Thursday, June 23, 2011

Just Watched 'Beer Wars'...

I just had a look at the Beer Wars movie/documentary, and have to say I was happy to be able to get that sort of understanding of the brewing scene in the States. It was interesting to see this week that Fosters knocked back a bid by one of the 'big guys' and funny to see the two ends of the scale happening here in Australia. Ok, so we are not at the stage of the Americans, but there is a definite growth in craft brewing over the past 5-10 years here in Oz, so is interesting to see while there are more smaller players coming on the scene, the international big brewers are trying buy out our domestic big brewers.

It is pretty easy to look at the big guys and just see greed, especially against the opposite end of small breweries trying to focus on flavour and making good beer while trying to keep their breweries afloat in the marketplace. Being a simple bloke, I am probably only more receptive to see this greed in the big/international players. Still, being this simple bloke, I end up coming back to one thing...the beer. If the big guys came out with a decent beer, I would probably drink it...I mean I still look at Tooheys Old with nostalgia, as the first beer I can remember enjoying to some degree. Still, now I would prefer a Brew Dog Zeitgeist over it (in the style of Black Lager), as I have used the Old as a start, not an end to finding my flavour, and interesting flavours in beer.

One of the great comparisons I loved in the movie was that you wouldn't base your understanding of beer on mainstream beers, just as you wouldn't base an understanding of food on the fast food giants. Accessibility should be only one aspect, not 'the' aspect that draws us to something. Maybe it is just our lifestyles that have made this factor prevalent in our decision making process, whereas I have given more time (and so thought and energy) to question, find and even attempt to make beer I will enjoy more.

I guess without the distribution issues here is Australia as they have in the States, we don't have to look so much locally to find 'our' type of beer. Still, putting on my environmentally conscious hat on, there would be less need for transportation and bottling if we drank more locally brewed beers. However, without some outside influence we may stop looking to do better with beer, and the mainstream might gain back some momentum. With the information age, it is much easier to share recipes now, and I guess it may be less of an impact to transport ingredients than ready to drink beer. In their search for efficiency, the big international brewers have used this technique by licensing contract brewers to make a certain beer in each country, or sending beer extract so that water can be added. Still, I see microbrewers that search the world for their ingredients, so they can make similar styled beers here in Australia. As I have said previously, it only takes small changes in the ingredients to bring about massive change in the character of beer, and the differing environments around the world bring these differences naturally.

I guess what I am getting at that was one of the main things I saw in the movie was instead of the competition that builds in beer industry, industry in itself and where we are as a society, collaboration is a more natural attribute, which we will need anyway to help diminish the impact mainstream beer has. Sorry, I have changed from Capra's 'Web of Life' to Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring' in the reading I am doing, so the environmental slant is continuing in my musings. Still, I am happy to say that collaborations seem to be a big thing at the moment, in terms of brewers from different breweries across the road or across the world getting together to learn more and make better beer with each other. This is the sort of inclusiveness that will help build a ground swell of interest in craft beer, I hope.

Anyway, another issue I found from watching the movie, was just that sheer amount of different beer in the States. Once you opened yourself to the world of craft brewing over there, you would see an overwhelming amount of choice available, and would almost want to turn back to your Bud, Coors or Miller, just so you wouldn't have an overbearing decision of what to drink put in front of you. Per capita we are probably getting to a similar situation in Australia, having a tenth of the population, and maybe about the same fraction in the amount of breweries in comparison, but the creativity needed having that many breweries in the States is enormous. Luckily for me though, I am a stout man, so the awash of lagers and pale ales our aussie industry has means I have a better chance of trying out my style of beer from the different breweries here. Still, even with that I have a lot of trouble keeping up, and so there are probably many stouts just in Australia I am still yet to try, which in a way helps keep me going in that unending search for better/more interesting beer.

In the end, like I already said, I will always come back to one I have found, and continue to find, my own taste in beer, and so would ask that everyone else try and find your own. When I talk to someone new to beer, I try to ask the questions they should ask themselves to help them find a beer they will enjoy, as I am pretty sure it can be found, and if they are having trouble, they could even consider brewing themselves to find it. Versatile and accessible...the potential in beer. Ok, I'll stop now.



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