Enough is enough. The snobbery around beer has to stop! Having witnessed a number of questionable snooty comments and articles – predominately across social media – I decided the time was right to get the topic of my chest and clarify the TA Brews position while I’m at it. (I promise not to get on my soap box too much, though)
There are a number of discussions that immediately come to mind when I think of beer snobbery… Inconsequential debates such as when is craft not craft or what is the difference between real ale and craft beer. Both of which, in my mind, are examples of the kind of mentality that starts to transcend one’s status from beer connoisseur to outright beer snob – the latter of which poses a threat to the very reason you started drinking craft beer in the first place.
Admittedly, the difference between expert and snob is a fine line. It can be difficult to hold your values and share the delights of wonderfully crafted beer from around the world without seeming condescending with an elevated sense of self-importance.
If there’s one thing we don’t want to be at TA Brews, it’s patronizing, snobbish, or pretentious. I mean, why would anyone want to do that? Is it to appear smarter somehow? Or to massage your own ego because of some sort of deep, profound insecurity?
Either way, it has nothing to do with beer, or the culture of beer enjoyment in a pub for that matter. Beer should be fun.
If I’m honest with myself, I’ve been guilty of beer snobbery in my past. I cared too much about what other people drank – particularly in the UK where 10 years ago it appeared cask ale was in terminal decline. I cared deeply about the preservation of cask ale as part of British heritage and subsequently, I was probably a bit of a dick about it at times.
Today of course, is a completely different story; cask ale is very much alive and well, beer is finally shifting it’s stuffy old image, and today, there’s more variety on the market than ever before. What started as a US craft beer revolution is now giving British beer a fresh lease of life. While not all of it is cask beer, there’s no doubt that cask has gotten much much better over the last 10 years, and craft beer has undoubtedly contributed to its revival.
Relax! Have a beer.
Back to me being a dick, though… Needless to say, I’ve had reason to relax a little about the future of cask ale in the UK. But as I’ve relaxed, and as I’ve witnessed the UK beer scene flourish in the same way it has in North America, I’ve been able to reflect on my old attitudes toward other people’s drinking habits.
On doing so, I came to the conclusion that at times, I’d actually become so elitist about what I was drinking, I’d forgotten why I was drinking it in the first place. The snobbery involved robbed me of any ability to enjoy it.
It’s exactly this kind of snotty behaviour around craft beer that makes many, less intense, beer drinkers take a disliking to the whole craft scene in general – a sentiment well summarised by Guardian columnist, Eleanor Robertson in her article entitled Give me cheap beer, or give me sobriety. Just stop this craft beer “revolution”.
The following are a couple of excerpts that sums up her feelings on “craft beer nerds”.
“Craft beer is easy to hate. Most of it tastes bad. Beer snobs are phenomenally irritating, often even worse than the narky farmers’ market set or the paleo herd.”
“When I go to the pub I want to talk to my friends about their lives, our jobs, politics, funny things we saw on public transport that day. Ward says that “craft beer is a conversation”, which really gets to the heart of the matter: I don’t want to have a conversation with my beer, I want to have a conversation with my mates.”
While I can’t agree with her statement that “most of it tastes bad” etc etc – I can see where she is coming from. I know the sort of “phenomenally irritating” beer snob she’s referring too (I’ve even been one myself). They are constantly talking about beer – even when it’s not called for – they’re always a little too keen to “educate” newbies, and they refuse to drink anything not brewed on the smallest of scales. What started as a hobby interest is now an obsession that consumes them. It’s stopped being fun, and they haven’t even realised.
Having come from the audio world, I liken the attitude to similar traits found in certain members of the “audiophile” community. The same could be said for the wine world. Andy Sparhawk from CraftBeer.com echoes this concept:
“You’ll find the same hipsters, zealots and snobs in just about any self-defined community you can think of.” – “There will always be jerks who only seem to care about themselves, but that doesn’t have to ruin your enjoyment of craft beer. And it doesn’t mean that if you’re a jerk, you have to stay a jerk.”
Finding the sweet spot
Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m not suggesting having an opinion is something to be ashamed of, I’m merely suggesting that you’ll have a better time by reserving your judgment and being more open minded. While a little knowledge can greatly enhance your enjoyment, there comes a tipping point – somewhere down the line – where it goes too far.
Before this tipping point, however, comes a perfect zone where knowledge and the social sharing of beer meet in perfect harmony: a little place we like to call the beer sweet spot.
Let me explain… In our minds (at TA Brews) there are 4 main categories of beer enthusiasts:
The 4 Categories of Beer Enthusiasts
The ice cold guzzler
Ignorance is, they say, bliss, and this unconverted – slightly stuck in their way – beer drinker is quite happy. They’re quite content drinking the same brand they’ve always stuck to, it’s safe, it does the job, and they’re unlikely to change anytime soon. They’re either intimidated by beer outside the global brands, or just plain not bothered: either way, they’re unlikely to venture much further than a Budweiser, Coors Light, Fosters, or maybe even Guinness – and that’s ok (more of the good stuff for us!)
The casual craft drinker
This is where it all begins; the moment when a sense of adventure strikes and a whole new world of beer begins to unfold. For some, the journey never moves beyond this point, while for others, it’s the start of a lifelong quest discovering new and exciting flavors along the way.
The considered connoisseur
Knowledgeable and sophisticated, but never condescending – the craft beer connoisseur is the sweet spot of beer enjoyment. They’re ever happy to share in the delights of a well-crafted brew, but equally happy to partake in a glass of something less interesting when the company is right. By this point, you understand that there’s more to beer, than beer itself. That’s right, I said it, you can have a macro lager from time-to-time. It won’t hurt you, and you can get back to enjoying the good stuff with people that “get it” when the time is right. Hell – people might even be more prepared to listen as a result!
The militant beer snob
From modern hop hipsters to cask ale only CAMRA members, there are many varieties of beer snob. For these unquenchable, passionate, and somewhat intense consumers, beer has transformed from simple pleasure to utter science, and they’ve definitely started to look down on others.
YouTube beer blogger, Sarah Warman does a great job of identifying some classic beer snob stereotypes in the video below. And, yes – the “Cask Nut” – that was me (including the elbow patches).
So what do you think? Have we got it about right? Are we just talking crap? Either way, my point is, you CAN enjoy great beer without being a snob; you just need to relax a little.
Aim for that sweet spot; if you hit the militant snob zone, and your friends are rolling their eyes, you’ve gone too far. At TA Brews, our aim is to guide folks to the sweet spot and help keep the snobbery at bay.
When all is said and done, if we want writers like Eleanor Robertson to listen to us, we seriously need to pull our head from out of our backsides!