Beer is the drink of the people. It’s relatively cheap, tastes great, acts as a social lubricant, and is good for the soul. Of course, beers differ in quality, but in the end all beer is good beer. As the expression goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.”
Unfortunately, with the rise of craft beer comes a rise in a new kind of quasi-class warfare — beer snobbery. Some folks, usually the types who take any opportunity to appear superior to others, look down on those who drink beers that don’t meet their supposedly careful screening process.
Snobbery can appear in many forms: Making fun of those who drink “lesser” beers; refusing to accept a beer because it’s not good enough; and the ultimate ego job — the drain pour. That’s right, some egomaniacs video themselves pouring beers down the sink drain because they deem it unworthy of their palate, then post said video on social media.
The thing is, beer snobbery is not only ridiculous, it actually hurts craft beer. Who the heck wants to drink a “better” beer when they’ve been told that their beer is inferior? We’re Americans, dang it! Nobody tells us what to do.
Don’t get me wrong, we should strive to drink the best beer available to us. But beer geeks should never look down on Uncle Manny for drinking his Bud Light or our buddy Mike for his allegiance to Blue Moon. Sure, Allagash White makes Blue Moon look like Bud Light, but if we try to force it on Mike, he’s going to resist, AND he’s going to think less of us and quite possibly think less of Allagash White.
Interestingly, the majority of people who others think of as beer snobs are just beer advocates (one of our favorite web sites is beeradvocate.com). We simply want to share our enthusiasm for great beer with folks who aren’t as educated. But if we just step in and tell people that Beer XYZ is better than their beer, we won’t help.
There are better ways to spread the good word about good beer. First, we need to (and almost always do), lead by example. Drink good beers, but don’t turn down a “lesser” beer if it’s offered. The person offering the beer is making a goodwill gesture, and that’s no time to opine on the quality of the brew.
A second way to encourage others is to be diplomatic. Instead of putting down Mike for drinking Blue Moon, bring Allagash White to his next party and gently suggest that if he takes a sip, you think he might like it. If Cousin Sal is a big Guinness fan, offer him some Foolproof Raincloud next time he’s over. Of course, never force any beers on anyone or be disappointed if they don’t share your opinion of the beer. Everyone has different tastes, everyone picks up on different aspects of beer. They could very well taste that things your palate doesn’t pick up.
Early on in my beer geek days, I was that somewhat pushy “beer snob.” My intentions were good — I wanted to share all these wonderful discoveries with people. But my better-looking and smarter half taught me the art of restraint. Nowadays, I’ll gladly suggest brews or give my opinions on beers when asked, but I rarely will just suggest a beer. I also take great pains to avoid making someone feel bad about the beer they choose to drink. And because of that, a lot of my friends and co-workers see me as the go-to guy for beer suggestions and as someone they can suggest beers to.
The key is to not be an “aleitist.” Recognize that everyone has different tastes, that everyone’s entitled to enjoy whatever beer they want, and that the beer world is a better place when we all work together to find and support great breweries. Always remember: a rising tide of beer (that’s a yummy vision) lifts all glasses!
Originally published on August 14, 2014