May 29, 2007

Mug Shots: It’s a matter of principle

I’m often asked to explain why I “hate” megabrewers, a term that denotes the polar opposite of microbrewers, who as a whole specialize in brewing craft beer, as opposed to the industrial swill produced by the world’s largest mass-market brewing corporations.The word “hate” really isn’t appropriate. It is a simplistic word with connotations that aren’t germane. I don’t hate megabreweries; rather, I’m contemptuous of them, and my contempt derives from philosophical, not emotional, objections.Permit me to review just three of them:1) Megabreweries have been responsible for transforming the art of brewing — for millennia a small-scale agricultural and artisanal endeavor — into the soulless technological rendering of a mere commodity. It isn’t necessary. As once was the case, all the beer we need can be brewed by small breweries in every town, not in sprawling factories better suited for cogs, shoes or widgets.2) The megabrewing business model is fundamentally predatory. Remember that A-B got to be an 800-pound gorilla by under-pricing local brewers into an early grave, then pursuing a distribution and wholesaling strategy that kept competition to a minimum, at least until the microbrewing insurgency of the past two decades.3) Megabrewing as a production, marketing and advertising construct fosters a regrettable atmosphere of zombie-like vacancy in the populace. Generations of American beer drinkers have no idea what beer really tastes like. What’s more, how many people regularly retreat to chain bars and look-alike restaurants to lament the passing of a comprehensible, human-scale economy, all the while punctuating their condemnations of globalization and out-sourcing with gulps of megabrewed light lager — itself a prime example of the disease in question … and never grasp the irony?As we revolutionaries like to say, “Think globally — drink locally.”Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit www.potablecurmudgeon.com for more beer.