Wednesday, February 23, 2011

There's beer geeks and there's beer snobs, and I'm a card-carrying, dyed-in-the-wool member of the beer geek community.

So sayeth Sam.

So I got called out on a recent article of mine after discussing my opinions of two highly touted craft beers, Bell's Hopslam and Sierra Nevada's Hoptimum.  "Bryan" said "when did we begin talking about beer in this hipster, douchey fashion? i LOVE a good IPA but i would never stick my nose it" [sic].  My initial response is: then you, Bryan, are missing out on one of the best parts of truly great craft beer.  I love the aroma of an especially hoppy beer, and could easily spend quite a while before drinking it just revelling in its fragrance.  That said, his comment does revive the ongoing debate of beer geek vs. beer snob, as well as how one talks about beer in general.  Apparently there is still the belief among some (Bryan and his friends, I assume) that one cannot speak about the aspects of a beer one enjoys without sounding like a "hipster" or a "douche".  That is unfortunate.

I am opposed to this kind of anti-intellectualism.  I do not subscribe to the (dropped out of) school of thought that just because one uses descriptive terminology to discuss a topic somehow precludes their opinion from having any validity.  Certainly, there is a point of "too much", and an over abundance of flowery language can undoubtedly turn a neophyte off.  But I don't think saying "I, uh, liked it and stuff..." accurately conveys how I feel, especially when what I genuinely mean is "I wanted to bathe in the citrusy, piny, floral bouquet wafting from my glass and I kept burying my nose in it to breathe it in deeper."

I think that there is a resistance among some craft beer drinkers to allow the elevation of beer.  By this I mean as soon as a beer drinker, writer, critic, whatever starts using language that sounds similar to a wine review, they freak out and scream snobbery.  Wine "experts" have a reputation - much of it well deserved - for waxing poetic about their drink of choice in a language that doesn't mean anything to the unwashed masses.  Quite frankly, it turns the average person off and makes a lot of people uncomfortable about exploring wine, which is a shame.  There are people in the craft beer community that do it too.  We call them beer snobs.

Sam Calagione famously said:
There's beer geeks and there's beer snobs, and I'm a card-carrying, dyed-in-the-wool member of the beer geek community. How I differentiate between a beer geek and a beer snob is this: they could have an equal amount of knowledge about beer; they could have equally awesome palates; [they] can articulate everything about the qualities of beer; [and they can] tell you the history of brewing styles. Their knowledge might be the same. But a beer geek loves beer because he or she loves beer, and they want to learn more always, try new beers, and share that with the people they love. Whereas beer snobs try to know as much as they can about beer as a power point and to lord it over people, or to stick out as an expert in a field of neophytes.
I do not lord anything over my fellow beer drinkers.  I love craft beer.  I love talking about craft beer.  I love being with other people who love craft beer.  Yes, I will use phrases like "The flavor and mouthfeel were excellent, but didn’t measure up to the promise of the nose."  Deal with it.  If you don't like it, don't read beer reviews.


  1. I couldn't agree more. I do think the word "craft" is overused and that people may consider it an elitist word, but that's just me.

    Nice response. You should've really let that guy have it! LOL.

  2. Thanks, Rob. I prefer to respond in a semi-articulate and thought out fashion, rather than just blasting someone. Honestly it's more fun, and allows me to use lots of big words. :P

  3. Nicely tied up. Well done chap

  4. Amen Sean. Forming a opinion about beer based on what our senses tell us is in no way douchey or snobby. Using that knowledge to belittle people on the other hand, most certainly is.

  5. "I wanted to bathe in the citrusy, piny, floral bouquet wafting from my glass and I kept burying my nose in it to breathe it in deeper."

    Now THAT tells me something about a beer much more than a fill-in-the-blank review, such as

    Nose: Citrus, with a strong piny undertone.

