Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We are Geeks. Beer Geeks.

I just finished reading Candice Alström's article titled “How to Lose Friends & Alienate the Industry” in Beer Advocate Issue #35. In the article Candice discusses the problem of craft beer advocates becoming beer snobs. I truly enjoyed the article and believe every beer lover would benefit from reading it. Given the fact that you’re reading this blog, and more than likely you’ve read the article, it's nearly a certain bet you’ve been guilty at one time or another of beer snobbery.

“Where did we get this idea that being a snob was a good thing? ...why would anybody be proud to admit that they are a beer snob?”

-Candice Alström

The article suggests we as Beer Advocates take a step back and ensure we do not descend into the realm of a snobbish beer society. Rather, the craft beer loving community needs to remain humble and embrace our true inner self. We are geeks. Beer geeks.

In the article Candice takes the time to define the words “snob” and “geek” for us;

Snob: -One who blatantly imitates, fawningly admires, or vulgarly seeks association with those regarded as social superiors

-One who tends to rebuff, avoid, or ignore those regarded as inferior

Geek: -An enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity


From my own perspective I feel the connotation of "beer geek" is spot on. Here I am a Beer Advocate subscriber, an online forum participant, a BJCP Recognized judge, a homebrewer, an Ambassador for Taplister.com, and now in a twist of fate or just plain boredom I have a beer blog. Without question or confusion I am a beer geek. I recently sought after a bottle of Life & Limb as if my own life depended on it.

I am also guilty in the past for sinking to low levels as a beer snob. I’ve turned an upward nose at Light American Lagers even on the hottest of summer days, and I’d be known to let out a chuckle when a waitress recites the tap list at a pub beginning with “Bud, Bud Light, Coors, ...”

I think the phenomenon Candice writes about really represents a small subset of the craft beer culture. My own experience with snobs in the beer business has been extremely limited. What I have seen as snobbery usually manifests itself as a pissing contest of “I know more about beer than you do”. Though as discussed in the article it is a great benefit to recognize your own faults and correct them, quickly.

In my experience the beer community is incredibly welcoming and respective of the craft, those who love it, or seek to learn more about it. During a long conversation with a brewery owner about how he started his business I was continually amazed at how open his demeanor was. Even when we got into the financial details, his willingness to share seemed as natural as buying a round of beers at the pub.

Sitting at one of many great beer geek bars in Seattle it’s not hard to strike up an enthusiastic conversation with complete strangers about the beer we’re drinking, or beers we’ve had in the past. There is incredible camaraderie surrounding the sub-culture of craft beer advocates. Statements like “have you tried this beer?!” always open up exciting prospects.

Homebrewers as well are extremely open about their process and recipes. Recently I stopped by an individual’s house to swap kegs with another homebrewer. There were several brewers present, and in the middle of their brew day. While I only knew one of them directly as soon as I arrived I was offered a beer, food off the grill, and a cigar. There wasn’t a snob to be found around the brew kettle that day.

As with many things, it’s the people that make the difference. And craft beer is no exception. The article by Candice Alström was extremely well written and has excellent timing. We beer geeks need to keep our heads in check lest we fall into a mindset of superiority that will ultimately lead to our own demise.

Dan O’Leary

beer geek

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Beer enthusiast and advocate. Recognized beer judge and traveler of west coast beer destinations.