OK, that last post upset a few people, and some other people enjoyed it. It's fair to say that it was pretty broad-brushed, made some sweeping generalisations, and made uncomfortable reading for at least a few people that I know personally. So in the interests of balance, a clarification.
I'm not a huge fan of Ricky Gervais, but during one of his misanthropic rants about the nature of fame and celebrity a few years ago, he made the point that "wanting to be famous" isn't actually a career aspiration. He made the point that when you see (for example) George Clooney on the red carpet, waving, it's as a by-product of his work. He didn't work to get famous, he worked to become an actor - the fame is a by-product of his work.
The current explosion of interest in beer has led to a lot of people getting into the business, by whatever route. Some see it as an exciting career opportunity, a way to make their hobby their job. Others see it as a way of riding the new trend and making some money while it lasts. Others want to be part of the party, and just see what happens as a result. And you know what? That's fine by me, I'm happy that beer generally is finally getting the exposure that it deserves.
And I was somewhat misplaced in my singling out of cuckoo brewers as the target of my irritation. What I realised last night, in a flash of lupulin-inspired clarity after a series of somewhat disappointing beers, is - pay attention to this now - owning a brewery is no guarantee of good beer.
There, I've said it.
And you know what else I'm going to say?
That's what craft beer is all about.
Brewing is a craft, something diligently learned, endlessly studied, repeated until the actions are second nature, in a way that belies the years of effort taken to acquire it. A profound understanding of the process and how to make it go right. Making beer is easy, but making great beer is hard. The glass of beer that satisfies in an exceptional and yet undefinable way, that's the papped photo of George Clooney (your icon may vary), chiselled and dapper, breathtakingly handsome, waving to his fans on the red carpet, a single perfect moment crystallised by years of craft.
There's more to it than that. of course. Cuckoo brewers might actually turn up, brew their own recipe, dig out the mash tun, and genuinely rent the down time on a plant to brew their own beer. Sometimes they might collaborate with a technically skilled brewer to make a beer to their that the skilled brewer wouldn't ever think of making. Sometimes, they might contract a brewery to make a beer to recipe, but not actually get involved beyond that. And sometimes, an entrepreneur might contract a beer in a particular style with no more input than asking for a modern hop-heavy IPA.
So yeah, maybe you have a point. Maybe I would rather drink a well-made cuckoo-brewed beer than a badly-made nouveau-craft car-crash-in-a-glass