I want you to know right off the bat that there is a beer snob inside you. You need to let go of all the negative energy that’s keeping you from releasing that snob.
Maybe it’s the fear of being condemned. Or maybe it’s a tragic childhood spent watching your elders drink inferior beer and going on to lead very sad lives.
Whatever is blocking you, we’ll work together to create a path to enlightenment.
Let’s get the term “snob” defined right away. A “snob” has negative connotations, brothers and sisters. This is not the correct way to look at it. To be a beer snob is to recognize that life is short, and that we deserve the finest while we’re on the planet. We choose great beer and choose to pee in Port-o-Potties at crowded beer festivals because we appreciate and deserve great beer.
The fact that we eschew cheaper beers and spend a little more on artisanal beer is a reflection of our quest for quality, not an air of superiority. It’s only beer, after all.
My job is to help you celebrate the true snob within.
Describing beer like a snob
To achieve full snobbery, you need to be able to talk the talk. Beer snobs love to talk about beer, and if we happen to do so within ear shot of everyone else at the bar, well, that’s just to their benefit, isn’t it? Sure, we also sometimes spout our insights and trivia while on line at the grocery store, at church, and during kindergarten school plays, but who can blame us?
Be warned: Beer snobs have been known to yammer on about beer things they don’t know anything about. It isn’t a coincidence that our initials are B.S.
If you want to talk the talk, begin with the way you describe beer. Some descriptions are lazy: “It’s a light-colored beer with a foamy head, smells like citrus, and tastes hoppy. It has a crispness to it.” A beer snob is never satisfied with that. A beer snob might say, “It’s the color of sunlight through dusty windows with a head as white and rocky as Mount McKinley with it has a nose that screams unripe lemon rind. The bittering hops squirt a healthy dose of sting to the back of the tongue and has a snappy mouthfeel that cleans the palate.”
Now, as you taste a beer right now, practice with a snobby description of the way it looks, smells, tastes, and how the beer feels in your mouth.
Know your beer styles
Another way to talk the talk is by knowing your beer styles. The Beer Judge Certification Program (or just “BJCP” for snobs), breaks beer down into 23 categories, and within those categories, 78 styles. A beer snob should be prepared to discuss the merits of as many as possible.
Some styles to drop in casual conversations, mostly because they sound cool and German: Dunkelweizen, Weizenbock, Rauchbier, and Dusseldorf Altbier. Don’t ask me to define these off the top of my head; I’m not a beer expert, just an enthusiast.
The Belgian and French Ale is a particularly fascinating category, and the more you describe them the more you show your snobbery. It’s divided into five styles: Witbier, Belgian Pale Ale, Saison, Biere de Garde, and Belgian Specialty Ale. In Belgium and parts of France, there became this great pocket of creativity, and much of it was fueled by a style of Belgian yeast – which brings bout a “bready” or “buscuity” flavor – and monks, who made the stuff in their abbeys.
Some basics: The style is determined by the amount and type of ingredient combination, as well as the technique used to make the beer. How the brewer mixes the water, hops, grain and yeast – along with any other adjuncts like fruit or spices – determines the style. Basics include American lager, English pale ale, India pale ale, German Wheat and Rye Ales, Belgian ales, porters, and stouts. They say that whatever you think it tastes like, the brewer is always right. Don’t believe it. You are always right.
Remember: Beer snobs may be sticklers for style, but are just as interested when a beer defies style, or blends it. There’s room for rye stouts and sour Irish ales, smoky Belgians, and chocolate doppelbocks.
Criticize and recruit
A beer snob knows how to criticize with integrity and recruit with subtlety. The trick is not to be obnoxious, and I know for some of us that’s difficult. Never offer a criticism without provocation. And always find out what a person likes in a beer before leading them through the gateway toward enlightenment.
Let’s start with the criticism. People will see that you pass up brands like Budweiser or Coors. They might ask why. Avoid words like “sucks” and “gross.” Talk candidly about the appeal of other beers.
As for recruiting, the best way is through taste. If you notice that they always drink the same lager, ask about what they like in it. They might just say, “it’s cold.” Don’t wait for their permission, but order a sample of a microbrewery lager or cream ale or blonde ale. It isn’t just the name Naughty Nurse, from Hartford’s City Steam Brewery, that’s gotten people to try microbrews.
On the other spectrum, if someone says they hate dark beer because they don’t like Guinness, have them try a brown ale. And if someone says that they don’t like “dark beers,” remind them that dark relates to color, not taste.
Pairing beers with favorite foods is another great way to get someone to come over to the snobby side.
Support local breweries
Beer snobs support local breweries, and will travel outrageous distances – or just short ones to random industrial parks – to lend support. In Connecticut, we have about 30 breweries that could be up and running by the end of the year. That’s amazing for a small state, although there’s plenty of room for more.
For example, this rye porter comes from Shebeen Brewing in Wolcott, Conn. It’s been around for less than a year, and owner/brewer Rich Visco has an IT and homebrewing background. He loves to play around with styles. He’s got a coffee bacon stout, a pineapple wheat, and of course a cannoli beer.
He’s brewed this porter – an English style that’s often kind of chocolaty and dry – with rye, a grain that brings about a bit of a spicy or peppery taste. It’s also tough to work with, so you can only really use a certain percentage of it in the beer.
A snob learns the stories behind the local breweries. For example, Firefly Hollow Brewing used Kickstarter to get going in Bristol, Conn. Broad Brook Brewing in East Windsor rebuilt a barn in their brewery from discarded wood. Olde Burnside has its own spring and started as an ice-making company. Half Full in Stamford has one of the only female brewers in the state.
A snob will lend a hand to local breweries. He or she meets them at their tastings, learns about their history as a brewer, finds out if they need help (volunteer work, for example, like pouring at brew fests).
A beer snob promotes and criticizes microbreweries through social media. Take to Twitter, Facebook, UnTappd. Write down your thoughts on your own blog, podcast, or YouTube video. Lord knows the big breweries have enough dollars to trot horses out on Super Bowl Sunday. We’ll take every other day of the year and do it ourselves.
Be proud of your snobbishness. If someone calls you a snob because you walk past the 64-can mega packs that cost $14 so you can buy a four-pack that costs $12, hold your head high and say: I don’t need to drink a lot to enjoy beer. If you’re called a snob because you take 10 minutes sampling and asking the waiter questions when it comes to what to pair with steak tartare or buffalo wings, say you’d rather have a great beer experience than suffer through a boring meal. If someone calls you a snob because you bring your own beer to a wake, just say: Grandma would be proud of me.
Hold your heads high, beer snobs. Hold your glasses higher. Sip well!
This post is a version of a seminar I led Sept. 7, 2013, at the Brass City Brew Fest in Waterbury, Conn. To arrange for a Beer Snob seminar or tasting, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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