Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Has American Craft Beer Culture Gone Over the Top?

I remember reading an article about reverse culture shock, written by an American expat who had been abroad for several years. He finally returned to the States and went to the grocery store. Naturally, that's where it hit him. Things had changed. So many choices. An embarrassment of riches. He expressed a mixture of amazement and delight and vague disgust at a type of rabid consumerism that we generally take for granted.

That's what I see on my horizon. We'll be back in the States in less than two weeks, so I'm doing advance research. Looking at the websites, draft lists and dinner menus of trendy beer bars and restaurants, for example... I'm amazed. Delighted. And vaguely disgusted. So many choices. And it's all so damn precious.

One place that really piques my interest – and I think this is a fair example of the US craft-beer-and-food trend, particularly in larger cities – is the Birch & Barley restaurant in DC, and its attached ChurchKey beer bar. They have a person whose title is beer director. They have pairings. They have foie gras. On the daytime bar menu they have lists of "farmstead cheeses" and charcuterie. The taps are pouring Kölsch from Köln, Alt from Düsseldorf, biere de garde from France, and Scotch-barrel-aged beers from Scotland – and that's just to mention a few.

It's all a bit... much. It's enough to make a yank want to duck into a cheap dive and quietly suck down shakers of Sierra Nevada. Because frankly I would be content to do so.

Or I could be a good soldier, put on a brave face, and attack that Pig's Head Terrine with a becher of Uerige Sticke. You know. Just for courage.

I'm not fooling you, am I?


  1. Sounds like a place down the road from me with their "tasting of deviled eggs." Worse though is the nominal 10 oz. glass* of Cantillon costing $10-12. Then there's the attitude that you should be thanking them that you for the privilege. Do we really need this?

    *ends up at 7-8 ounces

  2. We've never known how to stay under the top. It's just that we were slower on the take to beer.

    More. Better. Bigger. Faster. Now.

    Good luck with getting reacclimated!

  3. "a yank want to duck into a cheap dive and quietly suck down shakers of Sierra Nevada." I don't know where you're at but a cheap dive in Philadelphia gets you a chance at having something Lite/Light. Ok, maybe a Lager.

  4. I think there are lots of dives these days with a token craft option, be it Sierra Nevada or Anchor Steam or a local pale ale, whatever it be. Unless you think that merely offering such a beer means it is no longer a dive, by definition.

  5. Hi Joe,
    Mate, I know where you're coming from but it does reflect American culture.
    Looks like a damn fine restaurant though, think Den Dyver mate.