Would that it were so simple! It’s a rallying cry that’s become a platitude, essentially the “Live, Laugh, Love” of beer stickers.
As this year’s political climate makes activists of us all, beer people have become, it seems, more vocal about their moral and political stances. From the #drinkforgood ACLU campaign all the way up to Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad, beer is taking an overt stance on social issues that breweries perhaps would have shied from years ago. I’ve seen this lauded as a natural extension of “beer culture,” because hey, good people drink good beer, and take the right stances, and are so enlightened.
Perhaps there was a time (likely before I was born) when homebrewing and enjoying different styles of beer were such niche pursuits that they did attract a certain type of goofy enthusiasm and created a near-homogenous culture. I don’t think that can be said today.
At the same time as beer (insofar as “beer” can be described as a singular culture) is patting itself on the back for “taking a stand” on real issues, it’s also struggling to confront complaints of sexism, lack of diversity and online shit-talking. Is beer, then, not as benevolent and lovely a scene as we enthusiasts would like it to be?
I read with interest this piece on exploitative labor practices in the Australian beer world, written by Kerry McBride for Aussie beer blog The Crafty Pint. Give it a read; it profiles beer-industry workers who say (I’m paraphrasing) that the “Beer is all good! This is the best industry in the world!” mantra creates a sense that they can’t speak up for themselves in the workplace. They’re lucky, they’re told, to be in this world, so they have little recourse to complain about unfair labor practices.
So, are beer people good people? I’ve pondered this on a personal level lately, as I’ve both experienced wonderful moments with beer-enthusiast folks and suffered some really crappy interactions, all in the past month.
I’ve come to a simple but useful conclusion: Beer people are just people. There are good eggs; there are bad eggs; there are anonymous Twitter eggs. Beer is so disparate and far-ranging and just big these days that the tent includes all.
Beer doesn’t attract good or bad people any more than does music, or food, or any of a million other general pursuits that could hardly be said to have stereotypical identities.
It’s been freeing to think about beer in this non-moralistic light. It enables me to stop thinking about what individual people or company’s actions mean for beer and just address them as individuals. I think we have to confront systemic problems where they exist, but we can also acknowledge that some people are awesome and some people are jerks, no matter what industry they’re a part of.
By and large, beer people have been good people to me. They’ve taught me much, welcomed me, offered true hospitality, invited me to sing karaoke, laughed at my dad-joke-level IPA puns, and steered me toward my next great beer.
I’m not sure I can say that they’ve been wonderful because of beer, though. Maybe I just know how to choose my friends.