The Ale Apothecary, in its Oregonian flannel-block funk-punk stoner jam beauty, is valuable. I’ve copied the text below from a recent Instagram post. Paul Arney cleverly ensconces a marketing post and call to action within his signature-style critique of beer media culture and admission that *gasp* it’s hard out there for a brewery.
If you follow beer social media, you know what he (and I) mean – and if you feel called out, it’s ’cause you’re among the hundreds of thousands of people who fuel these accounts. Glossy, titillating, expertly staged photos and videos by accounts that purport to advertise and help sell and direct traffic and make the brewery some ROI. I’m in no position to tell someone what they can or can’t do with their body; that’s their business, and I have plenty more disclaimers. What’s bugged me, and what I (and Arney) seem to be getting at, is that all the pizzazz has very little to do with craft beer as an appreciable, mindfully created product, and that popularity contests are superficial. It could be a post about anything within the frame of the photo, but that’s not where our (my) eyes go.
We’re conditioned to accept marketing (quick ironic note: I literally answered the door to talk to a salesperson selling organic produce box subscriptions while typing this sentence). We let businesses influence what we think we need and want, and engage in lengthy searches for those things, whether it’s a pair of hiking boots, a car, or a beer. Sex and hyperbole, unblemished soles and un-greased car armrests, sell. But you gotta know it’s not that glamorous, and when you get that thing, the satisfaction is fleeting. You’re not driving that babe that was perched on the hood, or drinking that resort’s infinity pool (ed.: read that again, but slower).
Accepting and reacting to marketing takes you out of the moment. Drinking some Apoth puts you in the tree, which is very momentous as your entire being is wrapped in cambium. Making a beer purchase decision that aligns with your desires and values is a first-world win. Do the research.
Bill Hicks said, targeting artists/actors/comedians, “If you do a commercial, you’re off the artistic role call forever… unless you’re Willie Nelson.” What I (and Arney and Hicks) seem to absorb from that is the loss of autonomy and independence from engaging in a deeper, sucking quicksand layer of money’s power. There is a fortitude of spirit, whether or not it’s hubris, in craft beer. As Arney stated, the entire beer industry is struggling, but that’s not what goes on social media. It comes up in trade mags and conversations with almost every brewer. And here’s where it gets goth: behind all the happy face posts are a lot of hard questions about survival.
OK, two things before I either wrap it up or write a book.
First: the snark. I think that’s the “beer critique accounts” Arney’s talking about. I’ll concur, with the exception of Don’t Drink Beer. He’s the Lester Bangs we need. If your sole source of popularity (likes & follows) is posting photos of beer cans with a glass of beer, full frame, with a star or number rating and a few words… yeah. It’s just the algorithm in ouroboros. There is no transfer of meaning or value between the screen and reality. FOMO is a story you tell yourself, a story you control. Take control.
Second: “But marketing is necessary for a business to succeed!” And is not Paul Arney marketing right now?! How can these things both exist, the need for and hatred of marketing? In the context of Apoth (and my context relative to Apoth, which includes following the long abandoned https://mountainbrewery.org/), it’s an ethos driven by locality and community and independence. And I believe there are many other brewers who choose to embrace a bit of struggle, for whom brewing against the machine is a necessary, artistic, and defiant act. Finding a gallery in which to sell the art is different than paying to project it onto our retinas.
Here’s the post from @thealeapothecary:
ATTN: This is a public service announcement. With farmers!!! As a consumer, perhaps you don’t know that the entire beer industry is struggling right now. Its different for each business, but looking at social media, you’d think everything was just peachy, never better. I’ve stopped following beer influencers & beer critique accounts because they have become the Fox News of craft beer, unfortunately. Following the dark whims of boobs & snark is good for popularity but really bad for the concept of craft. The challenges my brewery faces are opening up exciting opportunities for me & for you, our collective experimentation with wild & mixed culture beer is yielding the fruit we only dreamed of just 10 years ago. This beer is one if them. I’m so proud to have met each farmer who contributed. Hops from Gayle Goschie @goschiefarms, barley grown & malted by Seth Klann @meccagrade & cascara from coffee beans grown by Miguel Menendez in El Salvador. The first brews are aging in a mezcal foeder, and will get infused with cascara prior to packaging in kegs & maybe cans within a couple months. If you care about craft, if you care about craft beer, support small brewer-owned breweries who respect it as well. Our American beer culture was decimated by prohibition 100 years ago. It took this long to re-learn our craft, no joke. We are on the verge of a different gutting of our industry this time, without a Joe Camel to place the blame upon. Just like the Clash said in 1982, know your rights. Know your breweries and choose wisely. You are important, don’t let anyone tell you differently.
And here are the events:
The Bier Stein, 5-7pm – Thursday Tasting Series featuring Steeplejack
Claim 52 Kitchen, 3pm – Beer release: Weekend Whip, Tutti Frutti Fruited Sour. Conditioned on banana, orange, lemon, pineapple, and cherry. 7%
Oakshire, 6-10pm: Tuesday Beer Release: Theme & Sun Made
Join us for a beer release event! Sample our new beer and learn more about it directly from the brewers. Today, we’re releasing two sour beers: Theme From The Bottom: Strawberry Pineapple Banana & Sun Made Fruit Fusion: Blueberry Meyer Lemon
Plank Town & The Wheel – Roller Girl Hazy IPA release. A collaboration brewed for International Women’s Day, featuring the Pink Boots hop blend and a very tropical “thiolized” yeast (see previous Events post for more on that).
Oakshire Inspires: Healthy Moves – Healthy Moves mission is to prevent childhood obesity and inspire a love of movement in K-8 students by providing in-school programs, classroom teacher support, and community connection through educational fitness. $1 per pint donated.
Beergarden & PublicHouse – Muse: A Celebration of Women Vol. 1
International Women’s Day celebration with live music and draught beer performed and brewed by women. Full details here
The Bier Stein, 5-7pm – Thursday Tasting Series featuring Coldfire
Alesong & Friends: Breakside Brewing – Join us for a wonderful afternoon of tasting and education with Ben Edmunds of Breakside. 3-6pm. Full details & tickets