Why Anthony Bourdain Thought The Craft Beer Fad Was Overrated

Anthony Bourdain was known for his love of good food and drink, but you weren't likely to catch him with a craft beer in hand. Though he was a seasoned chef and appreciated the art of fine cuisine, he despised pretentiousness and haughty attitudes. He enjoyed a good beer but saw it as a beverage meant for the common man, not something to be gingerly sipped and discussed. Microbrews have made big waves in beverage culture over the years, with store shelves stocked with the telltale 16-ounce cans and craft breweries popping up in countries worldwide. But the fad hasn't appealed to everyone.

As a chef, TV personality, and world traveler, Anthony Bourdain sought out cultural delicacies and unique culinary experiences. That being said, he was known for subverting the image of what a celebrity chef should be. When abroad, he dined with locals, frequenting bars and food stands that didn't put on airs.

His eye for these hidden gems was why he gave some of the best advice for finding great restaurants in any city. During one of his trips to San Francisco, however, he walked into a taproom and was immediately turned off by the sight of beer flights and people scribbling tasting notes. He always maintained that beer should be simple. As long as it was cold, it shouldn't require any more depth of thought. 

Bars are for talking, not tasting notes

Anthony Bourdain had a specific idea of what a bar should be, and craft beer tasting rooms don't quite fit the bill. He was big on the social aspect of drinking, seeing local watering holes as places for people to gather, catch a buzz, and chat, just not about their beer.

He felt that turning beer drinking into an event centered on the details of a drink was antithetical to the experience. Bourdain appreciated the connective power of conversations that occur over a shared meal or a drink, and he didn't want to get bogged down in the details when they didn't matter. But as a beer drinker, Bourdain wouldn't necessarily turn down a quality brew. He once told Thrillist, "If you bring me a really good one, a good craft beer, I will enjoy it, and say so. But I'm not gonna analyze it." 

So it wasn't the beer itself he didn't like, but rather the over-analysis and gatekeeping attitude of which some craft beer fanatics are guilty. As the crass straight-talker he was, he was intent on chipping away at the fog of romanticism that hangs over the food industry, throwing off the rose-colored glasses. Hence his defense of beer as the people's drink — a holy grail of ale safe from the pretension and over-complication that brings high prices and hip cultural clout.

Enjoy your beer, craft or just cold

We are all entitled to our opinions and preferences, so if you enjoy a curated flight at a craft brewery, cheers to that! If you prefer a cheap, cold, macro-brew, and aren't particularly interested in your light beer's tasting notes, there's no shame in that either. Anthony Bourdain's criticism of craft beer trends may irk some boozy connoisseurs, but it came with good intentions.

Bourdain discouraged snobbery and over-complication in food and booze alike, and his annoyance with craft beer was an expression of that. He advocated for the cultural and social awareness that comes from intentionally shared meals and drinks, and when the focus is all about the details of what you're ingesting, you might miss out on some genuine human connection.

While breweries are popular gathering places where friends and strangers alike can enjoy a pint and good company, they aren't for everybody. It all comes down to what kind of experience you're looking for. Some beer drinkers enjoy the attention to detail and atmosphere that can be found at a brewery. Others might prefer a straightforward, no-fuss bottle of beer at their local dive bar.

Even if you don't agree with Bourdain when it comes to craft beer, there is a valuable takeaway: Don't knock the simple things. An icy, big-brand lager with your best friend might taste better than the most exclusive, limited edition West-Coast-Style Hazy Guava IPA ever could.