Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and while there are a number of local breweries that produce quality beer there are an equal number that push products on the market that are simply crapht beer.
One has to wonder why this is the case. No craft brewer sets out to intentionally make crapht beer — assuming that it is not their intention to simply capitalize on current drinking trends and make as much money as possible by pushing a substandard product for a premium price.
Every brewer I have ever met cares too much about their beer and works too hard to produce it for that to be true. More than likely the problem lies in a combination of either knowledge, capability, or costs.
To be a chef one generally spends years learning the basics, working in various apprentice roles, learning from various mentors and perfecting ones culinary skills.
Years spent learning ingredients, processes, and the science involved make for a rather long but thorough learning curve. Very few craft brewers have had a similar opportunity to perfect their skills in a comparable manner.
A thorough knowledge of ingredients and processes is just as crucial for brewers. A summer working at a mega brewery or a couple years of brewing in the basement does not necessarily provide the same depth of education or experience. Most brewers who have stepped up to craft brewing have been responsible themselves for seeking out and acquiring the knowledge that their craft depends upon, and their success or failure to do so shows in the beers that they produce.
While everyone’s tastes differ there are still standards and guidelines for nearly every beer style. The Essentials of Beer Style by Fred Eckhardt is pretty much recognized as the definitive text on what the appearance, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and strength of specific beer styles should be. The local beer offerings would be vastly improved if more emphasis and efforts were spent concentrating on perfecting specific beer styles rather than inventing styles or hiding missed styles in bourbon barrels or behind loads of citrusy hops.
Perhaps the issue isn’t knowledge or isn’t just knowledge. Perhaps craphtbrewers simply aren’t capable of making the kind of beers that they aspire to. It can take years to learn the proper and best use of equipment.
Sanitation becomes a bigger concern the larger the brewery. Putting together a good grain bill is as much an art as a recipe. Freshness and potency of ingredients can vary greatly from shipment to shipment.
The temptation to constantly try out the latest hop variety can be as challenging as really concentrating on how to best propagate and pitch a new yeast strain. There are always more variables that need to be factored in and it is a lot to keep up with. Frankly, some brewers just do a better job of coordinating all these challenges than others.
In brewing, just as in any business, there are always costs to be considered. It would be a shame to think that cost cutting is to blame for bad crapht beer, particularly since it isn’t reflected in the price. At ten dollars a twelve pack expectations are very different than at ten dollars a four pack. But realistically, cost concerns may play a bigger role than may be admitted.
Skimping on that sack of carapils or biscuit malt really does show in the mouthfeel and body of the finished beer, and while a lager might have been a better choice as a base beer the added cooling and fermenting time does come with a dollar figure. Quality comes with a price tag. It certainly does on the consumer end. Perhaps passing up that sale on enough Citra hops to brew beer for a year is a better long term decision than being forced to use the same types of hops in all your beer whether appropriate for style or not.
Atlanta’s brewing scene is growing and most brewers are very receptive to feedback regarding their beers. They work hard to make a product that they are proud of. As consumers we have no one but ourselves to blame for the quality of beer that we accept. If we remain silent we deserve crapht beer.