Jim Dorsch's award-winning editorial from Beer, the Magazine. Reprinted with permission

Brewing to a Different Drummer

Alone in his home recording studio, high in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, Kit Watkins meticulously crafts seamless, highly personal music that he will transfer to compact disc for his fans, as he's done 12 times in the past. Watkins runs his own record company, Linden Music, to market his recordings.
At the Knitting Factory, a cutting-edge music club in Manhattan's SoHo district, an octet called Doctor Nerve thrashes out complex, intense, in-your-face, avant-metal-mutant jazz-rock to an appreciative crowd. Is Nerve a fusion band? Try a collision, suggests leader Nick Didkovsky. Doctor Nerve has released several CDs on Cuneiform, a small label based in Silver Spring, Md.
Kit Watkins and Nick Didkovsky are radically different, but they have something in common. Neither sells a lot of units, but both make the music they want to make. Watkins and Didkovsky play for love, and what they have accomplished is impossible to artists motivated primarily by money.
Doctor Nerve isn't likely to sell 6 million CDs. Why not? Sad to say, but the music-buying public consists primarily of uncritical listeners who seek whatever's least offensive and most effectively marketed to them. They shun all music that requires thoughtful listening. Sound familiar?
Beer has its counterparts to Nick Didkovsky and Kit Watkins. Didkovsky's soul-mate might be Larry Bell, whose Kalamazoo Brewing Co., Kalamazoo, Mich., issues a steady stream of outrageously good brews. At Baltimore Brewing Co., Baltimore, Md., Theo de Groen brews refined lagers that are beer's answer to Watkins' more subtle artistry.
For every Doctor Nerve and every Kit Watkins, there are countless talented artists who choose sameness and profitable predictability. For every Bell's Eccentric Ale and every De Groen's Doppelbock, there are scores of insipid amber lagers and boring pale ales from so-called craft brewers who can do better.
Popular music, in all its calculated sameness, offends me. I feel cheated when I hear music that contrives instead of inspires. And I feel betrayed when I drink a beer whose sole purpose is to not make a statement.
With diligence and dedication, Kit Watkins and Nick Didkovsky have found a way to pursue their art. For them, success isn't measured in dollars. It consists of daily satisfaction in their work. Without Kit and Nick, I might not bother listening to music. I hope I never have to decide whether it's worth my time to drink beer.
~ Jim Dorsch
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