Wow, now here's a question that I'm having a difficult time wrapping my head around to arrive at a position.
Read this, then come back and weigh in.
[Link to BeerNews.org]
Unfortunately, and I expect to be beaten up a bit over this, but I think marketing trumps. Here's why.
Much as we'd like to dismiss marketing — and, really, isn't a fair amount of that reaction due to what we've seen "The Bigs" do with the marketing of lifeless beer — you can make the most interesting and tasty beer in the world, but if it can't get to market, there's little chance that a significant enough portion of the beer-drinking market is going to find you to keep your brewing business going.
On the other hand, make some mediocre, passable beer and have someone create the right packaging, find the shelf space, generate the events and associated buzz and you've got a leg up and more of a fighting chance than the great brewer with no marketing.
Cynical as it may sound, I believe that there are enough untrained palates and undiscerning tastes that if you make approachable beer at, importantly, the right price point with an intelligent marketing plan, you're likely to come out ahead.
Of course, the ideal position to be in is one that balances the proper mix of both. But, the question posed was much more of an either/or.
Like I said, that may be cynical Bryan's thinking alone, but how else do you explain that more than 90% of beer drank in the States is of the cheaper, less interesting beer (I know, I know...subjective...what are y'gonna do?) with massive marketing budgets?