The latest grumbling targets Deschutes. Reviewing Hop Trip, Lew Bryson walked away disappointed:
Hop Trip is okay, competent, but it falls far short of two beers from Deschutes I enjoyed tremendously in recent months: Twilight and Red Chair. Fresh, clean, competent, but ultimately disappointing. I really expected more from this one.It sparked a couple rather sharp comments (from at least one Oregonian) about the lauded Bend institution:
It's interesting that I noticed this post today, just minutes after seeing Deschutes boast about how much press it got in October. (I am partly to blame.) These two facts are no doubt connected.
"Deschutes is a shadow of its former greatness. Every once in awhile I try one just to check, and I'm always disappointed."______
"The fact that Deschutes beers still get even obligatory lip service from anyone who considers themselves beer savvy is utterly confounding to me. Fact: They're boring, and when something like beer that, last I checked, is supposed to be fun is boring, well, it sucks.
"It says a lot about the current state of craft brewing and its acolytes that anyone still gives [Deschutes] more than a passing thought. You want good beer to be the standard? Demand passion and vision from your breweries. Don't settle for this horseshit."______
"There's nothing wrong with competent. The world frankly needs more competent, including the craft brew industry (which, while not plagued with the technical problems of a decade ago, still has a lot of poorly conceived and uninteresting beer out there). But competent's a step back for a brewery that was once great. Some of the transition may undoubtedly be my palate drift, but I don't think you can chalk it up wholly to that. It's not like I run around saying Sierra is a shadow of its former self, after all."
It is easy to relate to little breweries. You visit them regularly, get to know the staff, feel like they're part of the community. Maybe you know the brewer and take a special pride in his beer. We related to little breweries--good ones, anyway--as "us." We identify with them. When little breweries grow, however, they become less personal. The staff changes and they become more like faceless businesses, less personal, less members of the community. Slowly they become "them."
Oregon breweries have done a great job of trying to stay connected to people as they grow. Widmer eschewed this connection early on and has spent 15 years trying to re-establish it. Full Sail and Deschutes have self-consciously tried to remain local breweries down the block, acccessible, personable. Rogue has a quirky approach, asking you to join their community, rather than vice versa--but still with the recognition that personal connection is important.
Have we reached the moment where Deschutes no longer feels local and part of "us?" These comments are quite agressively harsh. Sort of like a spurned friend. They seem to have less to do with the actual products Deschutes has put out in the past couple years--surely one of the most innovative and aggressive line-ups in the country--than some kind of other violation. So what's up?
Do these comments represent your views? Anyone else care to take a crack at what's going on here?
Update: Bill posts his thoughts, too. Looks like there's a backlash to the backlash. Deschutes supporters are rallying! (Isn't it a delight to live in a state where people are so passionate about their beer. You could even call it ... Beervana.)