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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Craft Beer Community, Craft Beer Culture

Russ Smith & Sierra Nevada's Jim Macielak,
soon after Russ was presented the trophy
for 2012 Best of Show.
By Steve Siciliano

Lat Saturday, Barb and I joined Russ Smith and a group of his fellow Muskegon Ottawa Brewers at Vitale’s in Comstock Park to celebrate the tapping of a keg of On the Rocks Scotch Ale, the beer that Russ helped design and brew last August at a Sierra Nevada Beer Camp.

As I sipped my second pint, I reflected on how good it felt to have played a small part in the process that brought this beer to fruition. Russ was given the opportunity to attend the three-day camp at Sierra Nevada because his homebrewed beer won Best of Show last year at the Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition. But the ultimate credit goes to Sierra Nevada owner Ken Grossman for recognizing the importance of fostering and maintaining a relationship with the homebrewing community.

Ken, himself a former homebrewer, and the folks at Sierra Nevada get it. They realize the role that homebrewing played in the revival of craft beer in this country and they recognize that its continued growth is in no small part due to the growing number of homebrewers. There is a unique and wonderful synergy going on between the legion of passionate hobbyists and the ranks of the brewing professionals.

It is this synergy that lies at the heart of what is commonly referred to as the “craft beer community” and the corresponding concept of the “craft beer culture.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, culture is the “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.” When applied to the craft beer scene in this country, this definition works perfectly.

After leaving Vitale’s, Barb and I stopped at Perrin where this year’s Best-of-Show winner will be given the opportunity to brew the winning recipe. I enjoyed a beer feeling happy that I was a member of a wonderful community, and also knowing that I was sharing in the values of a rather unique, rich and fulfilling culture.

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