DSC02091It’s American Craft Beer Week, sponsored by the Brewers Association. And for some reason, I’m not that excited about it.

Maybe part of it is the same attitude and tone I keep hearing from other craft advocates out there, who really like taking the David vs. Goliath approach to the macrobrewers and their herd of uneducated drinkers, talking about “dispassionate consumers” who don’t know much (or in my opinion, care) about what goes into their beer.

Fine.

Quality of ingredients and traditional brewing practices certainly play a significant role in the craft movement. After all, it really is the defining differentiation from one beer to another. But I go back to my earlier post on the Greg Koch thing, and the discussion that ensued in the comments section, which I thought was a thoughtful conversation essentially focusing on the LOCAL angle to craft beer. Because as much as people want to take others to task on the whole “quality” of craft beer approach, I feel much more strongly that choosing to drink locally brewed, regional craft beer is going to be a much deadlier weapon in the war against beer mediocrity.

How can the big boys compete with that, if everyone patronized their local microbreweries? It rewards people who truly care about what they’re making, keeps money in the local community, and promotes the further innovation and creativity that we now know as a growing craft beer industry. Stop bitching about the fact that macrobrewers use corn adjuncts and focus their efforts on marketing a poorly developed product as “triple hopped” or replete with high levels of “drinkability”…because that’s never going to change. They’re selling an image, a consumer’s idealized perception of themselves, and it’s not about the beer. It’s about ensuring their shareholders get a dividend at the end of the fiscal year. Their bottom line is the almighty dollar. For the rest of us, who love craft beer, the bottom line needs to be about ensuring a strong local craft community, the definition of grassroots. As Tom over at Yours for Good Fermentables rightly said in his recent post on the same subject, “a loyalty first to local beer and to local brewers is the essential economic glue of our craft beer industry.”

But, I digress.

Befitting my soapbox gripes, I decided to commemorate the first official evening of American Craft Beer Week with a pretty unique local beer, Flat Earth’s Cygnus X-1 Porter, an homage to owner and head brewer Jeff Williamson’s favorite band, Rush. I’m surprised I’ve yet to review something from these guys based out of St. Paul, as I’ve already had a couple of their offerings such as the Pale Ale (decent) and Winter Warlock barleywine (satisfyingly complex). 

Cygnus X-1 poured with a nice deep brown coloring, and an overly active head that I’m not used to in most porters. But I’ve had the bottle for a while, so take it for what it’s worth. They brew this one with a bit of rye malt, and you definitely get that in the nose. Kind of a bready quality mixed with some light chocolate and roasted, smoky malt. They use some Fuggle hops, but I didn’t pick up much of it, which is somewhat expected I suppose. Interesting aroma overall, but not as rich as I’d like.

The taste is also interesting, in a good way. Not sure if this was their intention, but somewhat reminiscent of a milk stout in the sour, lactic quality*. Not the kind of thing you’d expect in a porter, but definitely unique and pretty enjoyable. The rye kicks in a bit toward the end, smoothing it out with some of the biscuit and bread flavors. A fairly thin mouthfeel that leaves you wanting a bit more, especially considering the style.  But at 6.5% ABV, it’s definitely a very drinkable beer.

Not bad, not great.  

Rating: B-

* Thanks to a few folks for pointing out the Flanders Red issue they had a while back. It seems clear I got one of the infected bottles. The sour quality wasn’t intended, so I’m hoping to give Cygnus another shot soon.

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