Required Reading: Ruminations on the culture of sampling

It’s funny how some ideas, some topics, can float around in the back of head like wisps of smoke, just insubstantial enough that you know there’s something on your mind, but you can’t quite get a handle on it.  And then, quite by coincidence, someone goes and hits the nail square on the head – well, in my case, that’s usually hitting the hammer right on the thumb, but I digress – delivering one of those incredibly satisfying “Eureka!” moments.

(And I’m referring to Archimedes there, not the recently cancelled show on the cable channel formerly known as “SciFi”).

I didn’t realize what had been bugging me until I read a blog post from Beer Phxation titled “Two Ounce Culture.”

It was followed by additional thoughts from Appellation Beer in this post, and then again by This is Why I’m Drunk, in “A Few Words on … ‘two-ounce culture’.”

You should read all those.  Don’t worry, they’re pretty succinct and to the point.  Unlike, you know, my posts.

Ahem, moving on.

As soon as I read the first one, I realized that this very question had been itching at a place I couldn’t scratch recently, even if I hadn’t quite put my finger on it.  I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I’ve sipped a short sample of a beer that I was otherwise very much looking forward to, only to make a snap judgment and move on, or worse, not remember it at all.  If I recall correctly (although there’s quite the possibility that I don’t), I blazed a path through Cincy Winter Beerfest last year that would have made Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway proud, making a point to get a taste of every entry on my itemized list of typically-not-available-to-me brews.  How many of the those do I really remember, though?

One.  Exactly one.  RockBottom Cincinnati’s Tazza Mia Espresso IPA made quite the impression.  In fact, it’s the only sample I can recall going back for multiple times.  All told, I probably “tasted” it four or fives times at Beerfest, so it’s no wonder that’s the one I remember.

That’s not, of course, to say sampling is bad.  It’s absolutely not, and I’d be sadder than a toddler with a missing  Tickle-Me-Elmo if I couldn’t get a sampling flight at many better beer locations.  But at the end of the day, I guess what’s finally become clear to me is that there’s more to a beer than you can experience in a 2-oz pour.  Sure, that quick hit will let you mark it off your Craft Beer Bucket List and maybe finish up that Untapped badge you’ve been working on.  But it won’t tell you how that beer transforms (perhaps opening up) as it warms, or whether it’s a little too challenging for your palette 14 ounces later.

Sure, you can tell a lot about a beer from a 2 oz sample, and it’s tempting to line ’em and try as many of them as you can.  Variety, after all, is the spice of life.  But I think in the future, I’m going to try to keep from hopping around from one beer – one taste – to the next as quickly as I can.

In other words, I think it’s time for me to slow down and do a little more in-depth research.  Would you care to join me?

Pud’n

Required Reading Assignment: A Good Look at AB InBev

It’s been a while, I reckon, since we’ve offered a Required Reading Assignment around these here parts.  But then, I guess that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since we have a hard enough time just keeping up with the local beer news these.  I mean, have you really looked at the Growlers and Tasting report, lately?  The term paper I had to write as the culmination of research spanning most of my junior year in high school wasn’t as long as the weekly G & T.

Anyway, since today is November 1, I imagine most of us are probably waking up with at least a small dollop of remorse about that final (dare I say, over-the-top) pumpkin ale last night when the trick-or-treating dust settled, the kids were (finally) put to bed, and it was just you, a gross of leftover fun-sized Twix bars, and the remains of that six-pack in the dark. 

In other words, there’s a potential for a slow start this morning, which means it’s probably a good day to do some reading.

Luckily, I have just the thing for you!  My brother in the tweeting of beer-related things, @BradOnBeer tweeted a link to this Business Week article the other day about the merging of Anheuser-Busch and InBev: The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer.  Honestly, I think the title of the piece is a bit melodramatic, but it’s pretty good nonetheless.  You should read it.  As usual, you can just go do that now (in a new tab, obviously) while I wait here.

All done?  Great!

