My beer-related hope for 2013: small becomes the new big. It is about time for American craft brewing to abandon the “bigger is better” model and stop trying to offer imperial versions of every type of beer under the sun. You know what a lot of residual sugar, a big sticky body, and alcohol covers over? Subtlety. Complexity. Flaws in the beer. Take your pick. This model, more than anything else, contributes to the Grand Canyon Effect in beer nerd circles: by making beer consumption the touristic equivalent of a novelty t-shirt, the goal is more about laying claim to having tried a particular beer than engaging the quality or merit of the beer itself. To quote my man György Lukács, it’s just more of that false consciousness stuff. I know, I know, the complicity. Which hurts. And even more disheartening: big beer fetishization is merely the illogical flipside of the domestic brewing most beer nerds so avidly rant and rail against. The only difference is that beer nerds are clamoring to get these beers while simultaneously proclaiming their perfection. I’d enjoy the irony, but it’s not ironic—it’s just stupid. Let’s get back to the craft in craft beer.
While I know better than to hold my breath, the small things give me hope. This year will see the second annual Session Beer Day on April 7th (see Lew Bryson’s The Session Beer Project for more). And I expect all of you out there to do your part as well. Ask for small beers. Drink small beers. Enjoy small beers. And, if you can, make small beers. I’m looking at you, McElfresh. Small things can come true. Here’s to the new big!