For such a handsome and hopeful young man, it took me a remarkably short period of time to get a bit jaded about the Craft Beer Movement™. It's not that I don't appreciate good beer—hell, you could go so far as to say I even respect it—and I also like the fact that the overwhelming majority of America's 3,000-plus breweries are small, independent operations that mostly serve their local communities. But for whatever reason (most likely that I'm just a surly jerk), I've had decidedly anti-Movement reactions to the week's two biggest bits of beer news.
Yesterday, Bear Republic, of Healdsburg, Calif., announced that they're ceasing distribution to Massachusetts due to their state's drought. The rest of the country has been unconscionably nonchalant about this California water situation, especially given that the state produces so much of our great beer and broccoli and so forth, but I didn't come here to harangue you about climate change; I came here to confess that I don't really give a shit if Bear Republic pulls out of my state or not.
I'm not pleased with the cause (potentially catastrophic water shortages), but this particular effect doesn't matter much to me. And I say that as a big Bear Republic fan: Racer 5 was in my Top 4 among 14 big-time IPAs I ranked in June, and I like Hop Rod Rye a ton. But there's just so much damn beer out there these days that it's hard for me to get worked up about one fewer option. You can make a good case that it doesn't make sense to ship beer all the way across the country to begin with, drought or no. At least on the coasts (and I assume just about everywhere else), we have access to more than enough great beer that hasn't sat on a truck for 3,000 miles.
Then today's big news is that Anheuser-Busch has gobbled up another small brewery, this time 10 Barrel of Bend, Ore. This should make me apoplectic—InBev is trying to co-opt the Movement!—but once again I'm having a hard time summoning the required indignation. I don't like Anheuser-Busch, because they continue to dominate the market with their various shitty beers, but I don't much care that they're owned by a giant international conglomerate.
To be clear, I prefer small, locally owned businesses to humungous, generic ones, but I'm tired of the Movement's incessant whining about being subjected to the realities of global capitalism. I don't like it when "underdog" businesses try to position themselves as charities or public trusts. If you own a brewery, your job is to sell an intoxicant for a profit. That's some pretty shady shit! I love breweries and hope they all live forever, but I have great disdain for the part of the Movement that thinks it's appropriate for a well established and wildly successful capitalist venture to crowd-fund their brewery expansion, for example. Fuck all that. Brewing isn't charity, or anything close to it.
But that doesn't mean breweries can't be intermittently charitable, which is why it brings me great pleasure to recommend Harpoon's Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale for all your Thanksgiving needs. Harpoon, an independent Boston brewery that's recently become employee-owned, donates $1 per six-pack of Grateful Harvest to a food bank in the community in which the beer was sold. That's good work. Although the beer game is emphatically capitalistic, profit margins aren't as huge as consumers often think, and a buck off the top of every sixer—this isn't some bullshit "percentage of profits" thing, this is real, defined charity—is a legitimate sacrifice.
I don't usually go in for fruit beers, because I'm macho and tough, and because the only truly great fruit beer I've ever had is 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon. Most other fruities are sticky and sweet, and the worst ones are all that and fake-tasting. Grateful Harvest overcomes these hurdles by using real puree of a tart fruit. Cranberry makes sense in beer.
Grateful Harvest pours medium brown, with a few red highlights that I probably just imagined because it says "cranberry" on the label. This looks like the standard amber ale it was based on. It smells like … cranberry beer. But not overwhelmingly so! There's a rich, malty aroma reminiscent of a nice, strong German bock. The flavor is sweeter than I expected, but that's due to Munich and Vienna malts rather than shitty, fake sugar-fruit syrup. It's got a pleasant caramel malt taste highlighted by a light Cheerio note and a whole lot of cranberry. But fear not, tough guys: The whole lot is not too much. This is definitely a "real beer."
It is a touch sweeter than I would prefer; if I were in charge, I'd have ramped up the hops a bit to provide a sharper finish rather than relying so heavily on the cranberries for acidity (and also probably burned the place to the ground, because I'm wholly unqualified to be in charge of a beer recipe), but this minor imbalance doesn't prevent Harpoon Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale from being a good beer for a good cause. Buy some.
This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse's adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We'll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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