Saturday, April 3, 2010


I sat down for a beer with a friend yesterday and he told me this:

"You know, you probably know more about beer than anyone I know."  "Thank you", I replied.  "I read a lot."  "The thing about you", he continued, "Is that although you know a lot, I would never consider you a beer snob".  Again, this is a compliment.  "...I mean, you will drink Pabst Blue Ribbon for God's sake".  "Well what can I say", I said laughing, "Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good beer".
I was drinking (and enjoying) an Odell's Red at the time.  He told me that he thought everyone should have a "thing", a thing that which we are allowed to be geeky about, but snobbery is out of bounds.  He is from a family of car guys and is a Navy guy (all things Naval and specifically US Navy) and is currently trying to get accepted as a Naval Officer.  He owns (but rarely drives) a Nissan 300x...but he is not the type to make fun of someone driving a mini van (no comment on this).  I chide him for owning a Foreign make (being from Detroit, it is my right), and he chides me for Detroit having made so many crappy cars (Touche).

It got me thinking about Beer Snobbery.  I try not to be a snob about beer.  My brother would disagree with my friend's assessment.  He thinks I am a snob. I believe, however, that everyone should be comfortable with the beer that they enjoy and choose, be it Stone Ruination or Keystone Light.  I am skeptical of beer fads, but at the same time am intolerant of people who are afraid to try new things.  I have often discussed the extreme beer movement with conflicting messages.  I am skeptical that so many people like big and hoppy beers.  Now some do, and once in a while I do too, but I think that many want to like it and they have an unhealthy machismo issue with the alcohol content and IBU count.  Bigger is not always better.  On the other hand, drinking light beer because you are concerned with your caloric intake doesn't bother me, but when you drink 6 pints of it in a night....need I say more?  I am also against the prejudice of beer based on its color (or the prejudice of anything for that matter).  Ultimately, I want everyone to know at least what they like about the beer they choose (so few think about this), and at least have a willingness to try new things only slightly outside of their zone.

I do have my own prejudices, however.

Prejudice #1: Beer without Foam

I like every beer no matter the style to have and keep a head, even a small thin one, and/or provide lacing on the glass.  This has nothing to do with the taste, and is a difficult thing with some light and hoppy beers (and head isn't a requirement for some styles), but I like it and think it adds to my enjoyment of the beer.  Beer can be nearly flat (as in casked condition beers) but it needs to give me that creamy foam.

Prejudice #2: Alcohol Content

I don't get as much enjoyment out of high gravity (high alcohol content  beers.  It isn't that they are not good, some are, but some sacrifice taste for ABV.  One brewer admitted to me that he increased the stated ABV on his Mild Ale (on his chalkboard in his brewery) as it sells better when the ABV is overstated.  I am a firm believer that giving the drinker the stats (starting gravity or ABV and IBU) and style information is important, but people choosing a beer based solely on IBU or ABV are not the people I want around.  I like to drink a couple of beers in a sitting.  It makes it difficult when the ABV exceeds 8% as I believe that beer is a social drink, and shouldn't floor you by having two pints.  Beers that are sipped are not really beers to me.  They compete for my attention when I want a sipping whiskey or scotch....I call these camp fire beers.

Prejudice #3: Belgian and/or Extreme Beers

I am wary of Belgian and Belgian influenced styles....some are delicious and I crave some distinct styles or brands, but I have had to wade through a lot of weird beer to find them.  Many beers in the Belgian tradition do not even taste good to me, and my problem is that there are not many particular styles that I can't find an example I like.  More often than not, each brand is hit or miss with me.  Not all beers of strange influence or using non-traditional ingredients should be revered or mass marketed.  If you feel the need for your socks to be knocked off every time you have a beer, I suggest you move on to liquor or wine.

Prejudice #4 Glassware.

I hate fluted goblets for beer....even when deemed appropriate.  I also hate that while most breweries and craft beer joints serve a 10 oz glass as an option, it looks like a flute.  While traveling in California, I noted that a good number of craft breweries served their beers in half pints.  That is, traditional pint glasses, but half sized.  This was perfect.  I can sample more beers, but get the pint experience.  Here in Colorado, the half pint comes in girly fluted shapes (if at all).  Come on.  Let's focus on the beer experience and not quantity.  Sometimes a pint is too much.

Prejudice #5 Beer Styles

The reason we have beer styles, in my opinion, is so that we can align our expectations to that beer.  Expecting a stout is very different from expecting a Pale Ale (in almost every way).  A beer's style should be descriptive to the experience of the beer.  Otherwise, it is just false advertising.  Craft beers do a pretty good job at staking their claim on the basic styles....however, I am having a little trouble with the adjectives attached to styles, especially when that takes the beer out of context for the style.  Words like Imperial or Double conjure images of bigger or more special beers, but an Imperial Brown is probably just an American (or Texas) Brown or it starts to be a Brown Porter....too much alcohol or hops and it starts to be a Strong Ale, or some other described style.  I think that this is a fad.  The ultimate goal is to create something that doesn't exist.  I understand this "Boldly go where no one has gone" sense of adventure, but again, most of these beers are not really that good.  Too many descriptors ends up doing as much of a disservice as none at all.  Home brewers are the guiltiest of this.  I think it is more of a way to cover up the fact that they have no idea what they hell they are doing rather than an effort at self expression.  They might as well be making moonshine....that is, who cares what it tastes like, as long as it gets you drunk.

So, you may have or have not decided that, contrary to my claims, I am a beer snob.  The fact is, I do have opinions.  I don't purport to be on the right side of every argument, however, and realize that some of my prejudices are my own and have no bearing on what tack the rest of the world is taking.  I just like simple ales of low to moderate strengths and strive to make mine distinct by their crafting and design.  I don't want my brown ale to taste just like Newcastle, my American Pale Ale to taste just like Sierra Nevada, or my wheat to taste just like Blue Moon.  I can buy these beers.  I want my ales to taste just as I imagine they should....perfect for me.

Snob Out.

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