By this time, most everyone has heard about the latest craze – Not Your Father’s Root Beer (NYF’s). Part of its appeal, undoubtedly, is its lack of availability in certain parts of the country including right here in southern Illinois. Inevitably a product that is not easily obtained tends to take on something of an elevated status and become a distraction, at least, and an obsession at worst. In some cases, this is justified. The classic example would be the ales brewed by the Cistercian monks of St. Sixtus at Westvleteren in Belgium. For years these Trappist beers could only be obtained (legally) at the gates of the Abbey and were not sold (again legally) at retail anywhere – ergo instant Holy Grail of beer status.
Lesser examples in our market are obvious – New Glarus, Three Floyds and even Yuengling come to mind. Brands that were once highly sought after are, dare I say, approaching ho hum status now because of their ease of availability. I’m talking to you Dogfish Head, New Belgium and Stone. Part of this is due to the well-documented promiscuity of the craft beer drinker who typically moved from brand to brand and beer to beer constantly in search of the next new thing. This is precisely why most craft brewer’s “flagship” brands have seen a marked decline in sales while seasonal and one-off specialty beers are now driving incremental growth.
What does all of this have to do with the NYF’s? A lot, actually. For one, Not Your Father’s is the latest “new thing,” even though it’s really not. Hard root beer has been around a while (historically, a long while), but up till now hasn’t gained much traction at the consumer level. For reason’s I’ve yet to fully understand, and will elaborate on here, the NYF’s brand has managed to do something no other brand of hard root beer has done so far – capture the hearts and minds of the coveted craft beer consumer. It’s the craft crowd who is driving much of the buzz surrounding this brand and it’s largely the craft crowd who is inexplicably giving NYF’s ratings in the upper 80-point range on beer geek rating sites like beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com.
But hold your sassafras just a minute.
Could it be that the crafties are being duped? Without going into all of the details myself, and because it’s been done earlier and far better than I could offer, I will link to an interesting piece by fellow beer writer Don Russell who documents the origin and production details of Not Your Father’s right here. I recommend you read it if you’re interested in this brand and you care about the whole “craft credibility” thing. If not, carry on … you’re not part of the problem.
We certainly have a conundrum on our hands. The very same folks who are quick to disparage FMBs (flavored malt beverages) as cheap alcopop, malternative crap - such as Bud Light’s Rita family, Four Loko and Mike’s Hard Lemonade are the same folks who are all in a tizzy to find, drink and rate with extreme prejudice NYF’s as the greatest new “craft beer” product of the year.
I suspect that most of the craft devotees who have jumped on the NYF’s bandwagon are blissfully unaware that NYF’s is not in fact “craft” at all; a key litmus test for many craft intelligentsia … or I thought it was. I mean, c’mon, the stuff is brewed at City Brewing in LaCrosse, Wisconsin – where many of the other much-hated, much maligned alcopop brands are produced. If those other brands aren’t craft and aren’t even considered to be real beer by some, why does NYF’s get a pass?
Maybe I’m being too hard on my craft friends. Maybe they honestly don’t know. Maybe they genuinely think NYF’s is a craft product; a real beer. Tough questions, but the fact is that now we’re faced with a decision, aren’t we? Either continue to feed the NYF’s frenzy despite the facts or stop trashing all other FMBs as crap. Fair is fair, after all.
For the record, I don’t honestly care one way or the other. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I advocate for drinking whatever you want to drink regardless of who makes it, where it’s made or whether it meets some arbitrary criteria to be considered “craft” or “authentic” or safe to drink without running the risk of having your craft beer snob license revoked. For crying out loud, drink what you like, but while you’re at it don’t be hypocritical about it, people.