There was an excellent article in today’s Dallas Morning News entitled “What beer geeks know,” that details a number of the finer points of enjoying better beer, such as the importance of the glassware, how to pour it, the head, temperature, etc. It’s a really nice overview of several concepts that generally only a beer geek would get right or even care that much about, so it’s especially promising to see them spelled out in so useful a manner.
Feargal McKinney of The Old Monk in Dallas.
I’ll be in Dallas in two weeks, visiting some friends the week after the Craft Brewers Conference. It’s actually not a bad place for beer, but it’s also not on my top ten list. But the fact that an article this good shows up there is a very good sign indeed. You’d never see something like it in my local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, because their management is very hostile to craft beer, preferring California wines to ales and lagers. But by and large, it seems the tide is indeed beginning to turn. The mainstream media is definitely paying greater attention to craft beer again, and if these sales trends continue it will be harder and harder for the segment to be ignored.
Then there was also the excellent news yesterday that craft beer was up in grocery store sales an astonishing 17.8% for 2006. As Stan Hieronymus so elegantly put it, it’s like there’s “no news here.” As he points out, we’ve been reporting strong sales growth for craft beer now for six straight years, hardly making it newsworthy anymore. I think at this point we can safely identify it as a trend. Having sat through years of depressing, despondent conferences where all the bad news seemed a shared failure and any glimmer of hope was disproportionately shouted out just to keep everybody positive and give us something to hold on to during those darker times, it’s such a relief to see everyone so giddy as the good news just keeps getting better.
So it occurs to me that we may be witnessing Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” at work. It’s been several years since I read it, but Gladwell has a nice summary on his own website, gladwell.com. My own memory about what I took away from the book is that things that were formerly quite small or underground suddenly hit the big time when they reach a certain point in society’s collective conscious. Nobody’s sure exactly where that point is for any specific thing, movement, idea, meme, etc. but once it reaches that peak, it “tips over” and what once moved relatively slowly suddenly moves like wildfire, and I believe Gladwell gives the example of how a virus moves through the body. With craft beer, those of involved with it often forget that our passion is shared by only a tiny fraction of the world’s population. But lately it feels more and more like we’re slowly crawling up to the top of the roller coaster. With every new year of growth, increasing attention, and positive mention in the media you can almost hear that steady click, click, click as the car nears the crest of the ride. Are we there yet? I don’t know, but I’m certainly ready to stop being such a curmudgeon and just enjoy the ride.
UPDATE: I also stumbled upon this piece, “Understanding beer can make it better,” on a Virginia television station. It’s not as thorough or in-depth as the Dallas article — it is TV after all — but it’s very positive and seeks to educate its audience, which seems yet another good development.