Are you passionate about beer? Does it consume your every waking moment,or is it just a drink that you enjoy with enthusiasm, while keeping perspective clearly in view and your feet firmly on the ground?
Now most people reading this blog are likely to be keen on beer. Very keen on beer. Too keen on beer even, but degree will vary. Within the beer fraternity you tend to have a broad church and a few zealots. This zealotry can exhibit itself in many ways; the real ale, fiend, the dedicated Guinness drinker, the ticker, the lager man, the craft keg devotee, etc. etc. Whether these are passions or just preferences or mild obsession is moot, but beer to the devotee, brings out strong feelings. Not so unusual, as products of all kinds, from cars, to biscuits or whatever, have their specific adherents. It is human nature and what makes (some of) us tick.
That's drinkers though. What about the passionate brewer? I read constantly about the new breed of craft brewer and passion. Thornbridge has the word embedded into its slogan and advertising. Even Gazza Prescott, erstwhile ticker, brewer and a bit of a sceptic where such things are concerned, speaking on Twitter, thinks there is something to this. Brewers with passion are better brewers, is both implied and stated. (Not just by him I hasten to add). Now let's consider this. Most micro brewers are unqualified except by experience. This isn't to insult them, but most have been home brewers, beer fanatics, or whatever and learned as they go along. They may have had a Brewlabs, or Dave Porter Brewing course, but they are basically playing it all by ear. Nothing wrong with that. That's the art of brewing, but not the science. It is partly what makes beer so approachable. Anyone can do it really. Some better than others of course, but if you have passion, that's even better. You see, passion, it is implied, makes better beer than qualifications or science and sets some brewers apart. Well, maybe.
Now of course there is always a place for passion in what you do or believe in. It drives you forward. It makes you push at the barriers and get up in the morning. It allows you to recover from setbacks and to enthusiastically do what you do. It doesn't replace training, knowledge, skills, technique or qualifications though. It just supplements them in the best of cases, or is used as a mask to hide behind in others. Big brewers don't have passion is the unspoken part of this message. I am not so sure about that. They may well be restricted by environment and by corporate or other diktats, but many have just as much passion as the small brewer in his pride. I'll tell you a story. A couple of years ago, one Saturday, I met J W Lees Second Brewer and Brewhouse Manager in the pub. He was looking particularly dusky, so I enquired as to the reason. He'd just come back from his hols. "What time did you get back?" I asked. "Early this morning" he replied. "Ah", says I, "Back to work on Monday then?" "Yes" he said "though I've been in already." "What just now?" I asked, for it was afternoon? "No, about five am. this morning, when we'd got back from the airport. I just wanted to check the fermentation and see if the Brewhouse was OK." Was that passion or dedication? A large slice of both I'd say.
Small brewers are constantly looking for ways to set themselves apart from their larger rivals. So is passion one way to do it? Does passion actually make a difference or are you better just knowing your stuff? Possibly, but neither is limited to small artisanal brewers, or innovative ones, or even dedicated ones. Does passion make you a better brewer? Quite likely, but I'd venture only if you are a good brewer in the first place.
I think passion is a word that needs to be used sparingly and in context. It is far more common though throughout British brewing than some would have you think.
Passion is an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something. Both Thornbridge and Gazza are used for illustrative purposes only.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, CAMRA Chairman and (local) activist, beer author, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010 and 2011. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
This blog mentions specifics; pubs and beer, good and bad. The opinions will be forthright, but you can always disagree, just don't be offended. Comments from those mentioned are particularly welcome and a right of reply is hereby offered.
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