Introducing Pint/CounterPint

20110911-091700.jpgPint/Counter Pint was created out of necessity when Adam Watson (Against the Grain Brewery) wrote a loving response to the first Baylor on Beer article, Know your Enemy, written by Roger Baylor (New Albanian Brewing Company). At first we laughed whole-heartedly and admired the conviction and stance of both parties, and then we thought, “Hey, wait a minute… remember that old 60 Minutes segment called Point/Counterpoint?”

For those of you that don’t, Point/Counterpoint was a segment of the CBS Television News Magazine, 60 Minutes. Point/Counterpoint was adebate between spokespeople for the political right and left, respectively. This segment pioneered a format that would later be adapted by CNN for its Crossfire show. We have adopted the format for an online debate forum featuring Adam Watson and Roger Baylor.

If you missed the article that started it all, please take a moment to read it before we continue:

Know Your Enemy

And now we are proud to introduce Pint/CounterPint with Adam Watson’s In Defense of Goliath: A Davidian Rebuttal followed by Baylor’s response. Enjoy.

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Pint/CounterPint 1:1
In Defense of Goliath: A Davidian Rebuttal
by Adam Watson, Against the Grain Brewery

Like any revolution worth its salt, the craft beer movement is packed to the gills with the unsatisfied, the dispossessed, the disillusioned, and the outraged. Oddly enough, this sort of folk isn’t known for its uniformity of thought. Nothing dulls a good revolution like too much agreement, so, in the spirit of keeping things lively, I hereby declare Roger Baylor a fool and a charlatan.

Roger, I’m glad to hear about your “transition from darkness to enlightenment”, but the funny thing about darkness is that you actually need some of it to see. Too much light blinds you. Way too much light sets you on fire.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t prefer MGD to a well crafted English Mild. I’m not claiming that sales numbers evidence quality, and I certainly don’t believe that the colder beer is the superior beer. These beers are simply a different product. Claiming that you have to hate macro-brews just because they used to be your only choice sounds suspiciously like claiming that back in the Good Ol’ Days you used to walk to school in the snow on broken glass uphill both ways. It’s the domain of crotchety old men, and no one takes it seriously. If light American lagers are simply a style that doesn’t appeal to you, fine, but don’t damn them for being outside your preferences.

Will I carry macro-brews in my brewpub? Hell no. But I won’t carry cotton candy either, and that stuff kicks ass! I carry the products that jive with my concept, and so do you. It doesn’t mean that we have to give the stink-eye to everything else. When I want a flavor experience, I reach for a carefully crafted brew. When I want a cold, cheap, inoffensive alcohol delivery system, I’m not above a PBR or twelve.

I understand that you are part of a different generation than I am, and I’m glad that you could admit that. The fact that the battle needed to be fought doesn’t mean that it still needs to be fought. If that battle was to break the macro-brew monopoly, then it is a battle we have already won. Let’s move our focus to winning the war. That needs a subtler strategy. Rather than shouting to be heard, now we need to actually say something. As craft beer producers, we say something by having the most interesting beer around, by engaging drinkers in a way that domestic juggernauts cannot, and by taking on the vestments of ascendancy rather than shaking our tiny fists at the insensate sky.

If it makes you happy to keep demonizing the macro-brew folks, then go right ahead. I’m sure they can take it. When you feel like being more civilized, feel free to join me in the corner booth. I’ll be the one double fisting High Life and Hoptimus.

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Pint/CounterPint 1:2
In Response
by Roger Baylor, New Albanian Brewing Company

As Benjamin Disraeli, or perhaps Mark Twain, may have said: There are lies, damned lies and statistics, but when it comes to the latter, one of my favorites is 1%.

It doesn’t just represent the expression of one out of every hundred; it’s also smaller than the amount commonly accepted as an acceptable margin of error.

