Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Mug Shots dialogue in LEO.

When I learned that a Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO) reader had written to the editor of the alternative weekly newspaper to take me to task for a viewpoint expressed in my twice-monthly Mug Shots column, I was absolutely ecstatic.

It meant that someone was reading. You should know that writers are vain that way; we like to be read, as opposed to unread. If any of us tell you differently, don't believe it.

Following is the original letter and the response that I was asked to compose. Since then, I've thought at some length about the perspective expressed by Mr. Knisely, and while I'm sticking with my answer -- rather diplomatic by my usual standards (thanks, Cary) -- it seems to me that his complaint is analogous to that of Harpo Marx, as explained by his brother Chico, who watched as the silent comic angrily tore a book to shreds:

“He gets mad because he can’t read.”


Not Hoppy

Frequently in Roger Baylor’s Mug Shots column, we readers receive lessons about why we should drink delicious local craft beer, and why we should never waste our time or money on mass-produced and mass-marketed megabrewery beer.

I can relate to the sentiment. Seriously. Being a fan of independent restaurants and music and movies, I naturally see the good reasons for avoiding McBeer or Wal*Beer. But I am consistently frustrated by Baylor and the microbreweries in town for taking such a good idea and making it almost completely inaccessible to those of us who do not enjoy heavy, hoppy beer.

Some of us who do love beer just so happen to honestly prefer a light-tasting (if not low-cal), smooth lager that doesn’t taste like a glass full of hops. What are we to do? Does Baylor’s NABC (New Albanian Brewing Co.) offer us the quality craft beer that we want? There’s BBC, and sure, they rarely have Darby on tap, but it’s never bottled and sold in stores like their other brews. Cumberland Brews? Nope.

If we can’t go to one of the local brewing establishments and get a non-hoppy smooth lager, let alone go home with a couple six-packs to put in the fridge for at-home enjoyment on a Sunday afternoon, is it any wonder that we’ll end up just going to the liquor store on the corner to obtain a light lager that we can afford and whose taste and availability we can rely on? Please, Mr. Baylor & Co., scolding us into drinking beer we don’t like doesn’t help us. We sincerely want to frequent your establishments and stock your local brews in our refrigerators. Please consider crafting a lager that isn’t all humulus, and we’ll gladly consider swearing off the McBeer.

--Derek Knisely, Louisville


***Editor’s Note: LEO ran this letter by Roger Baylor to see if he had any comments or recommendations. Here’s what he had to say:

I sincerely regret that Mr. Knisely isn’t into Humulus lupulus, but fortunately there are less hoppy styles of beer to suit every prospective beer advocate like him. As these pertain to Louisville’s craft brewers, it should first be remembered that apart from the downtown BBC brewing and bottling facility (Main & Clay), they deal primarily in draft beer, not bottles. Finding a locally brewed “light-tasting … smooth lager” that is both golden and bottled and coming to you at a price point similar to regional and multinational brewers won’t always be easy, because economies of scale differ when it comes to production and distribution.

Furthermore, small craft brewers generally don’t aim to fill stylistic niches like light lager because industrial brewers do them benignly and cheaply. That said, BBC (Shelbyville Road) brews Kolsch; BBC (Main & Clay) has Gold; Browning’s has a Helles; Cumberland Brews makes Cream Ale; and NABC does the dark but very light flavored Community Dark. All of them fit Mr. Knisely’s description, albeit it on tap. Growlers, anyone? —Roger Baylor


antzman said...

In my humble opinion, a plain lager doth not a craft beer make. I believe that the complainer should stick to something along the lines of Spaten, and not be angry that most microbreweries do not make a simplistic beer that their target market would not enjoy. While the market for good beer is growing, it is still a minority compared to the market that exists for the every day lager. To take care of your core market, the last thing a small brewery needs to create is a recreation of a lifeless, soulless beer that contains a smattering of hops, a few unchoice malts, and little to no flavor. We pick our audience, and play the tunes that we hope will bring them in. We don't play synthesized pop that appeals to the general masses. From what I read, what the complainer is looking for is readily available in the cold boxes of every grocery, convienance, and package store in Kentucky, and that is where he should be shopping. Who knows, maybe some day he will branch out, and try something new, like a Wild Hop, a Chill, a Beach Bum, a Spring Heat, a Bourbon Cask,... oh wait, those are all the same lousy beers. To the complaining party, thanks for reading, and for trying better beers. Try a Kolsch, or a Dortmunder, or a knockoff of a Belgian Wit, and leave the rest of us alone. We want a huge friggin stouts that makes most people cry for their mothers. We want a beer naturally fermented by wild yeasts strains. We want monks to make beer that would make an atheist rethink their beliefs. Otherwise, its just simple bikini clad advertising convincing us that what most people drink is good... and its really not.

The New Albanian said...

C'mon, Todd, tell us what you really think ... but seriously, that's a fine and truthful response.

At some point in any genre of appreciation, a share of the burden must be borne by the individual. When I think of the foods I wouldn't eat when I was a child, and how these comprise the bulk of my intake now, I know that it's indeed possible to learn and grow -- but it takes effort and a willingness to be instructed.