Admittedly, I suppose that to a large degree, this story is largely preaching to choir, especially for a blog that includes the subtitle, "Believers in Better Beer."  But, still, there’s a point to be made here.  For me, personally, as an advocate of craft beer, the hardest thing I find myself having to deal with is that idea that I’m one of those nefarious "beer snobs."  The term itself, at least in my mind, conjures an image of a haughty fellow with a long, possibly pointed, nose – decorated ridiculously by a pencil-thin mustache, a monocle, and a sneer – who makes revolted faces and regularly waves away IPAs because everyone knows South American hops pass their floral-scented prime on Oct. 15th.

I don’t want to be that guy.  No one wants to be that guy.  At least no one I know.  But when I occasionally crinkle up my nose at the thought of drinking a Bud Light, I’m nevertheless accused a being that guy, and should just shut up and let people like what they like.

By all means, I do think people should like what they like.  But by that same token, I also think they should know what they’re getting in regards to what the like.  And paragraphs like the one below illustrate exactly the point that many of the conglomerate brands are pretty much the modern equivalent of snake oil (in that they don’t care what’s in it, so long as they can convince you to buy it with a flashy sales pitch):

A former top AB InBev executive, who declined to be identified because he didn’t want to get in trouble with his old employer, tells a different story. He says the company saved about $55 million a year substituting cheaper hops in Budweiser and other U.S. beers for more expensive ones like Hallertauer Mittelfrüh. It is hard to say whether the average Bud drinker has noticed.

In other words, the executive team at AB InBev doesn’t seem to care much about the beer it makes, so long as you still buy it.  And, in fact, if they can make it cheaper somehow and still get you to buy it, well, that’d be just downright awesome, and they’ll happily giggle and skip all the way to the Ferrari dealership.  Oh, and when they’ve squeezed every drop of precious, precious profit imaginable out of a brand, they’ll just move on to the next brand (Pepsi, anyone?) like a swarm of cost-cutting locusts, until they’ve gotten all the cars, watches, and houses they can buy.

I realize, of course, that this seems to run counter to the post I wrote earlier this year in defense of Blue Moon, an SABMiller product.  But, really, it’s not; it’s the same argument applied to a different topic in somewhat different light.  Because, see, all indications are that Blue Moon actually cares about their brewing.  They see it for both the biological science and the art that is.  At AB InBev, however, many of the brands they’ve acquired appear to be tinkered with by financial and economic scientists, often without regard to how it might effect the end product.

And that’s where the line rests for me. 

That said, by all means, I do now (and always will) encourage anyone to like what they like.  Taste, obviously, is subjective.  But if I can manage, from time to time, to help someone realize that there are brewers out there making other beers that they’d like just as much but who care much, much more about what they’re putting into it rather than just what they’re getting out of you, well, that makes me smile.

Because, at the heart of it, at least when it comes to beer, I don’t think anyone should be little more than a source of revenue.

There’re plenty of other ways to be taken advantage of in life, why not at least patronize a brewery that cares about giving its absolute best to its customers, not its share holders.

Pud’n

Required Reading: A nice bit of wordsmithing

I’ve always enjoyed reading A Good Beer Blog. It’s really a case where the name of the blog truly describes what it is. Anyway, a quickie post this evening is deserving of some attention. It’s such a short post I could excerpt it in its entirety here, but he did all the thinking so he should get the traffic. Basically, he comes up with some useful definitions for describing various types of breweries. Plus a definition for “krapft” beer.

Comments? Leave them here, but leave them there, too!

Today’s Hoperatives Required Reading Assignment: New Beer Documentary Released

It’s been a while, but it’s time again for our somewhat new feature – Today’s Hoperatives Required Reading Assignment. We read lots of other beer blogs and we want to share some of the great posts we’re reading with our fellow believers in better beer. It’s our hope that you will check out these other beer blogs, maybe leave them a comment and maybe share some of your favorites with us.


Last November, you may remember that we attended the first ever Beer Bloggers Conference in Boulder, Colorado. This year’s conference is this weekend in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately, it was too far away and too expensive for us to attend this year. But, in honor of that event happening in Oregon, we wanted to let you know about a new documentary being released this weekend as part of Oregon Beer Week that celebrates the women of the Pacific Northwest craft beer industry.

