Ding over at Ding’s Beer Blog hosts this month’s session. Let’s jump into his words about it and then on to my commentary.
The Session, a.k.a. ‘Beer Blogging Friday’, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. Friday September 6th will see my turn to ‘host’ The Session, #79 in the series.
Anyone with any inkling of my online, in-person and blogging presence in the American beer world since 2000, will know that the whole of my beer experience in that time has been colored by, sits against the backdrop of, and forms the awkward juxtaposition to, my English beer heritage and what has been happening the USA in the last few years. Everyone knows that I have been very vocal about this for a very long time, so when it came to thinking about what would be a great ‘Session’ topic, outside of session beer, it seemed like that there could be only one topic; ‘What the hell has America done to beer?‘, AKA, ‘USA versus Old World Beer Culture‘.
The short form for this question is pretty easy. Prohibition changed the world as we once knew it.
And then we get into the longer thought of the matter. Before Prohibition the US beer culture was almost entirely like the beer culture of Europe. The immigrants to the country brought their own histories and traditions with them.
The US is unique to the world that our government enacted laws to stop us from drinking. It was a mandate essentially to curtail our culture and traditions and change them into something else entirely. That may not have been the intent but that was the reaction.
After the “grand experiment” was over the only companies we could look to were the ones who were strong enough to survive. The largest companies the ones with the greatest diversification.
The diversification of their core brands is the important thing. It changed the companies who survived from simply brewing companies into product companies. They learned to treat their beverages as commodities. Sure beer is beer. But when it is your only product you look at it differently than you do when you have a portfolio of products to maintain your income.
That was the world that craft brewing grew out of. A world that was homogenized from prohibition and changes in how products were bought and sold.
When you look at many of the European breweries you will find companies that have been doing business for hundreds of years with little to no change in how they did business. The culture of the people in the region grew from that stability.
And that is what we are left with. Sure, beer is beer no matter where you are. But massive changes to the culture will have a huge impact on how that comes into play.
Time for a pint…