Thanks to innumerable factors in the last century or so, the beauty of inconsistency has been lost to a whole generation of women and men. Industrialization, prohibition, world wars, factories, supermarkets, television, technology, marketing…to name a few have contributed singularly and mutually to this phenomenon of homogeny. That’s not to say there haven’t been truly positive outcomes, but at what price?
When I speak of inconsistency, I speak of the positive attributes of artistry, individuality, terroir, seasons, imagination, inspiration…also to name a few. Unfortunately for today, inconsistency has been wrongly construed to signify inferiority, defectiveness, and at the very lowest, worthlessness. After all, this great society of ours is all that much better because of all the innovators of the last century or so moving humanity into the modern age of reason and intellect, wealth and power, status and fame. If one doesn’t have at least one of these, preferably all of them, they are weak, a failure to their community and the world at large. They cannot conform to the almighty standard that has been established by, well, people. What people and why? To whose benefit, really? The many or the few? The singularly unique or the mass-marketed mundane?
I say we need a balance of both, but the unfortunate truth is that right here, right now, the heavy-handed machine of largesse is smothering the beauty of individual artistry.
As a beer geek of burgundian girth, this unfortunate conundrum is as pertinent to my world as it is to all aspects of our world. By its own definition artistry is “artistic quality or ability” which in turn personifies “one who practices an imaginative art, especially one who creates objects of beauty” and last but certainly not least, “one who is adept at something”. Artistry and individuality go hand-in-hand in the fermenting world of craft beers (I’ll save the food for another day) that myself and hundreds of thousands of millions of women and men are rediscovering with celebratory gusto. I want unique. I want different. I want change, ingenuity, daring, adventure, disaster, rebirth, terroir, invention, and the overall beauty of the minutiae. I want a personal touch, the human story, the very real connection between the brewer and me, the consumer. I strive for understanding and a never-ending broadening of my burgundian girth. I value honesty and respect, humility with pride. I appreciate a tender touch, conscious stewardship, and an awareness of the world around us.
With each heartbeat, each breath, and each sip, I am celebrating the lost art of inconsistency. So where is the irony? Well, surprisingly (or maybe not so much) within my own craft beer community. Remember, I’m not talking about bad beer because bad is just that, bad. The heart of my musings is the duopoly we sometimes view our small craft sisters and brothers with. If the true art of brewing beer is a melodious marriage of earth, man, and inspiration, than it is safe to say that there will be some variance despite and in spite of our modern advances. Saison, Biere de Garde, Lambic, Flemish reds, old ales, Barleywines, and fresh hopped beers are some of my favorite and also some of the most inconsistent. Their tasty inconsistency only endears their liquid bounty ever closer to my heart, and I’m not the only one.
Nor do they have to be wildly inspired beers. Brewers whim, ingredient changes, seasons, yeast, bottle size, production…all these wonderful variables go into bringing to my glass and my eager palate a different beer of equally tastetastic standings. Different isn't bad; different is just different. Everything else is a perspective of personal taste and opinion. Don’t lament when there is so much more to celebrate. As much as I enjoy the stalwart consistency of such beers as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Anchor Porter, and Brooklyn Lager, so too do I enjoy the playful inconsistency of such beers as Samuel Adams Boston Lager (which Jim Koch has been tweaking since day one), Saison DuPont, New Belgium La Folie (had a fresh bottle last night and twas wonderful), Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, and so many more.
Beyond your national favorites, there are your brewpubs and nanobreweries that aren’t afraid to mix it up a little bit or a lot. When I start homebrewing I don’t expect all my batches to always be consistent, even when working with the same recipe. I’m a bird of inspiration carried by the winds of curiosity with destination unknown a distant horizon to explore with verve and funk. Sure there will be bad batches here and there, but the rest is up to creative inconsistency and a wee bit of chance.
I don’t believe brewers who truly love their craft and the community it encompasses will ever let a bad batch reach these coveted lips. But do I expect brewers everywhere to stop what they are doing because someone somewhere missed the irony of inconsistency boat? Absolutely not. Brewing is an art which happens to occasionally utilize science for the sake of supporting said art. Macro brewing is the polar opposite where the heart and soul of uniquely artistic brews were ripped out long ago and replaced with the heartless homogeny of cold steel. Calculable and one-dimensional, those pastures have long since been barren.
Verily and thirstily, I will take my brews day in and day out from the women and men who live their passion in every batch nurtured and every pint savored. Dedication, respect, and inspiration in a mutually restorative relationship which celebrates the infinitely inconsistent wonders of my life, one beer at a time, till death do us part.
(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)