Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh Sam, you're the dreamiest!

If you've got an hour to kill, check out this New Yorker article on Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head and some back and forth between Sam, Garret Oliver, and some beer advocates.

What do I think of it all? Well, I'm glad you asked.

First and foremost, I'm completely behind Garrett. After reading the article and subsequent comments from Garrett on the BA thread, there's no question that he has every right to be upset that his quotes were used out of context.

But he should be furious - along with every other brewer who gave time to the author - that he was completely duped on the subject of the piece. From what I can read he was asked to participate on a piece about craft brewing (or "extreme brewing", I can't really tell) and it turned out to be a fluff piece on Sam Calagione.

I have to completely disagree with most all of the BA commenters, including Garrett himself, that this was a great article or a well done piece on craft beer. It might be a great article about (and great publicity for) Sam and Dogfish, but I really fail to see how this article benefits anyone else out there in the craft brewing community, except by virtue of their association with Dogfish as members of the same craft brewing community. All publicity is good publicity, as pointed out by many in the BA thread, but this article certainly benefited one much more than it did the community.

I read Brewing Up A Business. A great read and very informative. I would strongly recommend it to anyone out there interested in craft brewing. What I learned about Dogfish Head is this:

Sam's skill as a marketer far surpasses his skill as a brewer. And I mean that as a compliment - Dogfish Head has, by light years, done a better job of crafting its image than any other microbrewery in the country.

But I'm sick of hearing about Sam. There are celebrity chefs all over TV, I know, but I never really imagined how the Cult Of Celebrity might touch the world of craft brewing. I think that Sam has turned into America's first Celebrewer. Sure, Garrett and Jim Koch have had their faces out there for a while. But not like this:

"For a while after college, he did some modelling, and he still looks as if he belonged in, well, a Budweiser commercial. He has a surfer’s loose, long-muscled frame and perpetual tan. His chiselled features are set in a squarish head and topped by a thick black ruff. When he talks, his lips twist slightly to the side and his voice comes out low and woolly, like a crooner’s at a speakeasy."

Give me a fucking break. And let's not forget about how many times we have to be reminded what a cool rebel he is and how radical and extreme he is. He'd be arrested, tarred and feathered in Germany. He'd be fired if he worked for a publicly traded company. He's inspired by Andy Warhol. He flunked out of high school.

Does the guy make beer or is he James Dean? Or Paul Bunyan, perhaps, is a better analogy.

Look, the New Yorker can do whatever they want. They can write about whomever they wish and on whatever subject they think will sell magazines and they have absolutely no obligation to the craft brewing community at large. But I, for one, am tired of hearing about how great Dogfish Head is. I really like the Palo Santo Marron. It's a great beer. I love it even. The 60 Minute is an excellent IPA. Everything else I've tasted from them reminded me of bad homebrew - the kind of beer where the brewer couldn't resist throwing that last ingredient in that makes it wind up tasting confused and over the top and, well, not like beer.

I don't care if people love Dogfish Head and think it's the greatest brewery on the planet. That's fine. To each his own. And I don't begrudge Sam Calagione for anything he's done or is doing. This is America and he has a right to run a business any way he sees fit. If the New Yorker approached him and they want to write an article about him he has an obligation to his business to accept that publicity.

But I'm interested in craft brewing for the beer, not the bullshit and the hype. And to read an article that primarily serves to blow smoke up one guy's ass rubs me the wrong way.

If anybody actually read this thing I'm sure I'd catch a ton of shit for it. I'm not trying to tell anyone that they shouldn't like Dogfish Head. But if this little blog post serves as a couterpoint for one or two people, then great.

There, I got it off my chest.

1 comment:

Douglas said...

Well put, Tom.