Friday, August 9, 2013

Prairie's 'Merica: Beer of the Free; Women vs. Craft: Home of the Brave?

So typically, the styling of an [An Avenue] blog post works like this: 1) a wordy, rabble-rabble nonsensical bullshit narrative about the craft industry's current state of cultural affairs, then 2) a hastily-taken Instagram'd pic of some provocative beer we've recently vented our livers with, before 3) finishing off with personal and extraordinarily compelling reasons why one should or should not be drinking that beer while aggregating an album you hadn't thought of in years that theoretically pairs well with it.  Really, it's just an excuse to jam to some really cool old shit while we get drunk and tap away at the keyboard.

Its a formula that works well enough to keep people reading, we guess, because there's enough traffic to keep us bound to this place like a pesky meth habit.

But this post is different, because we'll be revealing the control before the it's variable primarily because the content that follows it is a bit thick and probably too truculent for your average Google'r.

And really, this is a beer that should have it's own dedicated piece.  But because we at [AA] are very particular about format, we're keeping the pieces together, but giving Prairie the opening act. No worries.  We once went to a gig that had Morrissey warming up for lame-assed David Bowie.  So this spot is not completely bereft of merit. 

PART I: 'Merica Farmhouse Saison | Prairie Artisan Ales | Krebs, OK

All that said, its a rare day when you find any of us at [AA] speaking highly of anything Okie related, as it is our naturally ingrained defense mechanism as Austinites to reject any entity who so willfully defiles us regularly with rectal football insertions and the Kings of Leon.   Oklahoma is the state that has a whole-fucking-lot of making up to do if we're ever gonna forget about Barry fucking Switzer, Garth Brooks, and making Dallas into a shittier Norman.  We totally had their backs with Kevin Durant and, you know, all that land necessary for their dust.  What a bunch of dicks.  Hey, thanks, Oklahoma.

But from the land of 4% beers and bulk cigs -- and yes, this was pure, 100% Colombian-grade shock to those of us at [AA] -- came the best Northern Red River export since Darrell Fucking K Royal.

This really shouldn't have been such a surprise.  Prairie Artisan Ales is well regarded in the craft community for making outstanding saisons and wheat beers -- and first impressions of a totally different saison from this one that they offer to Texas was met with complete sensory awe and subscriptions to their newletters.  We've been regularly giving them our weekly beer allowances since.

The problem with farmhouse beers is that there are so many available on the market today, interchangeably serving the same purpose: citrusy, funky, yeasty; useful on a warm evening, that none of which are hugely fussed over when they are intermittently exchanged by different farmhouse beer on a different warm evening. We doubt anyone would even notice a difference in flavor a majority of the time.

But Prairie Artisan Ales -- and their 'Merica Saison specifically -- essentially puts all Belgian farmhouse beer makers in this country on blast, like a meme-y internet call out: "O Hai, 'Merica".  Shit, it would be downright communist to withhold or replace this with some other kind of shitty saison not named 'Merica, especially with 95% of the country in a heat deluge.

On first trial, 'Merica tastes like Bell's Oberon with Tits -- but upon further reflection, it reminds more of a Mimosa with Balls.  Yep, that's it: mandarin citrus sharpness, muddled yeasty brightness, champagne effervescence.  Sharp as a tongue.  A little hairy at the end, but not so boozy that you couldn't reasonably drink it with fried eggs, thick bacon, and a cigarette for hangover brunch.

OK, Oklahoma.  So, you've got a great brewery that makes exceedingly exceptional beer.  How about a big 'fuck you' for showing us up again?  We've still got Vince Young's Steak House.  What's Brian Bosworth up to these days?

ABV 7.5o%
Acquired Mueller HEB
Can I Find This in Austin? It's everywhere. And its glorious.
Album Pairing Eels | Electro-Shock Blues (1998)



Craft Beer: Everything But the Girl

Now, those who read [AA] regularly might feel compelled to glance at this section through latticed fingers, but we assure that this is not a personal attack on any one person or entity, but a narrative on social behaviors in general, so just go ahead and relax.

