Crit­ics are con­ve­nient punch­ing bags.

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Editor’s Note - Jamie Bogner Co­founder & Ed­i­to­rial Di­rec­tor Craft Beer & Brewing Mag­a­zine®

I get the op­por­tu­nity to talk with plenty of brew­ers through­out the course of any given year, and ninety-nine out of one hun­dred of them un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate the role of in­de­pen­dent me­dia and cri­tique in the over­all com­mu­nity, but then there’s al­ways that one.

The jabs usu­ally take a pre­dictable arc—“you don’t have skin in the game; all you do is tear down our hard work; who cares what you think; I’ve in­vested X num­ber of dol­lars in my business and you have the nerve to say my beer isn’t good?”

Such ar­gu­ments miss the point of crit­i­cism en­tirely. While our me­dia business is a rel­a­tively small self­owned one with per­sonal money on the line (we def­i­nitely have “skin in the game”), that’s im­ma­te­rial to the big­ger ques­tion of the value of cri­tique. Good crit­i­cism is much more than “you should drink this and don’t drink that” or “I pick up trace amounts of di­acetyl in this beer.” It’s about cre­at­ing a frame­work for un­der­stand­ing the re­la­tion­ships among cre­ative prac­ti­tion­ers while cel­e­brat­ing and defin­ing those who pro­pel our com­mu­nity of cre­ative brewing for­ward. It’s about cham­pi­oning the in­flu­encers, shin­ing light on those who make in­ter­est­ing con­tri­bu­tions to the world of brewing, and en­gag­ing with the ques­tion of what is good. The “why” is more im­por­tant than the “what.”

“Good” is sub­jec­tive, evolves with time, and is highly in­flu­enced by the other things our palates ex­pe­ri­ence in the broader world of eat­ing and drink­ing. We some­times fall prey to think­ing that, be­cause we have cod­i­fied guides to beer styles, there is some sort of Pla­tonic ideal for ev­ery style and the brewer’s job is to slav­ishly re­pro­duce them per­fectly. But the truth is that beer styles are lag­ging in­di­ca­tors—de­scrip­tive def­i­ni­tions built from clus­ters of com­mer­cial ex­am­ples—and not pre­scrip­tive roadmaps. The cre­ativ­ity of brew­ers is not con­strained by styles—the def­i­ni­tions get changed as brew­ers make their own com­pelling (and de­li­cious) ar­gu­ments for those changes.

The con­ver­sa­tions we have about these things aren’t al­ways vis­i­ble, but they in­form the way we write about ev­ery­thing. From heated dis­cus­sions among our re­view pan­elists about how styles are evolv­ing to story dis­cus­sions with our writ­ers, we con­sis­tently chal­lenge our own as­sump­tions about what’s good and re­main open to new ex­pe­ri­ences that might change our minds.

There’s still a place for this kind of crit­i­cal writ­ing and think­ing about beer, even now in an age where Un­tappd scores and Yelp re­views can tell you what the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion thinks. More than just nu­mer­i­cal scores, we strive to pro­vide the con­text and cul­tural ar­gu­ment for why things are good, in turn help­ing you un­der­stand why you like and dis­like things. But our pri­mary mis­sion is to cel­e­brate the good and shine a bright spot­light on those brew­ers who are do­ing cre­ative, ex­act­ing, ground­break­ing work in the world of brewing.

Whether you em­brace the cut­ting edge of brewing or sim­ply love your old stand­bys, we hope you en­joy this is­sue. We made it for you.

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