Craft vs. Commodity


A Tale of Two Taps illustrated by this pic for sure. See my lovely visage/reflection…

Just returned from camping in a state park here in Pennsylvania. Alcohol is not allowed so it keeps beer out of sight to some degree. It does not stop drinking but it does suppress the most egregious and idiotic aspects of over-consumption. I support the policy and as such, didn’t drink any brews while on the campground. Serendipitously,  there was an establishment, The Waterville Tavern, about 4 miles down the road that has stocked craft beer like the local streams and lakes have stocked trout.

Perfect place to hang-out after a day of kayaking and bike riding. Food is simple but great, too. Good mix of a local crowd and passers-through. I ran into a rowdy and rambunctious group of older bike-riders from New York who had peddled over 250 miles in five days and stopped by the tavern to refuel and b.s. I really admired their active lifestyle and it gives me hope that I won’t live for Monday Night Bingo when I retire.

I was pleasantly surprised that craft beer had made such inroads into rural Pennsylvania. I thought that big beer would reign and it was quite the opposite. The Waterville Tavern tilts way in favor of craft beer and I think it is a fairly good indicator that big beer is in trouble market-wise. Sure, they are snapping up some craft breweries like a big fish does to a smaller fish and that worries me. But, since I started this beer blog 7 years ago, the beer ecosystem has dramatically changed in favor of independent craft not commodity beer, “crafty” or otherwise.

There has been a five-fold increase in craft breweries here in Pa. since 2010. Of the 40 craft breweries profiled in 2010, all but two are still in business and I think one of them just switched a location rather than shut down completely. I speculate that even the people who work for the bigs actually keep craft hidden in their fridges at home. Or, they are so loyal that they keep their company’s beers in stock for job reasons. It can’t be taste because theirs has none.

In examining the history of beer in America, there has been three distinct eons (with Prohibition being a long pause button): 1) Shitty local beer or homebrew (Yuengling used to be awful); 2) Mass-produced big beer that took out the downside skankiness of local swill and brewed light, non-offensive lagers; 3) The craft beer movement. Although high abv IPAs reign currently, there seems to be a counter movement back to sessionable lighter beers across beer profiles or higher-abv brews like Belgians. In other words, the beer spectrum is becoming more complete and colorful with craft beer styles.

This is the line-up at the Waterville Tavern:


There are several big fish disguised as small. I hope that the bigs are not just attempting to crash craft beers by muddying the waters about who is who in the pond. Frankly, we are getting to a point where craft breweries like Dogfish, New Belgium. Sierra Nevada, and etc. are so big that they have outgrown their upstart profile. Corporations are not always self-serving sharks but I think a line is crossed when shareholders and Wall Street profits prevails over the workers and consumers. When quarterly returns and profits trump long-terms sustainability, US employment, and taste, then corporations have become predators and should be treated as such legally.

The owner of the Waterville Tavern is a humble man, not a big talker. A former home-builder in Berks County, he is the kind of man who is no longer the rule. Quiet, industrious, hard-working. I asked if I could  take a pic of him and he requested that I take a picture of his place instead. I respected his request and honored it.


On this Independence Day, July 4th, 2017, I salute The Waterville Tavern for its spirit of craft!











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