Craft Beer and the American Spirit

I was fortunate to be able to spend some of this past holiday season in Munich, Germany. Being a craft beer nerd, I was elated to be able to take (drink) in a country known for its delicious and endless supply of (mostly) lagers and (some) ales.

And delicious it certainly was (see profile pic).

The thing about beer in Germany is that they don’t do a lot of variety, they just do a few styles really, really, incredibly well. In fact, they take their beer making so seriously that back in the 1500s a law was introduced to ensure all beer was being made with a specific recipe to a specific standard.

Beer is serious business.

But all this same-style beer and purity laws had me thinking of my beloved US craft beer. And really, thinking of the US in general.

The craft beer industry has grown by leaps over the past 5 or so years. Whereas 15 years ago the macro brewed “lite” brews overwhelmingly dominated the beverage industry, now these same titans of industry are attempting to disguise their new beers to seem more “craft beer” like.

Craft beer is growing larger by the day, pint by pint. And why shouldn’t it? It is the very embodiment of the elusive, ever evolving American Spirit.

The American Spirit is, or perhaps once was, a spirit of innovation. Of exploration. Of rising to new and better challenges and taking us where we once only thought was possible in the movies. To the moon! The American craft beer industry, at its heart, exemplifies this spirit. It looks at the storied and heady tradition of beer making in Europe and audaciously says,

“We can do that.”

Whats more, we can do more.

The American Spirit does not tie itself to one style, one recipe, one way of doing things. No, we ventured in IPAs, Pale Ales, Ambers, Stouts, Porters, Sours, Saisons, Helles, Pilsners, Kolchs and more. And you can usually find all of these styles at a single brewery, brewing them up seasonally and in high quality fashion. Where American beer was once dismissed as lesser it is now being sought throughout the world for its uniqueness and boldness.

And as American students, is this not what we were taught to do? To be bold and go further and farther than those before us. To stand on the foundations laid in 1776 and aspire for a better world where the only thing to hinder our growth was the limit of our ingenuity and passion for “better”.

We were taught to be Elon Musk, looking at the world not as it is but for what it could be.

But where the craft beer industry has captured that original American spirit, America herself has begun to let it fade away like a flashlight slowly losing battery life. It's become more and more dim and our eyes are perilously adjusting to the darkness rather than fighting for more light. We are content to go about business-as-usual, longing for a fabled former glory of privacy and manageable tasks. Replacing exploration with predictability.

Pioneers content with exploring the inside of our wagons. Nothing more.

We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!

Bilbo Baggins famously recounts his opinion of adventures to Gandalf in the opening chapters of The Hobbit. This is said shortly before he is whisked away on the adventure of a lifetime, challenging himself in ways he never could have conceived in that moment outside of his warm and clean hobbit hole.

Perhaps its time Gandalf came to shake the cobwebs off our collective creative minds.

2016 will forever be known as the year some tried to “Make America Great Again.” I say to that yes, let us do make America great again.

But lets make the right parts of America great again. The part that looks to the stars and the dazzling, numerous constellations and says,

“We can do that.”

Certainly that’s something we can all drink to.

Cheers.

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