As a resident of a college town, I’ve had the opportunity to see bar after bar over the last year and a half (read: since my 21st) add craft beer to their taps and bottle lists. Terrapin, being the local brew, has gotten its foot into the door of many bars whose glasses (or plastic pitchers, to be more precise) hadn’t seen anything but American light lagers before. An appreciation for better beer has seemed to spread quickly, and I often overhear my neighbors at the bar exchanging critiques of their beer. The demand for well-crafted beer seems to be here to stay, so what’s wrong? A bar that carries craft beer, but treats it the same as their penny power-hour beer is doing is no victory at all!
Sure, craft beer is being exposed to new audiences who can appreciate its superior flavor and character, but these masses are being introduced in the wrong way. A revolution has been underway in the food industry for quite a while now, and people have demanded food that celebrates its ingredients with careful preparation. You wouldn’t order a locally sourced Wagyu burger and accept having it handed to you in a paper wrapper. In the same way, I don’t want a $7 beer from Maine in a plastic cup (or straight from the bottle, for that matter). I’ve dealt with too many bartenders who’ve had no idea what beer I was even ordering. If they did know what beers they had on tap, then they often failed to even pour a full pint.
So what’s the next step in the craft beer revolution? The quality of beer is better than ever, the distribution of beer is quick and expedited (debates on the three-tier system aside, we’re able to get an abundance of fresh beer throughout the country), but the service and consumption of craft beer must now catch up to the advances in brewing and shipping. Retailers, servers, and drinkers alike must be educated to appreciate what makes craft beer special. All the efforts and intentions of farmers and brewers can be sacrificed by improper storage or service. Initiatives such as Ray Daniels’ Cicerone Certification Program are the start, but these programs will mostly affect the professional sector, and a limited portion at that. Craft beer lovers must educate themselves and their friends, and demand proper service of craft beer. I’m not imploring you to become a beer snob (or remain one if you’re already there), but if craft beer is treated the same as that diluted adjunct-filled concoction, what’s the point?