I am a beer geek.
I admit it. I’ve come to terms with it. I’m a little bit proud of it.
I am a lot proud of it actually.
Being a beer geek is not a bad thing.
Except for when it is.
When is that? It’s when the line between beer geek and beer snob blurs and pretentiousness blossoms.
That probably sounds a little strange so let me provide a little context to help clarify.
First of all, I prefer to call myself a ‘craft beer enthusiast’ and from here out, that’s what you’ll see.
I am a craft beer drinker. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time that I’m out and about I drink craft beer produced by independently owned small breweries, most of them being local to San Diego. There are a lot of reasons why I am a craft beer enthusiast; I love the variety of styles, I love the complex flavors and creativity involved in craft beer, I love supporting small businesses, I love supporting my local economy. The list goes on and on. One thing that has come about from my becoming a craft beer enthusiast is an increased knowledge on a wide variety of beer related topics and I love having discussions with people I meet at bars. It’s a fantastic social lubricant and you get to meet some fascinating people. I can talk about beer for hours on end and it doesn’t get old.
For most other people who could be considered craft beer enthusiasts, I see them with the same level of enjoyment that I have. Craft beer can bring people together and it should, after all, we do live in a community with one another. I want more people to experience this. I want people to come across the line from only drinking macro breweries (Budweiser, Miller, Coors etc.) and stick their toe in the cool refreshing water that is craft beer.
However, I have recently been witnessing a rise in craft beer snobbery. They would prefer drinkers of macro brews to stay where they are and leave more craft beer for the ‘cool kids’. This sort of behavior causes a rift between beer lovers that threatens to grow wider over time if not nipped in the bud. I’ve now seen and read bad behavior on both sides, people sniping back and forth at one another, insults and vulgarities flying. It’s not cool and I find it counter intuitive to the whole craft beer movement.
On a national level the sales of macro brews has stalled. Craft beer sales continue to grow, though still only account for roughly 7% all beer sales in the country. We want that number to go up. We want craft brewing to continue its revolution across the country. For this to happen, we need more people buying and drinking craft beer. We, as craft beer enthusiasts, can play a part in this by using our knowledge to help out a guy or gal who doesn’t know the difference between ales and lagers. Getting into the craft beer scene can be a very intimidating prospect for the average person. They do not deserve to be mocked or shamed because they don’t yet know the things that maybe we take a little bit for granted. This is the kind of person who simply needs a little guidance.
It is usually when I venture out of my usual rotation of bars that I’ll witness some of the bad behavior of craft beer drinkers. What happens when a newbie has a bad experience with a craft beer bar? It’s very likely they are not coming back. So the bar has just lost a potential customer and any drinking buddies this person has. More significant is that you might have just turned them away from craft beer overall. This leads to the perception that craft beer drinkers are not only snobs, but a bunch of elitist assholes as well. This is the antithesis of what craft beer is all about.
In San Diego, the vast majority of bartenders and craft beer patrons around the county are insanely helpful, patient and supportive of helping a craft beer newbie find a great beer that works for their still developing palate. There are about a dozen bars in my general area that I will frequent regularly not just because they have great beers, but the people who pour them are so great to everyone who comes in, from regulars to newbies.
As I’ve said, this is very uncommon but I’ve seen just enough of it recently to know that I don’t like it. I want to encourage craft beer enthusiasts to try and help out a newbie whenever they can. We should want more people enjoying this movement that we are so passionate about. We should not be trying to put up velvet ropes as a signal that someone isn’t cool enough to be part of the club. We can leave that type of behavior for the wine snobs.
So help out a newbie when you can. Let you craft beer geek flag fly and help spread the revolution of craft beer. It’s changing lives one glass at a time.