It's a good read if you have the time and inclination, but this paragraph sets the stage rather well:
What few drinkers know, however, is that quality light beers are incredibly difficult to brew. The thin flavor means there's little to mask defects in the more than 800 chemical compounds within. As Kyler Serfass, manager of the home-brew supply shop Brooklyn Homebrew, told me, "Light beer is a brewer's beer. It may be bland, but it's really tough to do." Belgian monks and master brewers around the world marvel at how macro-breweries like Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors have perfected the process in hundreds of factories, ensuring that every pour from every brewery tastes exactly the same.Hmm . . "every pour tastes exactly the same." Honestly, that IS an incredibly impressive feat. But my caffeine-free, diet Dr. Pepper tastes exactly the same everywhere, too. And I enjoy drinking it.
For the most part, the article pushes much too far in its attempt to elevate the craft of brewing a light beer in comparison to all other varieties of beer. Take this passage, for example:
The fermentation process is what truly separates the competition. Light beer relies on a temperamental yeast that needs to be activated, stored, and monitored at precise temperatures to yield the proper flavor. At the Newark Brewery, the lager yeast is stored at 32°F when it's not in use, slowing down the yeast's metabolism to near zero. "We basically put the yeast to sleep, so it doesn't freak out," says Tiago Darocha, the plant's general manager. When the yeast emerges from hibernation, it's given a specific mission. At all 137 Anheuser-Busch breweries around the globe, Budweiser and Bud Light undergo exactly five and a half days of primary fermentation and 21 days of lagering, all at 50°F, plus or minus one degree. Any warmer and the beer could end up thick and flabby, instead of "clean, crisp, and fresh."Oh, right. Because Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus yeasts/lactic acid bacteria are incredibly easy to handle. Barrel aging is a breeze. You can whip up a lambic in no time. Mash and fermentation temperatures are irrelevant to porters, stouts, IPAs, pale ales, doppelbocks and weizens.
homebrew can fully appreciate the work done by commercial brewers of all shapes and sizes. More often than not, I have nothing but respect and appreciation when I sit down to a flavorful pint. The average beer geek also recognizes there's a consistency problem at some local breweries and others still haven't figured out how to barrel age. Producing the exact same product that relies on crop commodities with yearly variations at 137 facilities around the globe is indeed a very impressive process.
I can, and do, respect the process, the engineering, the science and people who have managed to design a system that creates an incredibly consistent product over millions of barrels a year. But I don't have to respect the product itself. Just think what all this impressive work could produce if they put their efforts toward making something like, say, an Octoberfest? Oh yeah, the guys at Sam Adams already figured that one out . . . .
Want respect? Admit your multimillion dollar advertising campaign found success when you stopped trying to convince people the product tastes good. Better yet, put the same effort into creating session beers with a variety of interesting flavors we can enjoy.