Friday, April 20, 2012

Beer is Art

Beer is Art. I adamantly believe that beer combines every element that any proclaimed artist might encounter on a daily basis. Creativity, unforeseen obstacles, various styles, and individuality turn every beer into its own portrait. What is a painting's value? It is merely an individual's or group's opinion of the artist's reputation and style. Sometimes a personal connection with a work of art will also influence the value. In similar ways it can be said that a beer's value is legitimized from individuals in the craft beer community.

More than ever, we unknowingly read keywords, such as oaked-aged, imperial, limited release, and collaboration, that incline a particular beer's value is greater and influence our buying behaviors. I am not saying that this is a skewed or unjust approach used by breweries, but rather that it encapsulates all of the hard-work, preparation, and creativity breweries seek to attain. Will I pay for these types of brews? Hell yes. It is art in bottle form. The general population does not understand the intricacies of the brewing process, as well as the incredible efforts it takes for a brewery to get its product into to your local liquor store/bar. Maybe this would help to explain why many people do not see the value in buying from anyone other than the big brewers.

Now back to explaining why Beer is Art. The colors used on the beer canvas are made up of different malt/barley/wheat varieties that a brewer chooses. This is the first step of the brewing process and will determine the final color of a beer. The texture and subtleties that make the overall picture unique are determined by the types of hops used throughout the brewing process, as well as the yeast strain pitched for fermentation. Although this is a completely oversimplified outlook of brewing beer, I am trying to prelude that intangible skills are needed by any artist or brewer in order to be recognized by an audience.

Just as any artist can gather the exact materials needed to paint Van Gogh's "Starry Night", I can also gather the exact malts, hops, and yeast strain needed to replicate Russian River's Pliny the Edler. No matter how many times I brew the exact ingredients, it will never be able to taste exactly the same as the original due to many external factors.  A brewer's artistic vision elaborates the resources around them including water quality, freshness of hops, and ability to create unique strains of yeast not available to the ordinary homebrewer. This is why we see a hop-centric beer culture on the West Coast and a heavy use of wheat in the Midwest.

While the world's craft beer community continues to grow, all of us involved know that what we are able to experience in an outstanding beer is affordable art. Part of the joy in craft beer is being able to sample an enormous variety of beers. When I venture to California I can enjoy new art (beer) that I cannot find in Kansas City. With that said, I hope everyone has an eventful and safe weekend.

Cheers! Prost! Salud!