As children many of us were told to play nice, maybe its time for some in Craft beer to get a reminder.
As Craft beer and its culture gains increasing acceptance, we are seeing an increase in social activism aimed at making Craft culture more inclusive for all.
There are more people looking to cast out many of the sins that Craft has and is committing. We see people calling awareness to rampant sexism in beer in increasing numbers, and many breweries are listening. Few would argue that beer labels featuring scantily clad women are not fostering widespread acceptance by the general population. No longer are these sorts of things being given a free pass by those that are offended by them.
An issue that seems to be on the rise lately though is largely played out as one of jest, but closer examination reveals it as way to mask the built in bigotry of those holding the position.
Craft beer drinkers are a diverse lot, with deeply held positions on a multitude of related issues. We’ve all seen tables of drinkers debating the merits of beers, breweries and the ingredients in their beverages at length and likely many of us have been involved in these same discussions. These debates can be everything from entertaining and friendly to dismissive and hostile. Only a fool would think that these sorts of things will disappear, but one can hope that folks will keep things cordial. In our social media age, we have seen many of these debates published for others to read and participate in, and this can be a great thing. Awareness is raised, people start talking more freely and hopefully meaningful change happens on occasion.
I recently had a long chat with a brewer and part of what we discussed was the rise of the intolerance of some within Craft, and their inability to consider views contrary to their own. While the desire to change the weaknesses in Craft is laudable, the increasing intolerance that often goes with it is not much better than the alternative. There is clearly room for a multitude of views, and considering the opinions of others can be a benefit to ones own thinking. Another brewer I spoke to mentioned that he often read opinions that differed from his own, as any view that can anger oneself is certainly worth exploring.
To this end I offer the following thought experiment.
An example of a contentious issue in Craft beer that easily comes to mind for our purpose is the newer trend of the NEIPA (New England India Pale Ale, brewed to be opaque with a richness of fruity hops). Much has been written on the great ‘New England haze’ debate and both sides have arguments that are both good and bad. The debate is far from over, neither side is winning, and the beer keeps on selling. What should concern folks though is some of the tactics used during these discussions – be they online or in person.
Frequently those that are taking the ‘Pro Haze’ position look to equate the ‘Clear Beer’ argument with the characteristics they ascribe those holding them of having. The ‘Clear Beer’ camp is often seen as older, resistant to change, and unable to understand why and how haze is better. Such a characterization offers no benefit as it does not encapsulate all that hold the position.
Ye olde Ad Hominem (A Latin phrase meaning to argue against one’s character as opposed to arguing against their position) attack arguments are weak and lacking in intellectual honesty. To attack a person is obviously not the same as attacking their position. People can be hurt, ideas can’t.
As an old man, I often wonder how it would go if the same methods were employed in reverse. (No I am not advocating for this, rather I am against any attack on an individual) Imagine telling someone that their opinion is not valid because they are young, or a different sex/gender, or due to their position/education. This would never go over well, yet we’ve seen the opposite occur many times.
Debate in beer is age old, and will continue. We should do it better though. Explore the ideas and positions. Discuss or dismiss them as you may. But we owe it to others to hear the other side and treat each other well.