Sometimes, when I let my mind wander, I think of really odd stuff. Sometimes, if that stuff is good or funny or maybe just odd enough, I write it on a public website for other people to read. Recently, I’ve wondered about the number of raindrops that have fallen throughout the history of the earth, the mental capacity and sentience of canines, and ears.
[Editor's note: Kyle may seem high when he tweets these things, but he's usually not.]
But perhaps my favorite musing of all, and one that I find myself thinking about time and time again, is what it must’ve been like the first time a caveman saw a cloud. It had to have been very confusing and frustrating and scary to see something completely unfamiliar and try to understand it. To ponder its intentions. To try to reason with it. Maybe even argue with it?
But we, dear reader, are not cavemen. We know that clouds are just masses of water vapor and dust. Some of them are dangerous, but for the most part they’re benign. Most of all, perhaps, we know that shouting at them serves no purpose. Clouds gonna cloud. Nothing you can do about that.
Cavemen didn’t know that, though. And while I have zero factual evidence to back up this claim, I’m pretty sure that one day a caveman was out there in the middle of some Cretaceous field, yelling at a cloud, and that caveman got struck by lightning from that very same cloud, and he died.
Cavemen did one of two things: they evolved or they died. The same can be said of pretty much damn near every industry today. Even beer. In order for beer, as an industry, to continue to grow—in quantity, in quality, in reach, in market share—it will need to continue evolving. That evolution could, and should, take many different forms.
The numbers and types and business models of breweries need to expand in each and every way. More 3-BBL mom-and-pop breweries serving their hyperlocal six-square-block neighborhood? Yes, please. More own-premise joints pumping out NEIPA and Pastry Stouts? Yup. More combination brewery/dim sum/flower shop/bookstore operations? Hell yeah. More larger national breweries producing a wide and varied portfolio? Good luck, but also? Mmm hmm, yes, that too.
But at every single one of those levels, quality needs to be paramount. This isn’t a new thought. It’s so trite I almost didn’t type it. But man, if every brewery in the country could have the DO levels and shelf stability of a can of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, oh, what a wonderful world it would be.
It would also be a wonderful world if the beer community felt welcoming to women and people of color and the whole of the LGBTQ community. Steps are being taken in the right direction, for sure. But more will always be needed here. We can do better, and we will.
Even beyond the obvious and basic need for beer to foster a diverse and inclusive community because it’s the year 2018, there’s a near-perfect dovetail with the industry’s desire to regain some of the market share being lost to wine and spirits year over year.
The individuals not being reached by the beer community are still imbibing. So what better way to lure them over to the beer side than by a) showing them what a fun and vibrant and engaging community we have, and b) communicating to them using flavors and terms they’re already familiar with.
There’s nary a flavor present in the world of wine and spirits that isn’t somehow represented in beer. If you’re into whiskey, the vast array of gateway barrel-aged beers is bountiful. If you’re into gin and tonics, there’s a really great G&T Gose I can tell you about. If you’re into daiquiris and margaritas and the like, maybe you’d dig on some Hazy IPAs. And if you’re into wine, there are some grape-must Saisons and low-ABV wild ales that would knock your socks off. Love rosé? There’s likely a hibiscus beer out there with your name written all over it.
Problem is, a lot of breweries tend to not describe their beer using the words or terms these folks are familiar with. Others do, and that’s great. Others, still, are dipping their toe into the water and trying it out. It’s a newer approach, to draw these parallels between the beers we all love and the other products we’ve been told are the enemy. And just like with that caveman, new things can be scary or frustrating.
So maybe we stop shouting at the clouds. Because they’re sure as shit gonna cloud no matter what you say or how loudly you say it. Sure, sometimes they’re going to rain on your parade. But also, some people really love the rain. Other times, they might just throw a little shade. And maybe that's a place where you can party with some new friends from different walks of life and learn a few things.