Over at Fat City, Jonathan Bender decides that he’s a beer snob in a posting describing the attributes of beer snobs in less-than-flattering terms. It’s a good-natured, well-written post, but it raises some interesting issues for those of us who take our beer seriously.
The meat of the post is the description of beer snobs:
Beer snobs will bring their own six-packs to parties not as gifts for the host but to ensure they’ll have something they actually want to drink. A beer snob is likely to care as much about the glassware as the beverage, making sure the right glass is available in order to get the most out of a brew. A beer snob will not only have a well-developed palate for beer, but also insist on finding notes and flavors that nobody else can detect.
There’s a grain of truth in what he writes, but I think I can explain.
About bringing beer to parties: I cannot count the number of parties that feature very good wines and crappy beers. On the other hand, I can’t recall ever being at a party that served great beer and crappy boxed wine. That’s just the truth. If I’m in the mood for a good beer at a party hosted by non-beer-appreciators, I cannot expect the host to have a good beer on hand. If the wine market place were 95% dominated by makers of sweet riesling and white zinfandel, wine drinkers might understand. So, yes, I have brought good beeer to parties with the hope that the host will toss them into the cooler, and I notice that they always disappear before I get a third beer.
Another reason to bring your own beer is that the world of beer is larger than the world of wine. If you go to a party, you can count on a red and a white, and if they’re of reasonable quality, it’s all the same to you. With beer, though, even if the host does have a nice amber ale available, you might be in the mood for a dark, rich, chocolaty porter. Or, if they have a porter, you might be yearning for a hoppy, crisp Imperial pilsner. Honestly, it’s unfair to expect a party host to serve good examples of the broad range of craft beer styles. At my parties, I only have one or two good beers on tap, and I love it when people bring great examples of other styles to share.
About the Glassware thing: It’s not so much that we insist on the “right” glassware, since the art of matching beer to proper glasses is wildly complex when you move into the world of Belgians. We just don’t want the wrong glass. Pulling a dusty plastic tumbler off the shelf truly diminishes the beer experience.
All I ask is that the glass be clean, but super-clean – no soap residue or other head-destroying surprises. Ideally, the glass should be clear glass, too, so I can see the beer, but I’ve enjoyed plenty of good beers out of cheap plastic cups. At my parties, there are usually those ubiquitous cheap red plastic glasses by the kegs, but my friends know that they can wander into the kitchen and grab a real glass if they prefer. Those who care, do so, and those who don’t, don’t. Everyone is happy, and I don’t have 80 glasses to handwash.
About the flavor nuances: If you serve me a great beer, chances are than I can wax eloquent about the flavor nuances because I know what to look for, and I can really concentrate on a great beer. BUT – I only talk about the flavor to those who ask, and, Jonathan, if you’re seeing people interrupt a conversation to talk about the “biscuity” notes in a pale ale, or the “dark fruit” nuances in a baltic porter, the problem is not that you’re hanging out with beer snobs. The problem is you’re hanging out with losers.