If a beer writer falls down in a bar and there’s no one there to hear it, do they make a sound? Or do they just Instagram it instead?
– Pete Brown
The photo at the top was taken at Altes Mädchen Braugasthaus, a sprawling brewery, bakery, restaurant, biergarten and bottle shop in Hamburg. (Customers pass through the Craft Beer Store entering and leaving.) As well as Ratsherrn beers brewed on site, there’s plenty of other beer from small and larger breweries inside and outside of Germany. It is a fine place to land after a day or two of Christmas markets and other Hamburg experiences, such as the sobering St. Nikolai Memorial and museum.
The evening and the beer were different than at Banana Jam Cafe in Cape Town, South Africa, at Brewberry in Paris, at Turtle’s Bar & Grill in Shakopee, Minn., at Cervejaria Unika on a Brazilian hillside, or at scores of locations I somehow ended up in last year. And that is how it should be. It’s not like I didn’t already know how big and diverse the beer world is, or that sharing time over beer shouldn’t be just about the beer.
But I thought about these places, and others, flying back from London and sorting through all the posts I’d tucked into Pocket during December. That’s the context for pointing to these three in particular.
2017 was a crummy year for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest reasons, at least for me, is the beer-related question I keep coming back to over and over again this year: Is beer fun anymore? I mean, it used to be, at least some of the time. But for a number of reasons, it just doesn’t feel like it is anymore. More often than not, being into beer in 2017 felt more like a chore than something we all enjoy.
Obviously, this isn’t a new thing. Maybe it’s just all the other crummy things that pushed it over the edge. But, to me, a lot of the the beer world has drifted — much like the broader world — toward a default state of exclusivity, privilege, and reactionism. I hate to be a downer here, but there are just so many really shitty things out there [a lengthy list followed].
– Adam Morrissey, 2017 at DC Beer
I think the story of next year will be credibility of information sources ‘reporting’ on craft beer. With things like the Anheuser-Busch InBev purchase of RateBeer, people are, and should be, considering the dependability and more interestingly the intentions of sources ‘reporting’ on beer.
– Augie Carton, Carton Brewing Company, one of 15 brewers making predictions about 2018 for VinePair.
Beer writing has expanded so much in the last twenty years, and we as writers must now think carefully about what role we want to perform. Not a single one of us can be an expert in every single aspect of it. You can’t be a newshound, and a flavour expert, and have an academic knowledge of the history of brewing, and be an industry analyst, and have a perspective on alcohol policy, and an in-depth knowledge of global beer styles, and be an effective campaigning voice for cask ale, all at the same time. It’s not possible.
– Pete Brown, from a speech at the Beer Writers’ Dinner
The 60-page drinks (not just beer) menu at Altes Mädchen Braugasthaus serves to introduce customers to a beer world, or part of one, they may not know existed. We saw plenty of four-beer tasters being delivered to tables. But we also saw a woman looking particularly unhurried as she spent most of the 90 minutes we were there with the same half liter of beer, methodically working her way through the newspaper she was reading.
Just as in 2011 and the years since I’m not inclined to make predictions. Instead I will observe and report back.