That said, a curiosity that has begun to capture our interest -- at least through social and print media -- is the recent phenomenon of rampant rah-rah cheerleading for the women's craft beer movement.

I will mention straight away that I believe that women represent one of two HUGELY important market demographics for the progression of craft beer in this country (the other being live sports spectators).  My wife is one of the biggest craft enthusiast I've ever known; growing up in the great beer state of Michigan, working at a brewery in college, anticipating Bell's and Founder's seasonal releases along with the rest of the Midwest, and then eventually coming of age as a rather exceptional home brewer.

Lauren Salazar of New Belgium's sensory department is probably [AA]'s biggest hero in the craft industry, mostly cos she's a fucking beer Jedi, but also because she makes no issues or apologies for her badassery.  She also staffs a team that includes both genders, and this is an area where men cannot even match up to his female counterpart.  So she's just being kind, really.

Another woman in craft -- albeit small media -- was the major influence that sparked the creative flow of [AA].  She curates her own beer blog, and you should consider reading it.  Again, one of the more knowledgeable people in craft who we associate regularly with.  

And there is a rather large community of women in beer media, particularly for a beer powerhouse like Austin, who have met and exceeded the expectations for gruff assholes like us at [AA] who like to dole out only small portions of respect at a time, male or female.

The point is, is that cachet of all of these women was earned because they are clever and bright and great people to share a bomber with, not because they are a member of a protected class in craft beer.  They each began on the other side of the Big Beer wall like any other one of us regardless of gender, and have achieved the reverence of their peers by becoming an ambassador of an important industry.  Really, who gives a shit if a member of this specific community is a man or a women?  Delineating such removes the focus from the beer itself -- something we've all dedicated ourselves to for a monetary return of close to zero, but a wealth of pals and accomplices.  Such exclusionary practice really only serves to be divisive amongst the industry, and that devalues the movement overall.

We at [AA] hate that there are some misguided folks out there who believe that craft beer is somehow restrictive or disrespectful of women.  We had this exchange on our twitter feed just the other day:
While there are some very, very low-status outliers, like the mostly benign, but apparently controversial South Austin Brewing ad, or Clown Shoes' Tramp Stamp beer label, we don't think that the intention is alienation or discrimination towards the female craft drinker.  Typically these instances are not exploitative, but parody.  And sometimes -- sometimes -- parodies are insensible, but not sexist.  Should my personal demographic be offended by this?  No, not really.

There is no revolution to begin.  There is no Bastille to storm.  There is no Night of the Long Knives being conspired by bearded men in an underground beer bunker in Portland.

Most of all, there is no "glass pint ceiling" to break as was mentioned on Twitter by fans of a female-driven beer blog in response to a cover piece by The Austin Chronicle just last week.  For those willing to take a plunge into the enriched ocean of craft culture, there is no restrictive glass ceiling to penetrate.  It just simply isn't there.  Nor would anyone in the culture allow it.  Its a complete non-starter.

But articles with headlines like "Have a seat dudes, [...] the Gals Have Got this Round" really only serves to alienate a growing population of craft-curious.  Its a straightjacket on easy access and acceptance.  My response as a Big Beer drinker would be something like, "Um, okay?"  Have we fucking lost the plot here?  We are trying to be inclusive.  Let the Beer Advocate extremists hide themselves in the closet away from society.  We don't really have to deal with them that much anyway.  And yet, still, you would never hear the majority of them exclude the fairer sex.  Most of them are depressed asexuals, anyway.

Excuse me for speaking as part of the male idiocy, but being both 1) a woman and 2) loving craft beer doesn't make you a feminist.  It doesn't make you revolutionary.  There isn't a profile for the craft beer enthusiast, and it most certainly isn't "white male, 30, woman stomper".

If you're reading this, you probably love good beer, and you've surely thought to yourself where you might fit in within the craft beer spectrum.

And that's just it: craft beer is a spectrum, not a hierarchy defined by insignificant biological characteristics.  I think it has more to do with philosophical perspective and getting fucked.  

We can all buy each other a round.