It’s the not-too-distant future and America is a wasteland of sorts. You and I stand divided in our neighborhoods holding torches and pitchforks, the veins bulging in our necks and our eyes red from the strain of screaming at the man on the other side of a drawn line. Then, in a moment that seems to be taken from a Civil War re-enactment, we all charge and dive into our enemies like warriors of old. Up in a tower, men in suits look down with their hands behind their backs and shake their heads. Bored with the scene below, they shuffle back to an enormous table piled high with food and drink; all purchased with our dollars while we gut each other like animals so many stories below.
What sick and twisted turn of history led to this crippling destruction of society? The beer industry.
The businessification of beer puts us at each other’s throats in a matter of years. What breweries should be considered craft? How big is too big to be craft? What the fuck is craft, again? As with so many things, the need to put a label on a concept creates an Us vs. Them mentality in people. Then the lawyers get involved and start feasting on our guts and prosper. Litigation takes place of friendly chats and collaboration. Lawsuits stifle creation and progress. Owners “protect” their brands and start a whole new wave of trademarking bullshit, a never-ending stream of litigation that only the most affluent business man can afford.
We consumers try our best to preserve what we once knew. We “Drink local” and do everything we can to support the little guys. We scream about the “Bubble bursting” as the apocalypse happens around us with frightening efficiency. Constant lawsuits, cease and desist letters and the rise of a whole legion of legal secretaries rot the industry from the inside out. Eventually EVERY NAME POSSIBLE for our beers is trademarked. Brewery names are scarce while small variants are too similar to avoid the inevitable legal hassle. Soon, the huge corporate machine swallows them whole. They’re either snatched up by larger corporations looking to simultaneously expand their lines while eliminating competition or simply shuttered due to overwhelming legal costs. Party lines just like our modern day politics will be drawn.
It won’t be a bubble burst that sets off the chain reaction ending the beer industry, oh no. It will be the inherent evil that business pulls out of men. Arrogance, greed disguised as the American dream and the desire to be number one will rule in the business arena. In the consumer arena, the overwhelming desire to be “Right” will be the force that drives a wedge between us and eventually pits us against each other. On a weekly basis, we consumers will drop two of our finest screamers into an arena and let them do battle in the most glorious way. They stand in circles facing each other merely 10 inches apart and just fucking scream at each other until one passes out and possibly dies from hypothermia, as all their core temperature was dropped from releasing all their hot air. As with the destruction of anything beautiful, it will be all of our own goddamn animalistic faults.
After the dust settles, we all point our fingers and shout until we’re convinced we had no part in the destruction. It was all someone else’s fault. In the rubble, faceless corporate zombies shuffle around, unable to move quickly dues to all of our money in their pockets. They peddle their wares to us, and we buy them out of lack of an alternative. We consumers go to our beer stores and keep our heads down, wearing long beer-buying robes with heavy hoods. We will only visit stores neighborhood stores and hoard whatever beers we can get, paying an insane premium and then running home with our treasure before someone else sniffs it out on us.
However, a great Oracle one day predicts a movement will rise from the apocalypse. There are plenty of good people in the industry that want to see progress, and this utter collapse will provide them with the perfect time to stage a renaissance, a revolution. Their weapon against the remaining zombie corporations will be unique and magnificent. Will it be legislation? New technology? Love of the art form? Just love? Who knows. It will be part of a movement based in purity, not business, and people will flock to it while the zombie corporations shit their pants again and try to squash it. But now that the lines are drawn, the renaissance will be unified.
There will be no rules, no precedents and no fucking lawyers. The next generation of beer drinkers will be born with more passion, creativity and drive and, therefore, enjoy the best beers anyone has yet to taste, all in harmony. Beers that shine laser-like beacons of light into the sky as it is held above one’s head. The human race will be forever united, and we will finally be able to share the Earth with the animals. Alien races will finally reach our planet after following these beer-beacons, and a harmonious relationship will be forged by the power of beer. The revolution will spark the Human Race’s true enlightenment.
Will this all really happen? Who fucking knows, but as long as we all stand around and let the phrase “Well, It’s just business” proliferate our beloved beer industry, you can sure as shit expect some goddamn terrible things to happen at some point. I’m not old enough to actually remember this, but let’s not forget that craft beer began as a bunch of home brewers that were sick of buying mass produced lagers. They wanted choice, and wanted people to desire choice in their beers.
Well, now we have that choice and we’re slowly choking it to death. We also had choice years ago when it came to our politicians, and we let those men and women manipulate our beliefs to the point where choice in politics is mostly in the semantics. Lines were drawn and people’s desire to be right drove a wedge between them. We can basically pick a democrat or a republican. “Well, it’s just politics.” Scary how close that phrase is comes to “Well, it’s just business”, isn’t it?
I may be an idealist, but there’s plenty of room in this sandbox. I’m just sick of watching the beer industry slowly circling around the drain. It CAN be BOTH a business and a movement. While we try and figure out how to set up dividing lines that label the different parties, we’re only creating more distance among ourselves. Fuck the lines in the sand and fuck the litigation. Let’s just let the movement happen organically. Let’s eliminate the words craft, micro and all the other names from our lexicon. Let’s just call it beer, and then let’s go have a pint and laugh about the disaster we averted.
An open mind and a few beers can make anywhere an adventure.