  6. As a foremost (self-proclaimed) expert in beer douchbagery, I'm going to weigh in.

    First I'll state that based on the description above, I don't think you were being beer-douchy Sean.

    That said, there isn't a fine line between geekery and's quite blurred. I don't know your commenter and thus this is just conjecture...but this person may be new to the scene and is feeling intimidated (not by your post specifically, but by beer blogging as a whole). I felt the very same way almost exactly 2 years ago.

    For these newbies the sensitivity to terminology and wording is very high. For example, I found words such as "floral" and "dark fruits" and "nose" douchey 2 years ago. If you asked me today, I'd tell you I no longer think that (although I still tend to avoid the word "nose" as it sounds too poetic for my review style).

    This reply is getting way longer than I intended, so I'll cut it short with this final thought on how I deal with this kind of scenario, because yes, even this self proclaimed non-beerdouche is a douche from time to time...

    Rather than reacting defensively I would
    look for ways to explain what the terminology means or what the value of what you're describing is. In this case it might be beneficial to explain to Bryan why "sticking your nose in the beer" is an important part of identifying flavors and smells and without doing so you wouldn't be able to adequately review the beer in the style you write in.

    And if that doesn't work, just tell the guy to come over to my site where I dummy everything way down. :) *shameless plug*


  7. I love the comparison that Sam makes. I sometimes feel that I could walk in the gray area that separates the geeks from the snobs, although I hope that I am a geek. I talk beer geek/snob with other geeks/snobs. I don't want to talk down to people who aren't familiar with certain words, which I am sure I do- but I dont mean to.

    I think that beer douches do mean to talk down to others. That is what I think the major problem is. They want to correct you, show you they know more. While the beer geek just wants to enjoy the beer along with you.

  8. Lost: The words "floral" and "dark fruits" have a very easy meaning. Floral is flowery. It tastes or smells like flowers. Dark fruits are cherries, currants, raisins, etc. Smells or tastes like those. If a neophyte can't figure that part out, I don't know how to make it easier. They aren't exactly technical terms like "cloying" or "estery". In fact, the term "dark fruits" is vague in the beer world. What it means is you taste a combination of those fruits, but can't pick out the exact ones you're tasting.

    Anyway, if someone really wants to get into craft beer and cares about reading reviews, they should head over to a site (and I really hate suggesting it because it is run by a pair of douches) like Beer Advocate and read through the reviews there. They tend to be shorter and varied in expertise. It's the best way to learn the terminology, whether it be basic terminology or technical terminology. They also have a great "beer terminology" page.

  9. Jimbo:

    What terminology is douchey versus what is not isn't up for debate...completely subjective. I'm telling you from my honest experience those words were foreign sounding when I first started.


  10. Another thing that, in my opinion, separates beer douches from beer geeks is that beer douches are SO QUICK to one up your opinion with some obscure random beer. I.E:
    "I love this wheat beer."
    "Oh it's nothing compared to the special edition super rare weiss you can ONLY get in Germany. Have you ever had it? No? Well let me make you feel inferior because my beer tasting history is much more awesome than yours."
    I hate that. I have no problem with talking about any kinds of beers, even the obscure ones, but I hate when people talk about it in a way that makes them feel so much more awesome because they know every obscure beer and you don't. That my friends, is a beer douche quality.

    Bottom line: if you love beer, just enjoy it. Enjoy it with friends, enjoy it with strangers. Don't rub people's faces in the fact that you know more about beer or have had more beer than them. Just drink it and have a good time.

  11. I totally agree with Mike! I refer to myself as a beer geek, because I do geeky things like keep lists and notes of beers that I've enjoyed, love spending time reading about beer and looking for new beers to try. To me, a beer snob is someone who looks down on someone else for drinking a beer that they feel is "inferior".

    As a self professed beer geek, I want to show others the world of tasty beers. However if you're happy drinking Miller Lite, or some other BMC brew, so be it. I'll try to convert you, but won't look down on you for your choices.