Monday, November 23, 2009

Beer People Stand!



This part of Virginia sometimes seems to be booze central, with 4 breweries, plentiful vineyards, at least one cider maker (that's proper cider people, without alcohol it is called "apple juice"), and a newly operational distillery - all within about 30 miles of Charlottesville. One of the most interesting things about working a brewery tasting room is indulging in a little people watching, whilst talking with people about the beers produced by Starr Hill.

We get quite a few people who are out touring a couple of the vineyards and taking in a couple of breweries, usually it is the ladies who advocate for the vineyards, while their significant male others prefer the breweries - and from talking with such couples, I find it interesting that the beer lover of the pair often has a well developed opinion of the wine, even if he doesn't drink it often, while the wine buff is, to be blunt, either pig ignorant about beer (and unwilling to learn) or passive aggressive toward it, simply refusing to try a few tiny samples. The usual form with such couples is that both will approach the bar, ascertain that tastings are available and when I suggest both starting out with a particular beer, the beer lover will say something like "sounds good", while the wine buff sneers and says "I don't do beer" or some such crap, said buff then wanders off to browse the merchandise, or sit at a table cross legged and armed waiting for the beer lover to be done with.

Now, I am aware that it is sweeping generalisation here, but I am coming to the conclusion that beer lovers are simply more open-minded than our wine loving cousins, and that in many ways wine people simply do not understand beer people. Take for example tasting notes. I believe that many of vineyards in this neck of the wood provide their customers with tasting sheets, and these are greatly appreciated apparently. In the brewery tasting room context, and I speak as a note taker, on the days I remember my note book and/or pen, very few people bother to take notes, even when asked if they would like a tasting sheet - which we do have at Starr Hill, and only once has someone taken said sheet when offered at the bar. I think those of us who do take notes, again sweeping generalisation here, do so in the comfort of our own home when supping on a bottle of something we probably tried in the pub context and want to get a better handle on.

Beer is a deeply unpretentious drink, it is not an aspirational product, or even a lifestyle choice, and from my experience beer people are unpretentious, open and fun loving, so why we would try to ape the wine buff world of spouting drivel about being able to taste curried rubber or some such crap when talking about beer? Yes there are different tastes, flavours, aromas and feelings that beer produces, but let's remember where most of us do our drinking, down the pub with mates, the social aspect is key, and it is something a lot of wine buffs simply do not understand in my experience, sometimes I am sure that "I don't like beer" really means "I don't like life and people".

Again, yes I know there is a lot of generalisations in this piece, and we all know people who defy them - just needed to blow off some steam about waffly wine buffs looking like they are being forced to suck lemons by even being in a brewery. oh and the wine in the picture was lovely (I really do like wine, and get as excited by a good wine as I do a good beer).

6 comments:

  1. Nice piece, and I've definitely met some of the people you're generalising about: they really do exist.

    I worry about beer becoming similarly pretentious, with your ultra-rare, super-expensive imperial stouts and reiterated IPAs becoming a focus for unpleasant beer snobbery. Let's have them, by all means, but let's not forget it's just beer and it's better to have something else or wait for the next one rather than pay silly money for the latest rare fad brew.

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  3. "ultra-rare, super-expensive imperial stouts and reiterated IPAs" - hmmmm, whoever could you mean?

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  4. Oh there's loads, thankfully. It's the otaku attitude that surrounds them which bothers me.

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  5. Well said Al and BN. Beer snobbery is on the rise though. IMO.

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  6. If this full time employment "experiment" of yours is going to get in the way of beer-making and beer-blogging, we may need to recalculate your priorities.

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