Monday, May 10, 2010

Give It A Rest!

Sat in a pub a couple of weeks ago, I overheard (bad habit I know, listening to other people's conversations) someone describe beer as "the new wine". Sat on the deck of a local brewpub yesterday, enjoying several very nice pints of mild (an American brewer making mild!!) and there is a chap also on the deck who sneers and pouts his way through a sampler flight as though he were some kind of authority on beer and nothing will ever satisfy his demanding palette.

These two incidents got me thinking about how easy it is at times to talk total shite and appear to know what you are talking about, but also that sometimes the beer gets lost in all the geekery, that the pure pleasure of drinking beer gets subsumed in the naming of the chemicals that create flavours, whether desired or not. One of the challenges I like to set myself when I am working the Starr Hill tasting room is to not geek out about the beer and talk about diacetyl, IBUs and the like. Unless I am asked about such things, I make the assumption that the person I am serving is less interested in the geek details of the beer, and more interested in what they taste.

This then raises the question, do we take the geekery too far? Does our geekiness put people off trying "craft" beer because we do such a poor imitation of regular human beings, lacking the need to pontificate about our supposed superior knowledge? In being "beer evangelists", do we become like the distasteful wings of any movement, where there is no allowance for experiences beyond our scope of what constitutes a valid beer experience (like enjoying a Michelob lager)? A slight aside perhaps, but the number of times I have seen the same look in the eye of the hophead chasing his next fix as the spiritual types that jump from religious experience to religious experience is quite telling.

Have we forgotten that at the end of the day, it is just beer. It is not the solution to world peace, although you could argue that getting everyone together in a pub to discuss how to move forward would be more effective than all the inter-governmental wafflings that pass for politics. It is not going to reverse global warming, it is not going to bring an end to the trafficking of drugs, animal parts or human beings, it is not going to ensure that every human being on the planet has access to education and health care, and it most certainly won't bring an end to sectarian strife in any part of world. After all, it is just beer.

I don't hold with the romantic notion that beer is the working man's drink, just as I don't hold with the notion that the politics of left and right are relevant anymore. Beer is the everyman drink, and as beer geeks, bloggers and writers surely it is our task, if you can call it a task, to relate to every man about the drink we love and want others to love?


  1. My friends look at me as the one who knows a lot of beer, a lot about beer, what is new coming out and what is special about many beers. When I drink a beer, I like to smell it, examine it and really think about it. But I also realize that, while there are many flavors in beer, the only thing that matters is- Did I enjoy it? I was at a brewpub, and while their Scotch ale was very very good (when compared to style), I didn't like it... needless to say that I don't like many Scotch ales.

    So whether I am drinking, making notes and examining the beer, what matters to me is simple, I just want to enjoy it. (great post, sorry about my long comment)

  2. From my perspective, I'd like to think that no, I haven't forgotten that it's just beer (and one reason I probably don't think or write terribly deeply about it). I think there's a difference between writing/blogging about beer and talking about beer. When face-to-face with someone you can judge how far to take it. It's easier to talk about beer when sharing it with friends, and it's often contagious as others pick up on flavours and try to describe them. Proper beervangelism, and fun too! :)

  3. Hey, enough of the philosophizing: who made the mild?!

  4. Blue Mountain in Nelson County, VA.

  5. Pubs and bars are full of people talking crap. It's where people go when they want to talk crap. You're never going to remove the talking of inconsequential crap from men, in a bar, having a drink.

  6. Being a cynic perhaps here, but most people talk inconsequential crap, whether male or female, most of the time. Drinking in a pub is not required for verbal diarrhea to take root.


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