I’ve thought a lot about how to begin this whole blog thing, kick-starting it so you remain interested but also keep you wanting more. So I’ve decided the best way to go about this is give you a framework from which to work from, while at the same time telling you where I’m coming from. Lesson One: How to be a beer snob and the more nuanced, more respected beer nerd.
Some years ago, my good friend Zac was the editor of our college’s newspaper, and he began a new section that I dubbed ‘Food and Drank’ (it remains such today). In this section, I wrote my first column about beer and beer snobbery. Although some things have changed (you can see the original here), the idea remains the same (except probably a little bit less tongue and cheek). I’m going to give you the secrets of the trade, and as long as you don’t use them against me or try to one-up me with them in any way, we can stay friends.
1. Recognize and emphasize the importance of local breweries.
I say this only half joking, considering I have a bumper sticker on my car that reads ‘Support Your Local Brewery’ from Fitger’s in Duluth, but it’s true. Local breweries, knowing your local breweries, and knowing which local beers are the most popular is the first step in beer snobbery. These are the beers you order at a local bar, buy at your local liquor store, and have in your local fridge when your local friends come over. If you live in Minnesota, you should also know that the list of local breweries grows longer every day and you should be proud of it. Keep up with this list and get excited when you see these beers available (or be more active and push your local distributors to bring them to you). Say you’ve tried some but not others (as they start brewing more than just their flagship*). Say you want to visit their brewery**. Say you know the guy who owns it. Say he went to your college***.
Beer Nerd Tip: To be less of a snob and more of a nerd, respect non-craft local breweries and embrace them as part of your culture. i.e. if you’re from Milwaukee, you better like PBR.
2. Embrace beer trends while experimenting with your own.
When I say beer trends, it’s a little hard to explain because you have to be into the beer scene in the first place, but there are specific trends in beers that are worth noting and experimenting with. Some come and go, but some stay forever. Hops, for example. Yes, the IPA is a beer style but that super hoppy beer was a trend that is definitely here to stay, mostly because men (I’m talking REAL men) love hops and so much hops and IBUs (international bittering units) to the point that they can’t even taste them (but they know are there). Then there was sour beers, which aren’t for everyone (you know, the ones you were like ‘oh this beer has gone bad!’ until I told you it was spontaneously fermented and you were like ‘oh I get it but it’s still gross’). And most recently there was wet hops (most brewing using dry hops that are either in their original leaf form or pelletized for easy storage, but these beers used hops that hadn’t been dried to brew their beers, creating beers with more of an overall robust hoppy taste, not just hoppiness in the finish****). A real beer snob will homebrew their beers accordingly, to follow the trends, which is a difficult task, since beer, like technology, is crafted months/years prior to being drunk.
Beer Nerd Tip: To be less of a snob and more of a nerd, don’t just be aware of the trends, ignore them and go with what you know and love, that way you’ll never be disappointed or be accused of ‘trying too hard,’ which is the worst insult for a beer snob.
3. Know when to back down and realize you can’t make everyone like beer.
I know this is probably the hardest to do, and I’m guilty of it too, but you can’t make everyone like beer. A wise man (Keith, the hottie informant) once told me that there are people out there who say “Oh I don’t like beer,” but really they just haven’t found THE RIGHT beer. There is a beer out there for everyone. Take my Mom for example; that woman loves her Leinenkugel’s Berryweiss, and I do not begrudge her it. I just accept and encourage her to drink whatever beer strikes her fancy because it’s a step in the right direction. It gets her into the bar, sipping other beers, and hopefully one day finding a better berry alternative. But, that being said, anyone who says they just really like wine and don’t drink beer is an idiot and deserves a long-winded lecture about how there is actually a wider variety of tastes/flavors and drinking experiences available to them in beer than wine (fact) and that if it wasn’t for the antiquated prohibition laws that still affect the brewing industry, beer would have flourished just as much as wine—BUT IT WILL AND THAT’S WHY WE’RE HERE. BEER FTW!!!!
Beer Nerd Tip: To be less of a snob and more of a nerd, after you suggest a variety of eligible beers to your friend who claims to not like beer or only like a specific kind of beer*****, let it go, know that you’ve tried, and sip on a pint of something glorious, you deserve it, after all.
* “Flagship Beer”: The first beer that a brewery brews and for the most part, the beer they are most famous for, probably because they make it the best. (E.g. For Surly, it’s the Furious)
** Or you can say you have visited their brewery, you know a little about the town/area/neighborhood it’s in, or what laws they had to change to make the brewery happen (Ahem, antiquated law Minnesota)
*** Truth. Omar Ansari of Surly Brewing went to Macalester is perhaps one of the most famous Mac grads outside of Kofi (and what did Kofi do besides play a lot of ping poing amiright?!)
**** “The Finish”: the taste a beer leaves in your mouth as you’re swallowing it. For hoppy beers, it’s that bitter taste that keeps on bittering.
***** And by ‘a specific kind of beer’ I mean ‘bitch beer’ or ‘light beers’ or ‘corn-based macrobrewed beers that have no flavor or substance besides sadness and puppy dog tears.’