Monday, December 19, 2011

Me and Sierra.

Last week, I briefly found myself having a conversation with what seemed like half the country, by way of Twitter and It made my fingers tired.

Ostensibly, the chat had to do with the possibility that Sierra Nevada, which has been brewing in California for 31 years, might soon open a second brewery in the vicinity of Asheville, North Carolina.

The questions I was asking of Sierra Nevada last week had to do with ideas in the form of concepts of locality and appellations of origin, formal or implied. These might be summarized like this: If your metaphorical image has derived from one sense of place for three decades, does it remain the same image should production be conducted elsewhere? Are you still the same, or do you change?

A representative from Sierra Nevada joined the discussion, and it became obvious that the company had been thinking deeply about questions like mine for quite some time. I’d be very surprised if it hadn’t. Significantly, it was evident that I was speaking the same language as Sierra Nevada’s people; my questions were understood there, and their answers were understood here.

My eyebrow was raised by the language being spoken by other participants. I was disappointed by the aggressive tone of some remarks, but even more so by the credulity of others. One person held that businesses don’t ever revolutionize, they merely capitalize; this assertion undoubtedly would amuse Steve Jobs and probably Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman, too.

Another wrote that Grossman can do no wrong. Really? I submit that craft brewing surely is a revolution, and also that absolutely none of its standard-bearers is infallible, including me. I seriously doubt that Grossman, whom I have not met, fancies himself as perfect.

Of course, there was not a shred of hostility from this end, nor will there be. At the time of the talk, the NABC Public House & Pizzeria had these three Sierra Nevada beers on tap: Celebration Ale, Torpedo IPA and Ovila Quad. Not a bad lineup, is it? If I really had a grudge against Sierra Nevada, would I be pouring these?

Look, craft beer is growing up. There are many questions to be asked as it does, and in the course of answering these questions, there’ll be much to discuss (over beers, of course). What I learned last week should come as no surprise in "America the Polarized"; while some craft beer lovers feel a sense of entitlement when it comes to the plethora of choice in the marketplace, they have precious little notion of how that cornucopia came to be. 

Our Craft Nation, circa 2011, came to be because of a revolution, and that revolution had (and continues to have) certain precepts. These are mutable and subject to revision. Questions constitute an opportunity to educate, to learn, and to know. They are not threats. 

C'mon, people. Without better thinking, what possible usefulness can there be in better drinking? 

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