Sloppy and lazy, two words to describe many an article that mentions craft beer when printed or published by what one might term established media. Too often have I read things like craft beer is just a fad or passing phase and far too often have I read that craft beer drinkers are hipsters. That last one is insulting both to craft beer drinkers and probably hipsters too. I don’t think I even know any hipsters and I'm one of the biggest craft beer supporters in the country.
There has been many an article following this lazy journalistic approach but the latest one was published on Tuesday on independent.ie by Nick Webb. This isn't a personal attack on Nick but it is an attack on the completely lazy approach to journalism that seems to have encroached on what was once a respected media. It’s not an attack on the independent as such either because I know journalists that work for the independent that do understand the craft beer scene and do have journalistic integrity. Nick is just unfortunate to be the latest journalist to piss me off with sloppiness and cynicism.
This is going to be a bit of a rant and contain profanities. If you don’t like rants or profanities, here’s a picture of fluffy bunnies being cute.
The article in question can be found here and the title is: From truckers and brewers to builders and the tax payer - the winners and losers from Budget 2016. Sounds good so far, it’s a business orientated look at Budget 2016.
OK so I move down to the bit that interests me. The paragraph on the drinks industry:
Drinks Industry: Apart from the hipsters running the craft beer sector, the drinks industry – publicans and major brewers and importers – got no relief. Super high excise duties on booze weren’t touched, which means that Ireland remains one of the most expensive places in the Western world to buy a bottle of Montepulciano.
I have underlined what I have a problem with. Hipsters running the craft beer sector? I don’t know of a single hipster running anything of note, let alone anything in the craft beer sector. They certainly don’t own any breweries and it’s the brewers/brewery owners he is phrasing this towards as they are the only winners in the budget. Not only is this an ignorant, derogatory remark which shows a clear cynicism on his part, it also shows a complete lack of understanding of the word hipster. If you don’t know what a word means, use a fucking dictionary or at least Google it.
I also have a problem with the word booze. Another derogatory term for an alcoholic beverage that’s enjoyed responsibly by the majority of the population, in moderation. When consumed in moderation, is beneficial to one’s health but it’s the word booze is not as insulting as hipster so let’s stick with that.
According to the Collins dictionary, a hipster is the following:
a person who follows trends that he or she regards as being outside the mainstream
According to Wikipedia:
The hipster subculture is one of affluent or middle class young Bohemians who reside in gentrifying neighbourhoods, broadly associated with indie and alternative music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility (including vintage and thrift store-bought clothes), generally progressive political views, organic and artisanal foods, and alternative lifestyles. The subculture typically consists of white millennials living in urban areas. It has been described as a "mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behaviour".
Personally, I think Urban Dictionary gets it right here.
What’s my point? None of these definitions include the word brewer, brewery or even the term craft beer. Hipsters in the US have been known to drink PBR. They like irony and I think they find it ironic to drink a mainstream beer that no one else drinks. It wasn't marketed like other big beer so hipsters were drawn to it.
Getting away from brewers and brewery owners then. What about the consumer? Are craft beer drinkers actually hipsters? Fuck no! We are normal people who like two things about what we term craft beer. We like that it has flavour and isn't watered down fizzy liquid. We also like that it’s usually an independent, small business. We don’t drink it to look cool or stand out from the mainstream. We just think it’s a better product and if the big boys start making better products, many craft beer drinkers will happily drink those products. It’s that simple. Some of the more zealous among us will still look to drink beer from an Independent brewery over a mass produced beer, even if the mass produced beer is just as good. That doesn't make us hipsters. Is anyone who prefers Irish cheese over imported cheese because it’s Irish a hipster? Of course not, that would be a ridiculous line of thought.
OK so if it’s clear that craft beer drinkers are not hipsters, why label us as such? Well, many so called hipsters do drink craft beer in Ireland but here’s the thing. Hipsters often like things that aren't popular and craft beer is popular these days so perhaps they are all drinking something that’s not popular, something no longer advertised. The ideal hipster drink in Ireland isn't craft beer, it’s a pint of Harp and they are welcome to it.
One can only assume that the dismissive use of derogatory terms to refer to craft beer drinkers is because the journalists in question believe that craft beer is a phase, a fad, something that will go away when people get bored. This again shows a complete lack of journalistic integrity because all it takes is a little historical research and just a bit of common sense.
Take this little infographic here. I'm sure you have seen similar statements floating around Facebook.
Commercial beer as we know it only really started during the industrial revolution. In fact it was the commercialisation of beer that helped make it such a success. Many modern inventions, right down to the production line can be directly attributed to brewing beer but I'm digressing a little.
Is it a fad?
I wrote about this very subject on The Journal last year. This was in direct response to an attack on craft beer in a courtroom by the VFI. Feel free to read it if you like but the gist of it was this. Craft beer has many definitions but one main theme seems to be that it’s produced in small batches by an independently owned brewery and not on a massive industrial scale by a drinks company which owns many such breweries around the world.
Before the industrial revolution, all beer was craft beer. It was produced locally using local ingredients and sold to local people. After industrialisation and the amalgamation of most breweries in to large brewing conglomerates, craft beer persisted in a small regional way in some countries but was wiped out entirely in most, Ireland was one of those countries. By the 1980s, only the big three remained and it wasn't until the late 90s that we saw our first independent breweries start to open again.
Since big beer only started a few hundred years ago, but humans have been brewing beer for at least 5000 years and probably longer, which brewing process do you think is actually the fad? The 5000+ year old small scale, small batch, independent brewing or the 200 year old industrial scale brewing? Getting back to the infographic: Compressing the earth’s history in to 46 hours shows commercial beer is 1 minute old and craft beer is a few hours.
It’s not bloody rocket science people!
And when the zombie apocalypse comes, and all industry falls, we will still be brewing locally produced beer in small batches. That's right people, craft beer will survive a fucking zombie apocalypse! On that day, we will use the hipsters as canon fodder to protect the beer.
So, for any journalists or aspiring journalists reading this, please show a little bit of journalistic integrity when you write an article. Not just for the benefit of readers but for your own reputations also.
That’s the end of my rant. Thanks for reading if you got this far. I think I might dress up as a hipster for Halloween because I will find it ironic….. Either that or a journalist.
If you want to read on craft beer in the independent, just stick to journalists like Gavin McLoughlin. He checks his sources and does so often. I know because I'm one of them.
If there are any mistakes in this piece, sorry but I'm not a journalist. I'm just a writer. I'm a person who likes to drink beer and write about it.