In the state of Indiana, 1% describes the market penetration of the state’s 40 craft brewing companies. Add every other craft beer, including the line-straddling Sam Adams, and every other import (Corona and Heineken, too), and the percentage rises to somewhere between 5% and 7%, meaning that while youngsters like Adam Watson slap themselves on the back over “winning” the battle against the macro-brew monopoly, the forces of the empire of wet air outnumber us roughly 95 to 5 – and it bothers me to think that my chosen professional life exists within an error’s tiny margin.

I have neither lies nor statistics to cite about the situation in Kentucky, but judging from my professional drinking experiences in yonder hinterlands of the Commonwealth since long before Adam was born, I suspect 1% – 5% isn’t very far off the mark there, either.

Like in most such instances, there are grains of truth in my esteemed colleague’s assertions, albeit far too few to make a mash for anything other than small beer. True, many craft lovers take their newfound abundance of choice for granted. Then again, so did millions of drinkers prior to Prohibition – and look how that turned out.

The fact that remains that owing to the reigning swillocracy’s own corporatist, monopolistic, non-level playing field tactics, as well as the predictable reaction to these real world machinations on the part of religious nuts, do-gooders and health fascists eager to legislate against the swillocracy’s macro-sized excesses, craft brewers must struggle for market share against both the default olfactory dullness of a general populace conditioned by decades of Goebbelsian propaganda, and also distribution and regulatory systems backed by the big boys who can afford the legal advice.

Moreover, as a recent victim of law school, Adam should know that the convoluted regulatory morass governing the brewing business derives from society’s collective wish to hogtie those entities it judges to be responsible for alcohol’s societal ills – namely, macro-brewing. Prohibition came about for similar reasons, and is not out of the question even today.

I disagree with the politics of the late Republican office holder Barry Goldwater, but his famous maxim can be adapted to encapsulate my attitude toward the fight: “Extremism in the defense of good beer is no vice … (and) moderation in the pursuit of even better beer is no virtue!

Or, at least place my “demonization” in the proper context: Detest the watery swill, love the misplaced swill drinker.

  1. We are taking requests for the topic of next month’s Pint/CounterPint. E-mail your ideas and suggestions to jcampbell@louisvillebeer.com

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  2. This was a great read. First, the Pint/Counterpint pun amuses me greatly. Second, both Roger and Adam seem to share a “poetic” style of writing here that really works well together.

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  3. John, I met you at the buy local fest and really enjoyed speaking with you. Congratulations on the sucess of Fall City and this web site! I believe there is an excellent point for debate offered over at the Louisville Hotbytes forum (Restaurants section) at the moment that ought to be taken up by those most qualified to comment. The thread is entitled “Craft breweries – Does service matter?” and it was started by a restaurant owner (Shawn Vest). So far Roger Baylor and Joel Halblieb have weight-in but I believe that this issue deserves an extended response from both the brewers as well as the restaurant owners who serve their product.

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  4. Well sirs,

    In my legal drinking years (which at this point are few), I have wavered back and forth on this issue, even though I never actually LIKED swill. I did drink it in my naivete’, but only because I didn’t know my options. Finding craft beer was quite and epiphany for me, because I could drink something at a party that I enjoyed and wasn’t 45% alcohol.

    For a while, I never had an agenda about it, and just enjoyed my craft beer while my friends sat next to me drinking BMC. And I even participated with them when the local pub’s options were slim. Then I came to realize that they were missing out, and that a real experience at a pub worth my time or cash would include a quality beer. That’s when I had had enough. My friends deserve better, I deserve better and so do you. I’m not going to say that since that point I’ve never given in to the weakness of the wallet and drank a $0.75 PBR special, but I do get pissed at myself when I do. Now if I don’t have cash, I’ll either find ingredients laying around and make my own beer, or i’ll drink water. At least the water out of my tap isn’t numbing the minds and taste buds of the masses and restricting my choice of beers when I do come upon a little more cash.

    Also, there’s always the option of that weekday special (can’t remember which day it’s on) at NABC. Can’t beat that. Ever.

    Drink with your mind and tongue un-numbed my friends,

    Mark

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