Screwed Up Beer Week (vol 16) - The Sophistication of Craft Beer and the Hypocrisy of It All

Written By: Kevin Patterson on 05/01/2014
A guy who's pretty new to the craft beer scene walks into a bar. Still getting his grip with tolerance, enthusiasm and limits, I've seen him get carried away a bit before. But he is so excited about all the new flavors at his disposal that he doesn't want to chance it that tomorrow will come as promised.
But half way into his most recent gluttony, he reminded me of an article last week that spoke of an interview with famed Boston Beer Company's owner, Jim Koch where he explained how to drink all night without getting drunk.
Relating that interview to his own wants and wishes, he asks, "Don't you sometimes wish that these beers wouldn't have alcohol so that we can enjoy them all the time?"
And with my most humble and sympathetic voice, I say, "Fuck no!"
Fairly well stunned by my exclamation, I felt the need to explain myself further. For three thousand years, our thirst for alcohol has been at the forefront of civilization. All that we have been attempting since then is trying to perfect the alcohol's delivery system- the taste!
Sure, I can talk with the the best of them about malt sweetness, hop balance, fruity esters, phenoic spice, herb additions, spice additions, fruit additions, animal part additions and water flavors to name but a few. However all we're doing is talking about the components of the beer that either mask alcohol flavor or complement it in some favorable way- making it more pleasant to ingest.
And sure, we are all in love with the multitude of the flavors in beer, but without the effects of alcohol; and the way that it nurtures the mind, the spirit and the soul- we would have very little interest in the stuff at all, regardless of how good we think it tastes. And at some point, we could likely see non-alcoholic IPA, porter and barleywine and then we can test it out on our wallets and palates to see if our true interest matches our naive notions that the flavor of beer is all that matters. Those beers will likely suck in much the same way that non-alcoholic beers now poorly mimic the taste of pilsner. There's simply no way to replicate the fermented character of true beer.
Yet the lies that we tell ourselves might just make us feel more comfortable about our consumption. If we speak more poetic or sophisticated about beer's flavor, does that makes its enjoyment less unmoral? Does it give us permission to ignore the obvious character of the alcohol itself and pretend that we are better people because we speak of it less? Or not at all?
Or does that make us all hypocrites? If we are honest with ourselves, we would come clean about our dependence upon alcohol's woozy effects. We may not have any clinical dependence, but we depend on beer for a myriad of other reasons: at social engagements, for relaxation techniques, for creativity and inspiration, or for suspending the rut of the mundane for a well-deserved sudsy treat. The reasons why we turn to beer are as varied as the people who are drinking it. 
And although Mr. Koch has both the blessing and the curse in the need to drink for a living, his needs for buffering the effects of alcohol are of his choosing. But for the the new guy at the bar, its best to exercise restraint, respect and patience to gain the full appreciation of beer's alcoholic effects and its delivery system.