Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Is there such a thing as a macro micro?

Depending on your perspective, the news today that Widmer Brothers Brewing and Red Hook Brewery are merging may be either a cause for a prost or a reason for microbrew aficionados to drown their sorrows.

I was fortunate to come of age and develop a taste for beer, particularly Pacific Northwest microbrews, in the 1980s. I don't remember the first time I had a Red Hook ale or a Widmer Hefeweizen, but its (fortunately) quite difficult to find a bar in the Northwest that doesn't have a Red Hook or Widmer beer on tap. The only exceptions might be bars and restaurants that brew their own beer.

When I moved to the California's Mojave Desert in 1995, I loved the place, but found it to indeed be a sparse landscape virtually devoid of microbrewed liquid refreshment. California may be seen as a trendsetter on many things, but it was sadly behind the times in the microbrew revolution. It was as if the distributors' beer trucks ran out of gas when they reached Bakersfield.

It took the better part of a decade for Southern California to catch up with what Portland and Seattle had known for 20 years, that breweries like Red Hook and Widmer made fuller-bodied, more flavorful beer than that domestic piss-water pilsner rotting tastebuds by national breweries. Actually, the Northwest's heritage as a beer making and drinking region stretches back much further than the rediscovery that exploded in the 1980s.

But are Widmer and Red Hook (or perhaps I should say Craft Brews Alliance) now becoming victim to their own success? Will the new bigger company become a big brewery just like those to which the separate companies were formed to be an alternative?

To be honest, I've never cared much for Red Hook's signature ale. I am a fan of Widmer's Hefeweizen and Drop Top Amber Ale and Snowplow Milk Stout. They also used to make a Black Bier, which I was very fond of and still look periodically to see if it is available as a seasonal beer at least.

I have no intention to stop buying Widmer-labeled beers -- as long as their maintain their finely crafted taste. If it goes the way of Henry Weinhard's Blue Boar Ale, which doesn't taste the same as I remember from my college days when it was a regular resident of my refrigerator. Maybe my taste buds have changed. But I am convinced that Weinhard's Ale does not taste the same -- doesn't taste as good -- as it did when Blitz-Weinhard Brewing Co. was a real brewery, not just an affiliate of conglomerate SABMiller.

I know in the world of business, growth is imperative. If Red Hook and Widmer had not grown as fledgling breweries, they would not have survived. If that growth had not occurred I would not have been able to find my beloved Hefeweizen in my favorite Southern California bars and eateries for my last few years in California. Growth is often good. Bigger is quite often better. I certainly hope it will be in this case. It may still be good, even great, beer. But I don't think it the beers are correctly classified as microbrews anymore (Check out the comments on the Beervana blog).

3 comments:

3rdtimesacharm ( 3T ) said...

Beer sucks. It tastes like rotton wheat. All of it. ;-)

Now champagne? There's a quality sipping alcohol. I'm partial to the cheap-o Korbels extra dry. OK, extra dry and I could pretty much drink any brand.

Hope you have a wonderful wednesday, G-Man! :-)

3T

The G-man said...

OK, I won't say Korbel sucks if you don't say beer sucks.

Deal?

3rdtimesacharm( 3T ) said...

LOL!

Deal! :-)

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