Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Craft Radicalization

This morning on Facebook Lew pointed out an article from, written by former NFL punter for the Minnesota Vikings and avid video gamer, Chris Kluwe. Kluwe writes about his disgust with the gaming world’s confounding problem of those self-appointed “true” gamers an their unwillingness to accept who they see as outsiders—notably women game developers—encroaching on their so-called "territory." Kluew’s position is that the rhetoric—and in some cases threats—is becoming unacceptable. Video games have become a cultural norm and its time those “true” gamers came to accept that.

Lew asked on Facebook after reading Kluwe s piece “Why is it that as I read this…I keep thinking of craft beer.

He’s right. Kluwe s point and some of the issues in craft beer today do overlap. Not necessarily like that of those "true" gamer's masogenistic slant, but a related issue—an issue of hostile, self-appointed worthiness.  

There are a lot of great things about craft beer, but there’s some really nasty bits too, and "craft radicalism" (as I have come to call it of late) is one of them. Craft radicalism is the need to defend “craft” for “craft’s” sake, and the ever-increasing aggressive stance taken by those who feel that craft beer should be drank and appreciated by only those who are deemed—by the radicalized—as worthy. To many folks, this might seem to be a non-issue; “Oh, that person is just a hot head”, or “Who cares what that person thinks, drink what you like," and I was in agreement, until I was on the receiving end of a radicalized tirade myself a few weeks ago. Initially I had decided not to write about it, but now seems like it may be a good time.

Allow me to set the stage. I follow a local “support craft beer” page on Facebook. Ninety-nine percent of the posts are of the typical sorts you might find on such a page—photos of someone’s most recent DIPA acquisition, the occasional tasting, food pairing or event notifications, links to articles on Beer Advocate, and random questions about the best yada-yad beer on the market. All pretty typical stuff. I rarely contribute, but I know the creator/moderator of the site, so I thought the page might be an appropriate place for a link from here about one of the upcoming Upper Hudson Valley Beer book events.

I was apparently wrong. Within minute of the posting I was told—not by the creator of the site, but by another follower—that this site was not the place to post my self-promotion, and that a book about beer history has nothing to do with craft beer. I had been deemed not "craft" enough. Here’s the full interaction (I’ve removed all names, except mine):
Craig Gravina: If you missed our Albany Institute book event... I've got some good news for ya'!
JM: Lots of self-promotion and not much else...
CG: JM, I don't think we've ever met, but you've made a couple of dick comments to me. Have I pissed you off or something? What's up?
JM: We have met in fact. I am a believer that posts should contribute and not be purely selfish. Perhaps I am wrong and there are people who benefit from this post more that you, but I'm sure you saw what happened when XXX repeatedly spammed with his blog bullshit.
CG: I guess you won’t be wanting me to save you a copy of the book.
As far as my contribution goes, I think my work with the Albany Ale Project—and my book—has contributed significantly to both the the public record and a better understanding of the history of brewing not only in the upper Hudson Valley of New York, but also the country. 
Forgive me, but what is your contribution, again?
In regards to page moderation, since this is XXXX page, maybe we should let him decide who contributes and who does not.
JM: I do love this common question...why don't you write a post/blog/book/epic tale better than me? When I have something to contribute I do. When I don't, or what I would contribute is of no interest, which is most of the time, I don't. As your post does nothing to explain any history, I think it falls pretty solidly in the second category. You even know you're being an asshole because you state it in the post title. Read the group description, this is not a group for self promotion spam*.
CG: This group is also a place where you don't get to decide what does or does not get posted. Sorry.
JM: You and XXXX really are a special group of people.
CG: Good come back. 
JM: That's not a comeback you fucking retard. Both of you guys are self promotional assholes who haven't contributed anything tangible to either CRAFT beer (as the group is named) or society at all. Albany Ale is not craft beer, nor is anything else you post about. This is not a group for historical ale or italian eateries** that just happen to, yup, carry hop nosh. The world would be better off if both of you ate a little lead, and not in the same way that got you to where you are today. This is a fucking comeback.
CG: Did you just threaten to kill me over a post on Facebook? Seriously, dude, you need to settle down.
JM: I'm not your mother. Feed yourself. 

