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Dismissing Beer

The SFoodie, Tamara Palmer, at SF Weekly just released her choices for the 10 Coolest Specialty Food and Drink Magazines. I have no real quibble with her choices, even considering I don’t know a number of the food magazines that made the list. Two publications that write about beer are there. The first, Imbibe, usually has something about beer in every issue though its focus is on all beverages. It came in at #3. The other one, DRAFT, is the only beer-only magazine to make the list, and it is #5. As I said, I have no quibble with either choice, a prety good showing for both rags. I’ve written for DRAFT, though not Imbibe (I have spoken to their editor about pitching something, but haven’t done anything about it yet).

Anyway, I should disclose that I’m probably overly sensitive about these sorts of things, but it definitely ruffles my feathers when other writers, and especially food or wine writers, write uncharitably about beer in somewhat dismissive tones, even when they’re trying not to, as if they can’t help themselves. That seems to be the case here, as Palmer writes in her description of DRAFT magazine. “Beer is not usually something you think of as classy.” Really, why was that qualification necessary? She lives in San Francisco, the birthplace of the modern craft beer movement. There are countless good beer bars, and most here have at least an okay selection that includes more than just the macros. Then there are more than a few restaurants starting to embrace beer. Slanted Door, Millennium, and, of course, the Cathedral Hill Hotel, to name just a few. And look at the great job 21st Amendment, Magnolia, Thirsty Bear and Alembic have done with their menus. How could a food writer miss entirely SF Beer Week? With 155 events over ten days, including over two dozen beer dinners and another 25 or so beer and food pairing events at such places as Oliveto and Chez Panisse, for chrissakes. Surely, she couldn’t have missed the giant beer tent at Slow Food Nation last August at Fort Mason. San Francisco isn’t just some podunk town when it comes to beer, but everywhere you look you see local and better craft and imported beers. So how do you inhabit that space and not be touched by it, dismissing it at the stroke of a pen. I find it just so incredibly frustrating. I see so many people committed to raising the status of beer beyond mere commodity, pouring their life’s blood into it to no apparent effect whatsoever. I mean what exactly do the craft beer brewers, the better beer bars, and the beer savvy chefs at restaurants embracing beer have to do to attract the notice of someone whose very job is about food and drinks?

In the end, Palmer does admit “Draft gives the craft its due as a refined art,” but then why was it so necessary to first dismiss beer as being perceived as unrefined. I understand that many people do see it that way, but haven’t we or can’t we move past that yet, especially among the class of people charged with telling people what are the best things to eat and drink and where one can have the best experiences doing both? I have. Most beer aficionados, wine makers, and a growing number of chefs have moved beyond such antiquated thinking. Why is parity so damn difficult? I think I’ve been working too much lately. I’m getting crabbier than usual, and for me that’s saying something. I need a nap.


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