I don’t usually respond to other’s blog posts here, this isn’t a good forum for debate and conversation. However, there’s a piece out today that I apparently have very strong feelings about: consistency.
One of the truly great guys in the beer-writing world, Brian Yeager, posted a tidbit today about the importance of consistency and even asked if it was “overrated”. To be perfectly clear, the answer is no – consistency is not overrated. In fact, I think we are far too lenient toward our beloved brewers when a flagship beer fluctuates greatly from batch to batch.
Let’s back up a bit. One thing the post did, in my opinion, was muddle the great difference between consistency and diversity. Yeager muses if we truly wanted consistency in our beer we’d just drink Bud.
“If we all wanted homogenized beer, we know very well where to find that.”
I think this is the sentence that really throws everything for a loop with me. Being consistent in a flagship beer – be it IPA, Pale Ale, Brown Ale or Pilsner – says nothing to the diversity or creativity afforded our great brewers. I believe the best brewers in the country have nailed the recipes they choose to represent their brand year-round, but also reserve the right to ‘play’ with other recipes, even if in the same style. Look at Russian River, Stone or even Deschutes and Sierra Nevada. These breweries all make year-round, flagship beers – and make them consistently good. They also put out other brands in the same style, under different fanciful names, that taste nothing like the other brands.
We are not homogenizing our beer by expecting it to be consistent in flavor. Not in any way, shape or form.
The piece almost seems to be written in response to the now-famous issues of consistency at Lost Abbey (which, rumor has it, they are working to correct in the hiring of a world-class quality control manager). In this instance, consistency again matters – greatly. I’d suggest if it weren’t for the long run of success of the Lost Abbey crew, the issues they had would have been detrimental to the business. As is it’s hurt their reputation among some beer geeks. The leash here is quite long because we all know ‘shit happens’ and that the team there will continue to put out some of the best beer anyone could hope for.
Look, if you want to create a regionally successful brewery you simply have to nail down your flagship beers. If you fail to do that, you’ll lose tap handles and key accounts as customers return product because it wasn’t the same as it used to be. Trust me on this, the few people that read beer blogs is vastly different from the average customer struggling to come to grips with a $10 six pack.
Brewers and Beer Geeks – just to be clear. I love the diversity we have in our beer today, it’s truly a thing of wonder. Brew as many IPAs and Pale Ales as you want – open a brewery dedicated to one style if you want and make sixteen versions of your IPA. If you do that, though, don’t call them all the same name. To do so only cheats the average customer that demands consistency. It’s not their fault and it’s not the fault of Bud, Coors or Miller. If my favorite cheese suddenly changed in flavor and consistency, it likely wouldn’t be my favorite cheese anymore. Sure, I’d try and and look forward to the experience, but it would not be my go-to option. Same with my favorite bread, or coffee.