BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: Pokemonification? The beer market is plenty big enough for legacy brewers to benefit from segmentation.


I wrote these words three years ago.

Food and drink lend themselves to constant reinvention, and yet it cannot be denied that there are eternal “classics” amid the bedlam. Clichés become such precisely because they contain an element of truth, and certain aspects of the human experience stand the test of time, whether an umbrella, mouse trap or De Koninck.

If I were to start over, conveniently ignoring pesky realities like rent, logistics and aching knees for the mere sake of conjecture, my plan of operation would be just this sort of time-tested, sustainable, “Classic Beer” programming, the fermentable equivalent of Stairway to Heaven, twice daily.

At my former business, we eventually incorporated our own brewery, guest taps, and hundreds of bottles into a bloated beer program that eventually had to be aggressively pruned to avoid capsizing itself.

I’ve no such grandiose ambitions in my dotage, and I don’t care to run a brewery, ever again.

Rather, my contrarian instincts tell me that the beer climate is ripe for a modest, thoughtful return to basics, emblemized by a relatively small list of classics on draft, and in bottles and cans, to be accompanied by some good, old-fashioned beer education, which seems to have been tossed aside in the era of mile-wide, inch-deep “craft” fandom.

Interpreting songs written by others may be the best singing I ever did, or might yet do.

The following essay got some measure of play on social media, perhaps owing to the clever title use of Pokemon, a phenomenon that means almost as little to me as mowing the lawn or visiting Disney World.

Kendall Jones is a well-established beer writer and appears to be an old guy, which I appreciate. This said, I’m finding his argument urging legacy brewers to embrace the logic of the kaleidoscope a tad fallacious, in the sense that Jones seems to accept his conclusion as a foundational premise — short attention spans are the only conceivable beer market — then argues his way back to supporting the premise as conclusion.

But is this really true? I think the premise bears examination.

The flagships may be down, but they’re hardly out. Numerous beer lovers in America as yet snag a six-pack of Sierra Nevada or Anchor Steam from a supermarket shelf while doing the weekday shopping. Legacy brewers are making beer for a mindset and a generation that has decided it doesn’t need bells, whistles and season tickets to the tilt-a-whirl in order to find enjoyment. 

We’re eight months into Pints&union, and while there are numerous tweaks still to be addressed, my basic beer program strategy of emphasizing classics and saving the Purple IPAs for periodic seasoning seems to be working.

And for this I am grateful.


The independent craft breweries that deserve so much credit for starting and fueling the craft beer revolution of the past 30-plus years are facing a challenge these days. I call it the legacy brewery blues. If I had to draw a line, I’d say that any brewery nearing the 20-year milestone, or older, qualifies as a legacy brewery. Some would draw that line to include 10-year-old breweries, but that seems a bit unreasonable to me.

Some legacy breweries, like Deschutes Brewery, for example, are refusing to go down without a fight. They aren’t alone. Most legacy breweries are working hard to remain relevant as the craft beer industry that they created and nurtured charges headlong into the future. The breweries that are not at least trying to keep up will inevitably fall behind the ever-growing herd and face extinction …