2013, London. The weather is rainy, as is typical for England; we’re at a traditional pub, just as typical for England. I’d just started dating my future wife and we had a date in the UK capital although neither of us lived there. Going to the almost brand new (at the time) Craft Beer Bar on Leather Ln was her idea. She went up to the bar and came back with a couple of pints filled with a thick, jet-black liquid. The drinks were strong, yet exquisite; their aroma reminded me of roasted malts, coffee and chocolate. They were like nothing I’d ever tried in my native Bulgaria.
Thankfully, the past few years have changed that. The craft beer culture has taken over Bulgaria by force. The refreshingly wide range of tastes combined with the unusual and fun packaging, have started to grace not only the shelves of specialty stores but also those of regular supermarkets. Bulgarian craft beer breweries were the next logical step: “Divo pivo”, “Glarus”, “White Stork”, “Ah!”, “Blek Pine” and “Ayliak” are just the more prominent examples among many currently available on the market. The past few years have also seen the establishment and development of the Bulgarian Homebrewers Association, and some places have managed to make a tradition out of craft beer markets.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that any attempt to define the phenomenon would inevitably have to resort to the somewhat clichéd saying that “the journey is more important than the destination”. This slogan applies not only to the small private breweries (whose owners’ ideology means a focus on quality rather than quantity), but also to their clients, whose attitude we recognize in the title of this article. It’s not that you can’t binge on craft beer. It’s just that, well, this isn’t the point of drinking it… Plus, you’ll likely go broke way too soon. The unusual approach to the process and the desire for experimenting have taken their toll on product prices, which are at least twice as high as those of the more familiar choices out there.
That is why craft beers wouldn’t appeal to everyone’s taste – or wallet. By definition, this niche is meant to offer an alternative to the mass market, otherwise overflowing with standard, middle-of-the-road tastes.
I’m already noticing a juxtaposition between the ordinary consumer and his opponent, “the beer snob”. Dismissive sparks fly from both sides. The former considers craft beer as a counter-cultural attempt at elitism, while “beer hipsters” respond condescendingly towards the low-quality dogma and the lack of flavor for adventure.
At the end of the day, cultivating particular preferences is the driving force of every culture. The world of beer is just a casual reflection of human evolution.
Who prefers cultivating memories to mindless inebriation?
With some beers among the existing 100+ types you just don’t want to get drunk.