I realize this is an isolated incident (and I may have helped escalate it), and I’m not writing this as a call for my defense (don’t worry, I have pretty thick skin), but it does speak to the larger issue of craft radicalization—an issue not unlike Kluwe’s gaming issue. Craft radicalization and the idea, by some folks, that craft needs to be protected from some sort of phantom onslaught of mediocrity or from abduction by the unworthy—civil discourse be damned—is wrong, and that ain't cool. In truth, beer doesn’t need that kind of protection, and in fact it, beer doesn’t belong to those who have appointed themselves its worthy protectors in the first place. What it does need protection from is unacceptable, repugnant, radicalized behavior like that of above. I have little time for the “I’m more craft than you” turgidity, and even less time for threats.

There’s been a lot of talk lately of what will kill craft beer—craft versus krafty, big craft vests local and 10,000 other nonsensical arguments about the imminent demise of craft. Ya’ know what really kills craft beer for me?

People like JM. 

* The group’s description says nothing of the like. It does however, say: “Positive and negative comments are welcome, however please be respectful of others in the group."

** This is a nod to a previous interaction in which JM thought that my suggestion that a local import store had a decent selection of beer—Hop Nosh, Ommegang, Samuel Adams, etc.—was completely ridiculous, because “those aren’t really sought after or lusted after beers.”


  1. I think this is too small a sample size to come to a conclusion about all of craft beer fandom. Though you are absolutely correct, there are at least two Super Snobs in the local area who have appointed themselves the police of all craft beer commentary and taste (whatever THEY like is what's good).

    JM is by far the worst, and I think he's an exception, not a rule. He clearly has some kind of malignant narcissism disorder. He might also be autistic or have Aspberger's Syndrome - something just ain't right either way.

    I don't spend enough time in the bowels of anonymous beer forums to gauge whether that nut represents a larger demographic of like-minded (and attitude-ed) people or if he's just on a separate plane of crazy existence. I'm thinking it's the latter.

    I think there's definitely an analogy to be drawn between "Gamer Gate" and craft beer snobbiness, but I don't think they're quite that close.

    At least I hope now.

    1. I'm not claiming all fans of craft beer are the craft radicalized. But I've had a number of experiences, and have read and reported on other instances—like the situation last year at the Alchemist—that show things often go past beer snobbery.

      Again, I’m not indicting all craft beer fans, but bad behavior is bad behavior.

  2. I referenced one of your previous posts in going into the same comparison between craft and #GamerGate with a bit more depth recently:

    1. I think there are some close comparisons between the two. The problem is that there are a lot of folks who don't want to hear the good and the bad.

    2. Absolutely, and one of the lessons coming out of all the #GamerGate conflict might be to moderate the tone of the discourse, which is easier said than done in the heat of any moment.

  3. I don't know where the anger comes from. Be it gaming or beer, in some cases, we've moved passed simple disagreement and moved into bullying.

  4. Doesn't it come down to the perception of an outside threat to one's own power or the status quo of a community? In your case, JM felt that the status quo of the Facebook group was threatened by your input and valued his perception of the group's function over your capacity to broaden the discourse.

    Similarly, #GamerGate is a kind of pent-up explosion over the critiques that women and other "outsiders" to the "gamer" identity have leveled against the bounds of the community that gamers have assumed. JM assumed strict bounds pertaining to what constitutes a "contribution."

    So essentially, doesn't the anger come from a fundamentally conservative reaction to changes in power or the nature of a community?

  5. Gamergate is nothing to do with women. It's just people defending their hobby against people who are demonising and trying to censor it.