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Midweek beer reading: In defense of passion

This must-watch video started with Rick Sellers and bounced along to a few other blogs. The headline “You do realise that passion is not an ingredient?” at I might have a glass of beer got my attention.

It’s a line from video, used to make the absolutely correct point that a flaw is a flaw no matter how much passion a brewer includes in the recipe. Typing “includes in the recipe” makes the sentence look a little stupid, doesn’t it? But if you consider time an important ingredient in some beers or a brewer’s skill vital in just about any beer then passion is also an important addition.

Even in beers brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot.


  • Is this really trading up? MillerCoors, along with Anheuser Busch, is raising prices on budget beers in a move to get drinkers to trade up to more-expensive brews such as Miller Lite and Bud Light, which struggled in the recession. (From AdvertisingAge and includes a cool “Top Brands” graphic.)
  • Some Colorado breweries are focusing on fewer markets, but — look out &#151 more out-of-state breweries at heading to Colorado.
  • A cultural question. Max asks: “What or who defines the beer culture of a given country? Is it the average consumer or that one with more ‘sophisticated,’ open-minded or whatever tastes, who is actually part of a minority?” For him, it’s the former.
  • On dumbing it down. From A Beer at 6512 post in Durango, Colorado, but this goes on everywhere. “Some customers in Durango seem intent on encouraging the unique and special places we have here to regress to the mean. Coors Light and vodka-Red Bulls for all.”
  • Lighting an ‘Eternal Flame.’ Capital Brewery in Wisconsin is celebrating its 25th anniversary by creating a vertical beer: “The 50 barrels brewed April 17 will sit for a year. Then next April, (brewmaster Kirby) Nelson will brew another 50 barrels and blend it with the 50 barrels brewed this year. After a two-month aging, 50 barrels of the mixture will be bottled in June 2012. The remainder will age for another year and then another 50 barrels will be brewed in 2013 and be mixed with the aged beer. Another 50 barrels will be bottled and sold in four-packs, with the remainder stored for the following year’s batch. The process is intended to go on for years.”
  • A little aged passion. A little fresh passion.

    16 Responses to Midweek beer reading: In defense of passion

    1. Joe Stange April 13, 2011 at 10:09 am #

      “a flaw is a flaw no matter how much passion a brewer includes in the recipe.”

      But what’s a flaw? Who decides? Does passion play into that decision?

    2. Joe Stange April 13, 2011 at 10:15 am #

      And if we need a brewery to use as an example, I’d propose Fantôme.

      I’d call them flawed, plenty of others would disagree. Is it that pesky “eye of the beerholder” thing again?

    3. Matt April 13, 2011 at 10:53 am #

      “Vertical beer?” That’s a Solera, and it’s not exactly a new concept.

    4. Stan Hieronymus April 13, 2011 at 11:24 am #

      Matt – Agreed. Will Meyers at Cambridge has had some Solera barrels going for several years, but that doesn’t make what Capital is doing less interesting.

    5. Stan Hieronymus April 13, 2011 at 11:44 am #

      Joe –

      Even accounting for the fact palates vary I think most would agree that most beers that smell of cabbage are flawed. Let’s say you are at one of those large tastings and somebody opens just such a bottle. Then opens another of the same beer and it is fine. He says, “See, she’s passionate about making good beer. We need to support her.” Well, maybe he or she is passionate about creating some magical flavor, but if he or she wants my money he or she has to be passionate about guaranteeing (within reason) the integrity of every bottle.

      Am I making up own definition? Probably. But it’s easier to guarantee the same flavor time after time if you put less in the beer. The brewers I admire understand they are creating additional work for themselves by striving to put “more” in, then figuring out how to get that flavor all the way to my glass.

      To Fantôme. Having purchased beer at the brewery, opened it that evening (on my birthday, no less) and immediately dumped it (butterscotch bomb) if I were in court arguing New Beer Rule No. 4 was invalid I would use them as an example.

      A beautiful saison one time, the next bottle butter. That’s not art. That’s sloppy.

    6. Chris Quinn April 13, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

      This is mostly to play devil’s advocate, but I’d like to hear your opinions on how the comments above in regards to flaws compare to what you wrote in your earlier post “Is that a beer fault? or Intentional Choice? ( )

      What’t the distinction between Budweiser having traces of a acetaldehyde or Corona knowing it’s beer will likely become skunked, vs Dany Prignon realizing that a sizable portion of his beer gets infected? It seems in all three cases, the brewers are aware of the issue, but for some reason don’t care to correct it.


    7. Pivní Filosof April 14, 2011 at 6:07 am #

      I believe a beer is flawed when the result of the brewing process is not what the brewer intended. The likes of Bud, Corona, etc are like that because that is exactly what their makers want them to be (whatever their reasons for that might be).

      Either way, and as I already said in my blog some time ago, which was also quoted by Stan, no degree of passion can compensate for a lack of skills.

    8. Stan Hieronymus April 14, 2011 at 8:31 am #

      Chris – I think that Max (Pivni Filosof) did the heavy lifting with his answer. A beer should reflect a brewer’s intentions. In the case of Fantôme that what is supposed to be the same beer may vary widely from bottle to bottle seems to suit many drinkers.

      I certainly don’t mind batch-to-batch variations, but I don’t like it when those variations include flavors I don’t like. Too many of those in Fantôme for me.

    9. Jeff Alworth April 14, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

      I wonder if this video represents the first signs of maturation among American beer drinkers, or is just a tiny candle flicker in a great darkness? Either way, a useful public service.

      I love how it renders “lager” as “laygur.”

    10. Mike Kallenberger April 14, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

      Stan, you know you can rely on me to go all theoretical on you. As to the “culture” question — a culture isn’t a simple aggregation of values and opinions, it’s a set of collective, commonly-understood values and meanings — as some theorist once said, it’s not only more than the sum of its parts, it’s different than the sum of its parts. So neither group defines beer culture — it’s defined by the interactions among everyone. But craft beer is dominating the conversation in the U.S., and so I’d say craft drinkers have been the dominant force in the culture. One example: having sat through hundreds of focus groups, I’ve heard many people who love mainstream beer literally refer to their favorite brand as “cheap beer.” (“I only drink cheap beer. I drink Bud Light.”) Craft beer has reframed how even dedicated mainstream drinkers think about their beer.

    11. Mike April 15, 2011 at 2:17 am #

      Not to quibble, but I don’t think passion is quite the right word here. I would propose enthusiasm as more accurate. But, no matter what you call it, without skill it is merely an emotion that can, in the wrong hands, do more harm than good. I think Hollywood is to blame here: from Andy Hardy to the Karate Kid, enthusiasm is depicted as more powerful than skill.

    12. Steve April 15, 2011 at 5:44 am #

      “I love how it renders ‘lager’ as ‘laygur.’”

      Dialect and/or accent. Quite a few of ’em across our vast countryside.

    13. Stan Hieronymus April 15, 2011 at 6:01 am #

      Mike – Maybe “passion” is the marketing term for enthusiasm.

    14. Mike April 15, 2011 at 8:45 am #

      Stan – good point!

    15. Rick April 15, 2011 at 10:51 am #

      Wow! Thanks for posting the video, Stan. I’ve been away and didn’t realize anyone watched that – let alone posted it anywhere. Fun stuff. Oh, don’t over-think the ‘passion’ line – I love the passion in the industry. It just doesn’t make good beer. All the passion in the world won’t make up for poor practices. It certainly makes good beer easy to get excited about though.

    16. David Phillips April 16, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

      Jeff, I also love the way the word “bitter” get the Freudian slip for beer in numerous places.

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