Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

October 20, 2008

Beer Issues:

The Four Letter Word

Beer “snob” is such an ugly, dirty word. But we prefer the term “dork.”
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
I’ve been called, on more than one occasion, a beer snob. Some of those accusations came from people who thought Bud Light is the only beer on the planet, while others came from people (I won’t name names) who make ordinary beer snobs look like suds-chugging, get-hammered-at-any-cost college students.

Frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass what people think of my beer opinions, but I have noticed that as craft beer has risen in popularity to approach (gasp!) “mainstream” status, so have concerns in the craft beer community about beer “snobbery.” A lot of these concerns, like those voiced by Andy Crouch at (a great site, but a little hard to read because of the layout—the lost art of the pull quote needs to be revived) worry that snobbery among beer drinkers will lead to jacked up prices on specialty brews and beer losing its status as the most egalitarian of alcoholic drinks. Both are legitimate worries, and I’ve fretted before about beers getting too over the top. And I agree we really don’t need an entire sub-population of beer dorks refusing to drink anything but double IPAs.

But the big force leading the charge against so-called snobbery has been BeerAdvocate, both from the web site and the magazine. And although this whole subject of beer snobbery has been bouncing around in my head for a few months now, it wasn’t until I read the Alström brothers’ Beer Smack column in the latest issue of BeerAdvocate that I decided to write this article.

The lost art of the pull quote needs to be revived.
To sum up the column, Todd and Jason Alström—the founders of BeerAdvocate, in case you didn’t know—present a little quiz for the reader to take to see if he or she is in actuality a beer advocate or beer snob. The questions basically ask if you have a knee-jerk, intensely negative reaction of an immature or egotistical nature against “macro” beer, namely anything produced by Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors. Their point, of course, is that beer lovers should like all beer regardless of its provenance, and any automatic response to a beer—good, bad, or otherwise—is patent snobbery.

And they’ve done a lot in both the magazine and their web site to try to stamp out the bashing of macro producers, especially Anheuser-Busch. Anyone starting a tirade against A-B in the forums usually gets shouted down pretty quickly by more “open minded” users, and sometimes by one (or both) of the Alström brothers themselves. And the current beer snob piece isn’t the first column or article that has chastised A-B and MillerCoors haters for being snobs. I for one find this fervent defense of these large beer producers a bit perplexing. Maybe it’s because a significant chunk of their magazine’s ad revenue—and sponsorship for at least one of their beer fests—comes from A-B and MillerCoors or a brewery affiliated with them. Then again, maybe not.

If you’ve spent any time on this site, you already know that we bash Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors on a regular basis. I suppose according to BeerAdvocate we’re beer geeks “with blinders on” and are almost certainly snobs. But in actuality our apparent snobbery is something else entirely.

It’s called principles.

We think the provenance of the beer—and the behavior of the brewer—is almost as important as the beer itself.
That means we think the provenance of the beer—and the behavior of the brewer—is almost as important as the beer itself. We could just mindlessly drink beer because it’s cheap or tastes good or the only thing available. But, to us, that is drinking with blinders on. We do our best to avoid giving our money and allegiance to large breweries that spend billions of advertising and lobbying dollars annually in an effort to destroy craft beer in this country.

Sure, A-B pays lip service to beer dorks by throwing out small batch (for them) releases like Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale or Sun Dog Amber Wheat and sponsoring craft beer fests, but at the same time they run ads touting the “drinkability” of Bud Light and why Budweiser is superior to “dark” beers like an “import”; use big-beer leaning distribution laws to muscle out small craft producers of large markets; and engage in shady business practices to get tap handle space in high traffic bars and restaurants, among a whole fucking slew of other sins.

In their column, the Alström brothers refer to the shit brewed by A-B and MillerCoors as “the norm,” and that if you are a true beer advocate then you will eventually realize “that though you might not agree with the business side of beer the norm isn’t really ‘evil’—it’s just the norm.”

The best craft brewers began with a love for great beer and built their businesses around that fact.
Take note of that qualification about the business side of beer. In my opinion, the very fact that you are consuming the products of and giving money to brewers that perpetuate the unpalatable nature of the business side is tantamount to agreeing with it. In fact, it’s agreeing with it very strongly, since all A-B and MillerCoors care about is money. Their CEOs and decision makers couldn’t give fuck-all about the actual beer. Hell, I, living in my parents’ basement and home brewing once a month, probably know more about the history of beer and the brewing process than the CEO of MillerCoors. (The current CEO cut his teeth as a marketing manager for Coca-Cola—selling fizzy water in a can.) But these people aren’t getting paid a seven- or eight-figure salary to know anything about beer; they’re getting paid to make their companies money. Period.

Obviously, craft brewers are also in the business to make money, but the vast majority—and the best—began with a love for great beer and built their businesses around that fact. The macro producers lost sight of that a century ago.

Back in the late 1700s when America was struggling for independence, George Washington swore off his beloved British porter and vowed to drink only American-made beer. In other words, he didn’t drink the beer that simply tasted good or was readily available. He had principles that guided what beer he would drink and support. If you agree with BeerAdvocate’s argument, you could call George Washington America’s first beer snob.

And I guess that makes us beer snobs, too. Fine. If having principles about what I drink makes me a beer snob, then I’m a beer snob. But I’d prefer to be called a Beer Dork.

This helpful tip provided by All Barstools: Make sure your drink and bar stools match. Don’t give off the generic beer vibe with generic furniture.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

Beer Dorks News

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