Welcome to the first Boots and Brews News from Beers at the Bottom! As part of our site re-model, we came up with the idea for a weekly chat with our lovely readers about either a “newsy” bit from the beer or trails world. Every Thursday, we invite you to share a pint with us and just have a nice fireside chat.
Most likely you've heard about the recent buyout of Seattle darling Elysian Brewery by Anheuser-Busch InBev. Many of the discussions and articles I read felt like a reiteration of the same things said about the acquisition of 10 Barrel of Bend, Oregon. There was a grand cry of “Sellout” from many craft beer enthusiasts, and questions about mainting quality of the beers being produced. I'm going to leave most of the nitty-gritty details to those who have a more vested interest and knowledge of the deal. I've included links at the end of this post to a few of the articles I've read over the past few days.
I want to be very honest upfront: I would not consider myself an Elysian “fan”. For one thing, I'm not a fan of pumpkin beers, and Elysian is known for them. The Great Pumpkin Beer Fest features many Elysian fall-gourd creations. That's not to say I don't enjoy their beer. Frankly, when I'm picking up something from the beer aisle, Elysian is usually ruled out because of its pricepoint. Their beer is one I'd drink on tap—but even then an Elysian beer isn't my go-to. This past Halloween, Brandon and I hit up the Capitol Hill Elysian taproom for a couple of beers, which we both enjoyed. I dig the Jasmine IPA, mostly because I love anything Jasmine, and recognize that they produce some innovative and interesting beers. But I don't seek Elysian out.
One of the articles I read (linked below) went into the discussion of the backlash of selling out:
Of course there will be some upset Elysian fans that don’t want to support corporations no matter what size. Very similar corporations that these same individuals are receiving this Elysian news on, such as an iPhone or Dell computer, that also come from very large corporations. A person can say one thing but it’s very difficult to follow through with it in one’s life in today’s modern world. (Paul, Brewpublic)
Comparing craft beer to an iPhone is a bit of a stretch. One of the reasons to choose craft beer is to support local business, to support a community. When a large corporation like A-B InBev gets involved, there is some grey area of who I'm actually supporting. I have to say, that is enough to influence my choice to pick a craft brewery I know without a doubt is local. I think Elysian is aware of that, anticipating the bigger picture of becoming a recognized brand nationally.
So readers: How do you feel about all this? Any big fans of Elysian on the look-out for a new brewery of choice?
As for the pint I'm drinking today:
There was a clear choice: Loser Pale Ale from Elysian.
Brewed to celebrate local indie label SubPop's 25th Anniversary. An homage to Nirvana, the label proclaims, “Corporate Beer Still Sucks.”
With a golden-copper color, the beer is a balanced brew of hop bitterness and malt. It has a wet mouth feel and the caramel malts tend to the sweeter rather than dough-yeasty.
This beer was one that came up frequently in articles, the irony was too explicit. Now that they are “corporate beer” can Elysian still brew Loser? Falling back on an old interest in music journalism, I did a little investigation. Loser's slogan wasn't just a Nirvana reference, but a very specific one. For the band's first cover of Rolling Stone, lead singer Kurt Cobain wore a white shirt with “Corporate Magazines still suck” scrawled in black sharpie. This was a crossroads for Nirvana: the cover of Rolling Stone was a proclamation of selling out. The band had outgrown and moved on from SubPop, had a number one record in their major label debut Nevermind. Cobain conceded:
"There are a lot of things about Rolling Stone that I've never agreed with,'' says Cobain in a gentle growl one or two steps up from a whisper. "But it's just so old school to fight amongst your peers or people that are dealing with rock & roll, whether or not they're dealing with it in the same context that you would like to. There are a lot of political articles in there that I've been thankful for, so it's really stupid to attack something that you're not 100 percent opposed to. If there's a glimmer of hope in anything, you should support it.” (Azerrad, Rolling Stone)
Maybe Loser Pale Ale isn't just ironic now—maybe it's history repeating itself.