In the craft beer community, there is a thing called the ‘Craft Beer Journey’.* In essence, it is the evolution and development of the individual punter’s taste away from mass produced, macro-brewery fare – mostly lagers – to smaller, craft-oriented product. From not drinking at all, to drinking what’s available, to exploring and cataloguing experience and developing both an opinion of and deeper knowledge of different modes and styles of beer – this is the craft beer journey. And interestingly, it fits very neatly into Joseph Campbell’s model for the Hero with a Thousand Faces.
This is a name for the Monomyth – that model into which myriad heroes from diverse cultures and societies ranging across the globe can be shown to have the same story, the same path through their narrative. Be they Welsh bard, Greek hero, Native American brave, Viking skald, Chinese prince or even a laser sword wielding space wizard pilot, the steps they trace through their journey are much the same.
It is best represented as a cycle:
In a nutshell: the hero lives in the ‘natural world’, they receive a ‘call to adventure’, for which they receive help from an older, wiser entity. They cross the threshold into the supernatural world, they face a number of challenges in the form of trials, fights or puzzles, they will be brought low, possibly even into death, from which they will rise, bringing about their rebirth and transformation. They attain a treasure, or power, which brings about a ‘result’ – one of the more nebulous points of the model – which may be the elimination of a threat to the greater world, or the conquering of a kingdom, or the retrieval of something either sought or lost etc. This is followed by the Return, whereupon they cross the threshold once more from the supernatural world back into the natural world, and settle back into the status quo, albeit at an elevated position, or on some other kind of new level.
The Craft Beer Journey hits a lot of these beats. Imagine a youth, has not yet started to drink. Perhaps they occasionally have a sip of their parent’s beer or are allowed a small glass of wine on special occasions. They receive a call to adventure – perhaps an invite to a party. They receive guidance from an older, wiser entity – perhaps an elder sibling buys them a six pack of the beer they like? The youth crosses a threshold from the natural world – their normal home life – into a world of independence and raucous celebration. They face a number of trials and challenges, in the form of navigating social situations – house parties, pubs, dating, bbqs, drinking the same thing they always have, each time. Then, perhaps, someone says ‘try this’ and puts a <different brand? stout? IPA? sour?> in their hand. Maybe our protagonist is on holiday, and their usual fare is nowhere to be seen. Or perhaps, the pub they are in doesn’t have their preferred macro lager on tap, or the bottleshop only stocks things they’ve never heard of. Or perhaps they have fallen in with a new group of friends whose tastes run counter to our hero’s. And this causes a revelation – there are other things out there to try! There are more delicious, or more appropriate, or more appealing brews available! And an old habit dies, while a new one is picked up. Our hero then travels through a widening range of products, makers, and styles and develops a preference (‘I think I just really like stout/saison/Belgians/WCIPAS’) and crosses that threshold back into their normal home lives with a new favourite, albeit with an expanded palate, and perhaps a willingness to try new things when the opportunity may arise.
Best represented in this cycle:
Of course, everyone’s journey is different. I could well be that your threshold crossing back from the unknown into the known was a holiday or a trip back home that rekindled your love of easy drinking lagers. Maybe your experience as a whole was more curated, guided by someone with a wealth of information, or, contrariwise, mayhap it was more sporadic and wild-sown with opportunities to try new things and to educate yourself falling randomly across your path. Craft beer is far more readily available today than it was even a decade ago. The punters of today or tomorrow may begin on craft beer and know nothing else. Their journey may be more specialised, moving from ‘soft craft’ through to more esoteric fare. It could be that we come full circle and the rich and diverse world of craft beer collapses back into conglomerate-controlled monopoly, and the cycle begins anew. Who knows?
The craft beer journey is just that – a journey. A journey through sensory experience, people and places. It is inextricably interwoven with the person who takes it, and the choices they make. It is tied to venues, to friends and lovers, to good nights out and quiet nights in. To places in your hometown and all around the world, to the good times and sometimes, to the bad. A person can live a full and happy life without ever picking up a craft beer. But the journey is one of self-improvement, and exploration, and betterment, and as such, is to be heartily recommended to any figurative young farm hands thinking about perhaps making their way in the big wide world.