In Defense of American Craft Beer Producers: An Open Letter to Joe Queenan and the Wall Street Journal

An open letter to Joe Queenan, in response to his article on craft beer in the Wall Street Journal on November 9:

Dear Mr. Queenan,

I read your recent article in the Wall Street Journal outlining your personal distaste and seeming confusion regarding the proliferation in popularity of American craft beer and found large portions of your piece troubling. As a whole, it left me at a loss as to what your actual point might be. While I would normally hash my quibbles out with you over beers, your stance as a teetotaler doesn't allow, so please find my response below.

I can ignore your near-perfect Andy Rooney impersonation, complete with haphazard babbling about a subject you admittedly and very demonstrably know nothing about. And because it is my sneaking suspicion that you probably posit all your arguments in this way -- wandering, slobbering abortions of reason, as to make them less refutable -- I won't begin to delve into the article's bizarre lack of purpose.

Your attempt at painting craft beer as elitist and overly intellectual (namely the parts where you seemingly tossed out the fanciest-sounding beers you found when Googling "craft beer") was so transparent that -- while supremely insulting -- I hardly feel it's worth addressing.

Hell, I'll even let slide your laughable attempts at mimicking barroom football discussion. I suspect that the last time you actually saw the Cowboys play, Roger Staubach was probably at the helm. Somehow I doubt you were at the center of conversation back then either, which is a position you seem to desperately crave.

Instead, what I will address is this: Your implication that the American craft beer industry is a fad, some passing fancy of snobs and hipsters set on trampling your lawn like so many young ruffians is incredibly naive. The statement that our heroes, the veterans and patriots of America, certainly drink only simple macro lagers owned by foreign interests, is vastly irresponsible.

The American craft beer industry is at the culmination of a long and difficult resurrection after being nearly destroyed by one of the greatest mistakes in our country's history: Prohibition.

With over 2,000 breweries and brewpubs nationwide, American-brewed beer is at its largest point since the 19th century. The amount of American breweries is finally back to the kind of numbers last seen in 1887. The road this industry has traveled is long and arduous, stretching back some 300 years to our nation's earliest foundations and beyond. Its sudden appearance on your narrow, dimly lit radar belies its true age and rightful place in our history.

For you to casually dismiss the 100,000 men and women employed directly by the craft beer industry as bandwagoneers is an insult to one of America's last true homegrown industries. At a time when it seems that anyone can be outsourced, craft beer provides this country and the entire world with a product and a vision that is supremely and uniquely American.

Somehow I doubt you'd be so quick to dismiss the American automotive industry with such fervor, shunning the resurgence of Ford for your heroes who drive foreign-owned vehicles.

And let's be clear, much like our auto industry, this is a resurgent and growing industry. In the midst of over a half a decade of economic downturn, craft beer has continued to grow year over year. In fact, even as overall beer sales in the U.S. decline, craft beer continues to post growth in both volume and sales dollars. And we're even exporting our growth: In 2011, the volume of American craft beer exported to international markets rose significantly for the 9th consecutive year.

While we as a country look to re-imagine and redefine how we will grow and flourish in the future, the brewers, employees and even the patrons of these small businesses across our country are ahead of the curve. Their foresight, their determination and their sweat equity has built -- over the course of the past 30-plus years -- a solid economic platform that injects much-needed jobs and sorely-needed stimulus into communities throughout America.

So while your hero may be sitting somewhere ordering Bud Light, my heroes work at places like Real Ale Brewing in Blanco, Texas, Sierra Nevada in Chico, California and at hundreds of other American breweries and brewpubs across our country. They deserve every bit of your respect and admiration -- not the implication that any of them are "conniving executives," and certainly not your unwarranted, misplaced scorn.


Joshua Justice American Craft Beer Drinker

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.