Often in reading about beer or brewing, making beer is referred to as "art." Is it? "Such and Such" as an art form gets thrown around a lot and often times the usage bothers me. When I was in school there were many discussions about "High Art vs. Low Art," and what was what when it came to calling something art. For almost an entire week my class I took about the Simpsons, "The Simpsons as Satirical Authors," discussed whether or not a cartoon could be accurately described as art, and beyond that, act as a moral weather vane and mirror for our culture. We watched a lot of cartoons. This question of "brewing as an art form" has been nagging at me for a while now, and I still haven't been able to come up with a satisfying answer on my own. Something that you hold near and dear to your heart, something that you make your livelihood out of, shouldn't have big unanswered questions hanging out there as far as I'm concerned.
I went to school for four and a half years to study film, specifically cinematography, and walked away with a BA in film (with honors I might add). BA of course stands for Bachelors of Arts. Columbia College Chicago determined that I met the requirements for them to confer a degree upon me for completing their film program. Now on face value, that doesn't mean anything beyond the fact that I completed the film program. It doesn't necessarily mean that I have any talent when it comes to shooting, lighting, or the like. It also doesn't mean that I can watch movies better than the average person, or that I can get into the theater for discounted rates. but it does mean that I know a lot about film, from the history of filmmaking to modern day techniques. I studied under some impressive instructors. I know a fair amount about the art form of film.
My fiancée has an English degree from a large state school in Wisconsin. Like my BA, it doesn't mean that she has perfect grammar, or that she can read faster than anyone else. (She does however have the amazing ability of proofreading and editing papers that have a deadline of tomorrow morning) But she does know a lot about Victorian literature, and about liberal arts studies in general.
So what does all of this have to do with the question of is Brewing an Art? To me, and with my prejudices, an art form immediately conjures concepts of fine art. i.e. film, photography, painting, sculpting, writing, drawing, etc. You don't need a degree or any formal training to do any of those things, but they are readily accepted as art forms. Most of the time art is conveying a message or a feeling that goes from the artist to the other person. Beer certainly goes from my brewhouse to your mouths, and I certainly put a lot of time, thought, and effort into it, but that doesn't make it an art. Does it?
(Are these men artists?)
Part of my problem with this is that brewing beer has historically been a trade. In many medieval cities where brewing was common, the brewers had powerful guilds and lots of political power. In modern times trades such as plumbers and electricians have their unions that wield the power. Do many people think of wiring a building or sweating pipes together an art form? This duality really gives me some pause. Maybe part of it is being a good midwestern boy who doesn't want to think more of himself than he should. Another part of this is from an interaction I saw once on one of the beer sites. A brewer compared himself to Picasso because he felt that his beers were simply misunderstood. The beers didn't have a problem, you had the problem. I'm an artist and you just don't understand me - kind of thing.
If you go by a strict dictionary definition, such as M-W
Main Entry: artDefinition 3, an occupation requiring knowledge or skill, then I think that brewing definitely falls within the realm of art. But I think I'm still not satisfied.
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin art-, ars --
1 : skill acquired by experience, study, or observation
art of making friends>
2 a : a branch of learning: (1) : one of the humanities (2) plural : LIBERAL ARTS b archaic : LEARNING, SCHOLARSHIP
3 : an occupation requiring knowledge or skill
art of organ building>
4 a : the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also : works so produced b (1) : FINE ARTS (2) : one of the fine arts (3) : a graphic art
So I'm throwing it out there to you in interwebsland. Brewing as an art form yes/no and why?