The women of beer: Raise a glass to these six women
http://blog.oregonlive.com/thebeerhere/2011/08/the_women_of_beer_raise_a_glas.html

Today’s Hoperatives Required Reading Assignment: Sexism in Beer Advertising

It’s been a while, but it’s time again for our somewhat new feature – Today’s Hoperatives Required Reading Assignment. We read lots of other beer blogs and we want to share some of the great posts we’re reading with our fellow believers in better beer. It’s our hope that you will check out these other beer blogs, maybe leave them a comment and maybe share some of your favorites with us.


I never know what surprises people more when we tell people that we write a beer blog: that a married couple can happily work on something together without fighting or that a woman can like beer, especially better beer. This even happens with my family. At Thanksgiving last year, one of my cousin’s daughters asked in disbelief upon hearing about Hoperatives, “Carla likes beer too?!?” If you ever watch a sporting event, you know that the major breweries apparently think that women don’t like beer either (and only sexist, small minded men do).

Recently, Julie Niesen Gosdin (aka WineMeDineMe and Hoperative #7) sent me a link to an article on xoJane.com that addressed this problem. And that article reminded me of two different posts that Ashley Routsen (aka the Beer Wench) had published on her blog DrinkWithTheWench.com. So go read and be sure to read the comments. Then, come back here and tell us what you think.

All I Ever Did Was Love Beer, So Why Is It Giving Me This Sexist Crap?
http://www.xojane.com/entertainment/all-i-ever-did-was-love-beer-so-why-it-giving-me-sexist-crap

BEER WARS: The Female Edition
http://drinkwiththewench.com/2010/04/beer-wars-the-female-edition/

Don’t Support the Objectification of Women: Drink Craft Beer
http://drinkwiththewench.com/2010/10/dont-support-the-objectification-of-women-drink-craft-beer/

Today’s Hoperatives Required Reading Assignment: The Other “Green” Beer

It’s time again for our somewhat new feature – Today’s Hoperatives Required Reading Assignment. We read lots of other beer blogs and we want to share some of the great posts we’re reading with our fellow believers in better beer. It’s our hope that you will check out these other beer blogs, maybe leave them a comment and maybe share some of your favorites with us.

Today, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we want to talk about green beer. No, not the Bud Light with green food coloring type of green beer. But, rather the eco-friendly type of green beer. The good folks over at the Brewers Association recently posted an article on sustainable or “green” beer. We liked it so much we made it Today’s Required Reading Assignment.

Craft: The Other Green Beer

http://www.craftbeer.com/pages/stories/craft-beer-muses/show?title=craft-the-other-green-beer

Today’s Hoperatives Required Reading Assignment

It’s time again for our new feature – Today’s Hoperatives Required Reading Assignment. We read lots of other beer blogs and we want to share some of the great posts we’re reading with our fellow believers in better beer. It’s our hope that you will check out these other beer blogs, maybe leave them a comment and maybe share some of your favorites with us.

The second Hoperatives Required Reading Assignment is a collaborative post from our friends over at Girls Pint Out and I Brew Too. They not only give you some great beer pairing ideas for holiday foods, but give you one for each of three categories: Hard to Find, Regionally Distributed and Widely Distributed. What a great idea! So read their post and then let us know some of your favorite holiday food and beer pairings.

“Craft Beers for Holiday Cheers”

http://www.girlspintout.com/1033/craft-beers-for-holiday-cheers

Today’s Hoperatives Required Reading Assignment

So we’re trying out some new things here at Hoperatives and one is a new feature called Today’s Hoperatives Required Reading Assignment. We read lots of other beer blogs and we want to share some of the great posts we’re reading with our fellow believers in better beer. It’s our hope that you will check out these other beer blogs, maybe leave them a comment and maybe share some of your favorites with us.

The first Hoperatives Required Reading Assignment is from someone who is important to this blog and who have mentioned here before. Jen Rizzo designed the Hoperatives logo and is Hoperative #1. A resident of San Francisco, she is also an avid bicyclist and recently started a blog called Pedals and Pints. In this particular post, she talks about her own craft beer journey and why the simple shift from Miller Lite to Blue Moon can really be a step in the right direction.

“On taste, why I don’t judge your music, and good beer”

http://pedalsandpints.blogspot.com/2010/12/on-taste-why-i-dont-judge-your-music.html