend Jason made me reluctantly drink a beer with him. That beer was Newcastle, and a new love for beer began. From Newcastle, it was Guinness, or whatever fancy sounding beer that I could find at my local grocer. After reading an online beer blog, I went in search of Dogfish Head and Stone. My tastebuds, and my life to an extent, would be forever altered.
After my first experiences with true craft beer, I knew I could never go back. From Stone and Dogfish Head, I went on to try Rogue, Anchor, New Belgium, and the like. The more I got into beer, the more I started to seek out lesser known breweries and indulge in the fermented goodness that they had to offer. I still loved my Dogfish Head and my Stone, but I started to see them as breweries that were too well known to satisfy my palette. I made a huge mistake.
Fast forward to the early turn of the century. The bands I mentioned earlier, Darkthrone, Cannibal Corpse and Deicide were not what they used to be. People started calling them mainstream and searching for darker and more obscure music. Xasthur, Leviathan, and Pest were in, while the old guard were overrated. Metal fans became divided. Black metallers hated thrashers. Death heads hated power metallers. The Neo-Socialist black metal fans hated everyone (and everyone hated them). Words such as “trendy” were being aimed at bands that never sold more than 10K records, and the genre became more about street cred, than about the music.
I already see this happening with craft beer fans. People are turning their noses up at great breweries, because they have become “too big.” It’s becoming more about trying the most obscure ales that you can, rather than drinking the more common craft beer that you can find at your local wine shop. Stout fans talking crap about Stone. Porter fans snubbing hef lovers. Everyone still hating InBev fans. (That last one is not a bad thing.)
If you haven’t heard about the bands I listed earlier, I wouldn’t be surprised. I expect it. As metal fans became more divided we effectively killed every chance we had of the bands we love becoming big. As the scene split further and further, the originators were left behind, and new bands still have trouble gaining any following. I wish I could say there is a happy ending to this, but there isn’t.
However, there are bands that have “made it.” I’ll use the bands Enslaved and Emperor as examples. What these bands did, was refuse to rest on their laurels. They continued to experiment and to push the boundaries of what they could do. While the so-called true metalheads may shun them, they have an entire fan base that is happy to enjoy the music that they craft. Sound familiar?
Dogfish Head and Stone have never sat back and become complacent. They continually work at crafting new and interesting brews. They continue to gain new fans and continue to grow.
As craft brew fans, we need to applaud this. We need to support the breweries that are doing things to help the industry grow. When we start throwing around terms like “overrated,” we start to polarize one another, and the community begins to slowly break down. If the community breaks down, then the brewers that work so hard to produce the liquid that we love will never be able to see that work pay off.
I love Stone beer. I love Dogfish Head. I would love to see more and more beer drinkers reaching for 60 min. IPA and Arrogant Bastard than Bud Light and Coors. I myself realized that the more I searched for obscure beer, I was missing out on fantastic beer that was sitting right in front of me.
This is not to say that seeking out new brews is a bad thing. It’s just that we can never forget what got us here, and the breweries that are trying to make it better for everyone. I believe that Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head and Greg Koch from Stone want to see craft beer continue to grow. At the end of the day, they’re beer geeks, just like us. So I urge everyone to continue to spread the word about craft beer and to show respect to all craft breweries.
No one remembers great metal bands such as Manes, Death Reality and Mindset Rage. If we continue to break apart our community, the same fate may be in store for a lot of great breweries.