Thursday, February 5, 2015

About That Spoof

The ad that cannot be mentioned without whipping up a veritable cyclone of spittle flecked craft fury has certainly lead to an outpouring of media commentary. Whether it's fellow bloggers going all Roger the Rabbit and counting the ways they are offended, Twitter groaning under the weight of outrage and calls for boycotts, or retaliatory videos like the one below...

Of course it is a well made video and of course it brings up the seemingly age old canard of craft beer being made by hand, a myth which I dealt with in more detail here. The video claims that craft beer is brewed 'the actual hard way', which is of course understood as being the mythical 'by hand' method.

My first reaction when I saw that part of the video was that it reminded me of those arguments you had on the school playground about who's dad was bigger, or harder, or whatever. Another thought that went through my mind was the number of times I have heard craft brewers and drinkers claim that decoction mashing is no longer necessary for making Pislner style lagers because 'modern malts are more modified', where then is the commitment to doing things the 'actual hard way' and doing a decoction mash rather than single infusion?

It would seem to me at times the 'actual hard way' is really just a fig leaf for having a production capacity where automation is not needed because the volumes of beer being brewed are manageable without computers and other modern technology. From what I have heard from head brewers in a number of companies, more advanced automation becomes a necessity once you reach about 30,000 barrels of beer per year - a number which is about the production of Virginia's largest independent brewery.

Once a brewery gets to the point of brewing 16 million barrels of a single beer per year, I think Anheuser-Busch's total production is about 120 million barrels, so even the flagship is only 10%, then state of the art technology is an absolute necessity.

Brewing by (mythological) hand then is not really the 'hard way', it is the only viable way for small breweries who don't have the capital, market share, or need for automation. Once a brewery becomes a big company, and there are plenty of such businesses in the self-proclaimed 'craft' sector, then brewing the 'easy' way with computerised automation becomes the only way to keep up and keep growing.

It's fairly evident that there actually isn't an easy or hard way of making beer, it's all a question of scale.


  1. I have to say, AB certainly got value for money with that ad. A week later and people are still talking about it. I wonder how many people decided to try a Budweiser, even if it was just to say I tried it again and it's still as shit as I remember.
    I also wonder how many people have started drinking Budweiser as a big FU to the so called peach pumpkin drinking hipsters.

  2. hipsters drink PBR