Craft Beer Generational Amnesia

Remember the 90's

When I was studying environmental education at Huxley we studied a book by professor Peter Kahn. In his book he pens the term “environmental generational amnesia” to describe how each generation has a fresh perspective of what is the norm vs degradation. That is not the most exact description but maybe an analogy would make sense. I grew up in Bellingham, WA and when I go around town I see houses where there used to be forests, but to the next generation they don’t see any change, to them there has always been houses there. I think we could steal his theory and apply it to other areas of society. We could coin the phrase “technological generational amnesia” to describe the youth of today and tomorrow. I grew up in a world without Internet and cell phones and have seen them become an integral part of modern society. Children born today never lived in a world without the Internet. I saw in the news the other day a poll of college freshmen and these freshmen felt that e-mail was too slow and that Nirvana is classified as classic rock. That tripped me out. It made me feel so old- e-mail too slow…, Nirvana classic rock… what next?

You could apply it to craft beer too, “craft-beer generational amnesia” or “zymurgy generational amnesia.” I remember a time when there was really only three beer companies in this country making basically the same type of beer. Now we have many breweries making every kind of beer style imaginable, even creating new styles. The new beer drinkers in the Pacific Northwest today don’t know what the past was like until they go on vacation to the Mid-west or the South. I’ve heard people tell me about taking a trip somewhere and being shocked to not find any local craft beer. That is changing still and I think we have a bright future for beer in this country ahead of us. Many of the craft brewers today were inspired to brew beer after visiting Europe, especially England and Germany. When they realized they couldn’t find beer like that here in the states they started making their own. That’s what I think inspired the craft beer revolution. There was a time when it was enough just to make something different than the usual ice-light-dry-draft that was the norm. Now that craft brewing is firmly established it’s not enough just to be different, it’s got to be really good to compete with what is already out there. I think that our beer culture has grown dramatically these last few decades. I remember the first time I went to the World Beer Cup and I met some German brewers with a big attitude about how Americans can’t make good beer. Their focus was on maintaining the brewing tradition where they lived. I respect that and they make great beers that deserve to be admired. I could go without the attitude though; that we don’t know how to make beer “properly” in this country. I was very amused later that night when a bunch of Japanese breweries won awards in German beer categories. Later I found out that a lot of those breweries in Japan had hired German brewers, so it made sense. This year at the World Beer Cup in Chicago a brewery called Brew Dog from Scotland won the gold in the Imperial IPA category. That really blew my mind because Imp. IPA is such a West Coast American style. It showed me that the brewers in the States that were originally inspired by the brewing traditions of Europe are now inspiring the next generation of brewers in Europe with new styles of beer brewed in North America. The world is getting smaller as information travels faster (even at the slow speed of e-mail), and the world of craft brewing is ever expanding. I wonder if someday Imperial IPA will be served all over Germany and the youth drinking it will not remember a time when tradition over-ruled taste. Here’s to a better tasting tomorrow! Cheers!

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