Your favourite brewery is probably lying to you. You probably know that already though, you just don’t want to admit it.
Breweries lie. Constantly. Companies lie. Constantly. People lie. Constantly.
Lets start with St Bernardus and their claim (from their website): “All our beers are brewed with our own yeast, malts of the highest quality and hops from our own hopfield right next to the brewery”. They don’t even own that hopfield and they use hop extract. A big tin of it they punch holes into and huck right into the boil. Westvleteren use the same method too. But of course they are traditional recipes right?
How about saison as a style? A style that literally just means season and was born out of farmhouses and shared town-breweries using whatever was available, but we’ve just accepted that if a brewer puts some prepackaged yeast into a standard malt bill that it’s a saison. Even if it has no connection to the style whatsoever.
Breweries are pumping out “lambic” beers that have no business being called lambic in any way. “West Coast” IPAs are constantly released that are more akin to chewing on a bag of crystal malt, Mountain Goat Steam Ale couldn’t be less of a steam ale. People love pointing out that big-brewery-owned Tui East India Pale Ale isn’t an ale, yet there are more than a few craft breweries doing the same yeast trickery*. Speaking of saisons, Harringtons in NZ put one out and bottle literally said “a Belgian Style Golden Lager” and was “traditionally brewed with Nelson hops”. How either statement can be put on a saison with a straightface is beyond me. Where was the outrage in New Zealand about that?
Breweries shouting about their independence and difference from the big boys still have investors. This shit ain’t cheap and even Dogfish Head, who have made independence a cornerstone of their brand, have private equity investment. But of course no one complains about that because we like Dogfish Head. It’s ok when “they” do it. And do we honestly think all of the stories of homebrewers turned pro simply just bought some equipment one day and opened up a commercial operation? So romantic isn’t it.
My point is, craft beer drinkers and commentators (myself included) are selective when it comes to who we criticise and who we don’t, so when Brewdog released all of their recipes yesterday – which is an awesome move – predictably people got to nit-picking about their story of being homebrewers with a dream, or how this is all just a marketing move.
I have many issues with Brewdog and don’t drink their beer for a number of reasons but to pretend they are any different than 90% of the other breweries out there is pretty ridiculous. They are all marketing, they are all lying, and they are all stretching the truth. Brewdog just happen to be really damn good at it.
And maybe we need to be selective. Maybe I didn’t say anything about Harringtons because I quite like them. If CUB put out a Spontaneously Fermented series that wasn’t spontaneously fermented I would probably get a week’s worth of content out of it. When Doctors Orders and Bridge Road did it, I made a couple of passive aggressive comments on Untappd and that was it. Meanwhile Bridge Road have always pushed their “truth in labelling” barrow hard. Again, I like them so I don’t say anything. Maybe in my mind I want them to succeed more than I want Brewdog or CUB to succeed so I pretend it’s not happening.
I guess what it all boils down to is that we are all hypocrites and liars. It’s probably how we evolved to this point. One ape tricked another ape into trading some good fruit for some bad fruit and the trickster ate the good fruit and the other got sick and died; while the community turned a blind eye.
A bunch of apes is all we really are.
What a nonsensical conclusion.
*(I would name and shame but honestly I’ve forgotten… because they are breweries I like I just ignored it and carried on sans-outrage like a hypocrite)