[On Sundays, this blog looks beyond work and career in “Sabbath.”]
Craft Beer and Choices
In today’s Chicago Sun-Times, brewer Ben Minkoff is profiled in the “Grid” section. Minkoff, at the tender age of 25, is leading the effort to change the identity of Berghoff beer. His family owns the brand and is updating the way its beer is being brewed and marketed to fit the craft craze that many beer drinkers, including me, enjoy and support with our dollars.
Craft beers reflect a larger trend in American culture and taste. Consumers are willing to pay more for locally produced and artisan products. In turn, they reject the cheaper offerings of mega-corporations that often cut corners on ingredients to save themselves and shoppers a few nickels. I buy craft beer and locally roasted coffee because I like the taste. I also appreciate that the people selling these products live near me. Some of them support the same local schools and other causes that I do, which makes me happy to dig a little deeper to pay for their beer, coffee, bread, pork, and eggs.
Farmers Markets are part of this trend. Where the grocery store offers consistent, unblemished fruits and vegetables. Goods at a farmer’s market will often be of different sizes and shapes. Sometimes, they will even have a little black or brown on a peach or apple. So what? That’s how people ate before agri-business developed factory farming. I’d rather cut a bad spot out of a tomato and enjoy its taste rather than eat a perfect red globe with no flavor. People roam and choose their products at a farmers market. We are able to meet the growers and ask them questions about how food comes to our tables.
The craft-local movement has educated consumers that real choice means more than the best price. Brand loyalty is now a matter of knowing who makes your food and drink. Rather than a flashy logo and advertising campaign, we look to personal relations and local connections.
Will craft beer ever put Budweiser and Miller out of business? I don’t think so. Will my friend Crystal Nells of C.D. Farms shut down Smithfield, one of the world’s leading pork producers? Never. That would defeat the purpose. Small and local needs to stay small and local. Some people, out of choice or necessity, will buy the cheaper mass market products. Some of us are able and interested in an alternative market, one where the maker cares as much about his or her product as about profit. It’s good to have these kind of choices.