Crown Point, Indiana
I’ve seen this billboard (in Ohio) before, and I finally got a chance, today, to take a picture of it.
I don’t even know what time it is.
No, it’s not because I’m drunk; I’m not. It’s that I’m very, very close to the boundary between Eastern and Central time. Last time I was this close to a time zone boundary, you may recall, was when I was in Maine, and Canada was right across a strait. This time, it’s not that simple. The boundary doesn’t follow the western border of Indiana all the way. When it gets to the greater Chicago area, where I am now, it takes a turn around Gary and surrounding municipalities.
And I’m pretty sure I’m on the Central time side of that border, but somehow I can’t find out for sure. My phone says one thing. The clock in the hotel says another.
I need a Tardis.
Today was a good beer day, as opposed to yesterday, which was a bad beer day. I guess Indiana just makes good beer.
It occurred to me today, though, while chatting with a nice bartender named Emily at Granite City Food & Brewing in Fort Wayne, that beer might begin to suffer from the same malady as most other art forms; that is, for lack of a better phrase, snob creep.
It happens with almost every kind of art. The medium starts out with a simple concept: something created to please people, make them think, affect their emotions, or whatever. But then, something happens and the creators stop creating for ordinary people, and start creating for other creators and critics. At that point, the art form becomes mostly inaccessible; or, alternatively, it splits off into what the snobs call “high art” and “low art.”
Painting is probably the most famous example of this. It started out with some cave dweller recording his or her tribe’s victory over a wooly mammoth or brontosaurus or whatever. And now, what passes for “art” in museums these days is a single color filling a canvas. No ordinary person can look at that and say, “Oh, that painting is a response to society’s tendency to watch TV instead of actually thinking,” but some critic or another will actually present that as a fact. The artist, then, will smile and nod, appearing to agree with the critic while secretly thinking, “HA! $30,000 in the bag.”
It’s as if cavepeople painted a big gray blob with some red on it and other cavepeople nodded knowingly, going, “That obviously captures the final agonies of the brontosaurus.” When really it’s a big gray blob. And now artists look down their noses at anyone who tries to make something realistic-looking – which is what most of us ordinary people want.
Look, the point is that once art stops being accessible, it’s no longer fun. I’ve ranted on at length in other media about the presence of the “literary fiction” genre, which seems to exist so that English professors can feel superior – but non-litsnobs read that crap and go, “Someone made money with this?” No. Give me a good fantasy or science fiction book any time – that is what literature should be about – telling a compelling story. That’s all.
Snob creep. This could happen to beer.
It will be sad if that happens, but most artistic media fall into that trap eventually – the insiders will know all the secrets of brewing and come up with some concoction that pleases other insiders with its freshness, newness, boldness, whatever – and us poor slobs who just like to drink a goddamn beer will be left shivering in the cold going, “but I just wanted a nice porter.”
Don’t let this happen. It’s one thing to be a beer snob, insisting on craft microbrews at every turn – naturally I’d say that, because I’m one of them – but it’s another thing entirely to decide, “Hey, we have all these standard rules about how to make a good beer – let’s change some of the rules and call it art!” That’s what happened with literature, by the way; someone decided that we don’t need a silly thing like a “plot.”
“New” isn’t necessarily better. Sometimes it’s best to keep cranking out what already works.
Okay, enough ranting. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite taps so far, this one from Crown Brewing in Crown Point, Indiana: