Of Bell Curves and Bandwagons…

As I enter my “veteran” years as a craft beer drinker I like to look back at how and why I got here.

Like. Any of you, I started by dabbling here and there with the occasional import offering, slowly learning that beer has a diversity not unlike the human race, and one day snapping, jumping right into the deep end. I shopped at the small independents, bought numerous best-after beers to stock my cellar, made cross-border excursions to hunt for whales, attended beer fests, hosted tasting nights, learned home brewing, made brewery visits, began beer blogging and so on and so forth. Basically if it was new I was going to try it.

Perhaps not surprisingly my blanket enthusiasm waned and I became more serious about my beer, my glassware, my palate and so forth. Eventually I was so picky I whittled the whole thing down to a couple of preferred styles and lately I seem to have let craft beer fall almost off radar.

This led me to a realization, the aforementioned trajectory was actually pretty familiar, I got on the bandwagon and rode the bell curve.

Bell curves are the graphic representation of a function wherein there is a small volume at the beginning, a fairly quick ascension to the top, and an equally quick descent down to a small volume once more. You know, like the outline of a bell.

Most typically used to illustrate distribution I think this graph nicely charts the path undertaken by many craft enthusiasts. Start slow, jump in with both feet, and taper off just as quickly.

While the initial tentative steps and resultant over-enthusiasm are easy to spot almost everywhere, the subsequent disengagement is only really just becoming visible.

I know I have read (and written) many posts discussing beer fatigue, market saturation, the perils of too much quantity, and just a general feeling that in the rapid resurgence of good beer there is potential peril if customers feel it all becomes a bit too much and decide to get back off the bandwagon.

So how do those of us who stepped off find our way back?

I like to think we will all come back to craft beer that stepping away only affords us the opportunity to see everything as new again and re-enter the world with a more nuanced and informed perspective. Personally, the way back for me has been the olive branch that is session beer and understanding my own unique palate, which lets me pick beer I will almost certainly enjoy and invest in beer with timeless appeal.

I certainly hope the next leg of my journey follows the brontosaurus head phase shown below, it looks like fun!

20140715-204957-74997833.jpg

*thanks to the Drucker Institute for the image of the bell curve.

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