Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Interview Part III

Today we have Adrian, an Englishman living in Georgia ( How's that for culture shock). Also known in some circles as "Ding", Adrian has been drinking craft beer for 30 plus years, and grew up drinking Real ale( cask conditioned) with his dad. Here is what he had to say:

1. There is a lot of talk about the hype surrounding certain beers. Some people take a lot of pride in acquiring them. Other people feel the beer is over hyped and pride themselves on liking less hyped beer for the merits of the beer not the hype. What are your thoughts on this?
Geeks are at fault, they’ve brought this nonsense on themselves. For example, the madness surrounding Dark Lord is preposterous. Sure, it’s a very nice RIS, but in the grand scheme of things there are plenty of equally good, more attainable brews around. The “Star Wars geekery” is all a little sad IMO, and elevates some beers to a level of hype that they cannot hope to match. I bet the FFF guys are pissing themselves laughing at all the relatively undeserved press that their (good but not great) DL gets.
2. A lot of brewers are turning a decent profit now, the Boston Beer Company comes to mind, with Sierra Nevada, Stone, and Dogfish Head not far behind. Do you feel that as a brewery grows in size its product quality tends to suffer, or is it possible for to turn out a world class beer in large quantities?
Possible, but increasingly difficult as forces such as logistics, marketing and profitability, i.e. ones that are divorced from the creativity and the artisanal aspects of producing craft products, will begin to impose themselves on the process in a disproportionate manner. Ask yourself this question – how many truly great cheeses or pieces of furniture or pieces of artwork are mass produced? Having said that, I still think that breweries like DFH and Stone are a long way from crossing that line; BBC may have already crossed it and if they have, they are still managing to put out some decent products, which I suppose supports the idea that it remains possible.
3. A lot of the craft brew sales are coming from big beer, imperial stout and the like. How do you feel about a brewer brewing a beer for the purpose of keeping up with market trends?
Well, it pains me to see but they have to remain profitable to enable them to brew ANYTHING, so making money and following trends is, to an extent, a necessary evil. The ugly face of Capitalism!
4. On a related note to the previous question,beer is getting hoppier, especially on the West Coast, while in the east a more balanced approach is taken. In your opinion which speaks more to the skill of the brewer, brewing a big huge hoppy beer that still has flavor despite the lack of malt to balance out the hops, or a flavorful balance beer with a lot of hops but not as much malt?
Subtle, low ABV brews with low hop profiles are certainly NOT the American way, period. This is not just reserved to IPA’s either. Look at an American Brown Ale or an American Porter and you will often find beers that IMO are essentially supposed to be “sweet”, malt based beers with very low hop profiles, being produced in the US with very large bittering. I don’t like the bastardization of styles, and don’t even get me started on American versions of ESB’s! I’m not a brewer so I don’t feel qualified to comment upon the difficulty of brewing one style over another, BUT from a drinkers perspective it seems to me as though creating massively hopped brews where the hops and IBU’s remove all subtlety from the beer, are crude and crass and frankly lack creativity, style and guile. Having said that, I rather like DFH 120 min, and from time to time I like a West Coast DIPA, but for me too often the beers that have these enormous hop profiles are clumsy and lack craft.
5. There is no doubt that lots of craft beer lovers participate in online forums. Do you feel that sites such as beeradvocate and ratebeer are the base of the craft beer industry?
No, not the “base”; the “base” is made up of the brewers that brew the craft beer and the people that drink it. I’d imagine that despite the success of RB and BA, that most craft brew drinkers are not involved to any degree online.
6. A lot of people complain about the rising cost of beer, saying the brewers should have taken the hit on grain hops yeast etc and kept the price the same for their customers. What’s your stance on this?
Beer is a luxury item, not a necessity and brewers need to make a profit. I also have no problem with increased taxation on beer.
7. Many people drink both craft beer and BMC (Bud Miller Coors) products, others refuse to drink BMC. Where do you stand on this and why?
I very seldom drink any BMC (Miller High Life in the high, GA summer is about my only exception) and I NEVER buy BMC in bars or restaurants because I prefer to drink water than pay for a product that I don’t enjoy drinking. I just don’t like the product. As for others – I couldn’t care less what they drink so in that respect I’m not anti-BMC, but I am depressed by some of the marketing associated with it; it’s lowest common denominator, sheep-like herding for the BI’s (“beer ignorant’s”).
8. What do you think the craft beer industry should be doing to attract more customers, if anything at all? What could we as craft beer drinkers be doing to convince our friends to try it, if anything at all?
You’d have to ask the craft beer industry that question, frankly it doesn’t matter to me how many (or how few) people drink craft beer. As for the second part of the question, if the opportunity arises I will occasionally attempt a little education, I always offer craft beer at home to guests (with no BMC alternatives), plus I always take craft beer to events, but outside of that I’m no evangelist!
9. There are 1400 breweries in the United States alone. Lots of them make great beer but never seem to get off the ground. What makes a brewery do well while another fails?
Multi-faceted question but just the usual stuff; product quality, timing, strategy, marketing, location, price points etc. Many people will say that you can’t get anywhere with a poor product (and that view has some merit), but I see several breweries that are producing some very mediocre (or even poor) beer that do make a go of it. This is largely because of a combination of the other factors being in their favor.
10. Lots of people talk about what brought craft beer to their attention, but what caused you to remain a fan, and you to become as passionate it about it as you are?
As an Englishman, beer and pubs were at the heart of pretty much all social activities that I ever knew. Luckily my father was a Real Ale drinker so I was brought up with it. It’s really just part of who I am and as such I don’t consider myself a “fan” rather it’s really just part of whom I am.


  1. Star Wars geekery? How dare you, sirrah.

    "I don’t like the bastardization of styles, and don’t even get me started on American versions of ESB’s!" Seriously. Things should never change, or adapt, or be modified. Nothing but the Queen's english from the 1500s should be spoken, and what's with all these uppity colonies demanding their independence!

  2. I love Ding and miss him. I hate that he is no longer on BA. He made it so much more interesting.