Deconstructing What It Means to Be Best: Is It Beer or Experience?

The past week was a wild one of lines drawn and heated tempers – all over a logo.

Or, rather, a logo released by the Brewers Association to separate their “small and independent” members from other businesses managed to rile up beer enthusiasts, creating collateral damage of their good intentions. No matter what the success of the effort is in the long run, it’s clear that the business – for the geekiest and most committed – is entering a stage of new definitions in which “us vs. them” is merely a starting point for breweries to pledge their independence with a physical commitment of space on packaging.

But still, non-Brewers Association defined beer makes up about 87.5% of sales in the U.S., making it a mathematical impossibility that any significant number of drinkers will choose this battle as their last stand. “Small and independent” matters to consumers, but not in a way that any kind of majority (or “silent majority,” even) will create some kind of beer-focused coup and overthrow the centuries-long fact that humans really like drinking lager.

Among all this, I posed a question on Twitter inspired by a (civil!) Reddit thread: was the “best” beer you’ve ever had about the beer or experience?

In this brief moment in time, it would seem that the argument is meant to start with Beer, the creation and purpose of a signifying logo meant to connote some greater connection with a consumer and superior quality. But almost unanimously, for the un-scientific, self-selected, niche-of-a-niche crowd that responded, it was Experience.

“Experience 100%. All of them. Though I have had some good beers along the way,” noted writer Jeff Alworth.

“2 years of asking this as part of my teaching suggests that it is the experience, the recollection is about place, people and time,” wrote Dawn Maskell, a faculty member and director at Scotland’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling.

Almost a year ago exactly, I wrote this post about the power of mythology created within the beer industry. Storytelling has always been an invaluable part of business, but especially in the creation of how we view beer as a commodity and community, a topic discussed in-depth with scholar J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham. This past week has reminded me of how powerful and painful this behavior can be, when the use of stories through a marketing lens pits people against one another.

But it was the numerous beer lovers who chimed in, one after another, about the value of Experience that felt uplifting. Ultimately, as a mode of social encouragement, this is what Beer is supposed to be about. Celebrating moments with loved ones, not staring deeply into a two-ounce taster contemplating life. Although there are certainly times for that.

Beer is many things to many people, including a catalyst for treasured memories. “Best” is a subjective term, a definitive word with malleable meaning. In recent days, it’s been wonderful to see what that ultimately means for some of the most passionate beer fans I get to interact with online.

We are roughly three months removed from the Brewers Association’s statement of fact that “beer is fun,” but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Moments over the past week have stolen some of that sentiment, but there has also been a pleasant reminder of the excitement and passion displayed by drinkers, both aspects that connect deeply not just with liquid in a glass, but the life that surrounds it.

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac


2 thoughts on “Deconstructing What It Means to Be Best: Is It Beer or Experience?

  1. Beer entering routines is like go to theatre. Is difficult than see something on Netflix (Netflix would be Big Beer in this case) but it gets to the soul for a while. That’s not always the case in beer because the product could be dettached of the environment or a very good environment with bad beer. An only person could organize this with experience and arrive to common agreements about what we like .

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