Friday, September 17, 2010

Beer. Is. Not. Art.

Alright then, why isn't beer art?

Well Phaedrus, that's basically because it's useful. And explicable.

OK, so if it's not art, it can't be conceptual art?

Right you are Phaedrus. You're as sharp as a tack today, aren't you?

Ah but, it can be "concept" beer can't it?

You mean a beer that stands in relation to conformance with traditional brewing styles or processes as conceptual art might stand in relation to formalism?

Er, yes?

Well, no, Phaedrus. That's cock isn't it. Your "concept" beer must still be brewed using traditional processes even if some of your parameters are extreme.

But what about "style busters" like Black IPA, surely you'll have to admit that...

Listen Phaedrus, I don't have to admit anything. And anyway, Black IPA is usually stout. Or possibly a very dark bitter. Or a strong ale.

Ah, so it's got you questioning your categories - that's conceptual.

No, Phaedrus. It depends on the particular product that you're talking about. Some are recognisably stouts, some bitters, and some will be judged strong ales. Because you sell me a product that is beer, is brewed, it's just beer.

So could there be a concept beer?

I suppose there could be, Phaedrus. Perhaps a beer that drank itself. Or a beer that only existed as a written description. The concept would have to be more significant than the execution (of the brewing process, or the marketing) or the act of consumption.

Let me get this right then. You say that a beer existing as a genuine brewed product, that I can buy in a shop, take home and drink, can't be (a) art or (b) concept?

Bingo, Phaedrus. Come on, let's go to the pub. They've got some of that BrewDog on.


Ed said...

Strangely enough the latest beer book I'm reading has an introduction by Graham Stewart saying beer is not art.

StringersBeer said...

He's right.

Alistair Reece said...

I can see the lovies ditching their snifters of over hopped ale and returning to the Chablis as we speak (well, type then) - bout bloody time an all.

StringersBeer said...

Do you think that they're drinking it because they're told it's "art"? Or because hoi polloi are drinking wine now?

Alistair Reece said...

A bit of both I imagine.

Unknown said...

So, a painting isn't art, it's just a facsimile of what's in the painter mind eye laid down with explicable pigment on a standard medium using traditional techniques?

I don't mind the hoi polloi drinking overhopped beer from snifters, it's part of my business plan.

Is beer art? I don't care. Can it be conceptual? I don't really care about that much either. But I do like variation and excitement and there is an appetite for that. Call the attempts to satisfy that appetite what you want. Call any attempts to wet that appetite anything else, it's part of our diverse beer scene and that's good.

StringersBeer said...

Dave, I wasn't talking about painting, but if you're interested - I'm very much with the line of thinking that art "[gives] shared form to individual experience and an individual form to shared experience", so painting isn't about making pictures of things any more than it's about the pigment - "[the] results are radically different from the materials employed ... giving access to the unseen psychological realities that we inhabit". (That's all nicked from the Stuckists - who nicked it from I dunno where)

Beer, on the other hand, is about beer. It's about producing an agreeable beverage rather than a more-or-less beautiful insight into the spiritual (so it's not art). It's defined by the materials and processes chosen (so it's not conceptual).

Pretending that beer is more than it is - so much marketing BS. But perfectly understandable, as part of a move to take the product up-market, in order to grow our margin. But that's all it is.

We shouldn't "Call the attempts to satisfy that appetite what you want". We should call them what they are (BS) and not call them what they're not ("art", or "concept").

StringersBeer said...

Oh no, hang on, it is art.
Stuart Howe says so.

Anonymous said...

Surely, if it's not art, in your eyes, why do you describe your self as Artisanal. (see up right)

"in the style of a person skilled in an applied art; a craftsperson"

StringersBeer said...

There's an important distinction to be made between Art, which is what artists do, and that which skilled workers, craft-workers (artisans) do. Beer can definitely be Craft. Perhaps this distinction is a bit modern (C19 ?) but I think it's fairly widely appreciated.

StringersBeer said...

Like, if I'm a house-painter, I might be called an artisan. But when Monet painted the Houses of Parliament, he was doing something else.

Unknown said...

The sad fact of the matter is that the better a business is at marketing BS the better it is likely to do.

adwelly said...

Nah. It's a craft.

The difference between an art and a craft is that with an art you are trying to produce something unique and wonderful - a one off. With a craft you are trying to produce something wonderful but consistent again and again.

I spend some time every brew day trying to get the abv, the colour, and the alpha acid level the same as the previous time I made that recipe. Given the natural variation in the malt and hops, this takes a certain amount of effort.

Craft is repeatable, art is not.

StringersBeer said...

Dave: I'm not saying BS doesn't work. I'm calling BS when I see it. That's a duty for every right-thinking person.

adwelly: You make a very good point.

Does it matter? Telling an untruth, knowing it to be untrue, would make me a liar. Craving something (sales?) that isn't mine by right is avarice.

So when I see a lie motivated by greed I'll say so. It may not do any good, or even do me any good, but I feel it does me good.

If people want to delude themselves that they're "art connoisseurs", when they appreciate lovely beers, then that's up to them. It's the kind of weakness that we're all prone to. If people choose to call their beer Art (and advertise themselves as greedy liars in the process), then that's up to them.

But lying, so as to exploit another's weakness, in order to enrich oneself, isn't really a good or admirable thing, is it?