Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is Beer Snobbery Getting Out of Hand?


Okay shortest post ever, everybody go home.

But before we do, let me just explain myself a little. On the old Twit-feed this morning, I stumbled across this article from Draft Magazine. I'll give you the Coles' Notes: writer thinks ciccerones et al are a bit silly, wants beer to remain opiate of masses, comes to realize beer education is good at reducing the snobbery. Or something.

But the question raised is a good one: with the burgeoning popularity of craft beers, do we face falling into the same trap the oenophiles occasionally wander into? Isn't is a bit fruity and extended-pinky-ish to start rambling on about mouthfeel and coriander notes and all the rest of the high-falutin' nonsense that results in "organic grass-fed bison with sesame aioli and watercress froth on a 14-grain hand-kneaded artisan kaiser" when all you want is a goddamn burger?

Again, no. And now I want a burger. Great.

Here's my argument: Wednesday evening found the wife and I at the Lighthouse Brewery for a meeting of the local chapter of CAMRA. There were tours of the brewery, jugs of beer pulled right off the tanks, four taps on the go, and much chatter about beer. We also snuck away and ate brownies (regular ones) in the lab.
At no point was a soapbox produced, a cigar lit, not did anyone peer through a lorgnette at their beer and say something like, "I say, these plastic cups are quite frightfully ghastly, don't you think? One does ever-so-much miss having a proper glaahss to sip from." In short, no snobbery, just CAMRAderie.

Here's the second part to my argument. If you're not already aware, the Georgia Straight's Golden Plates awards came out last week and, as far as the craft beer community is concerned, the beer category was a laughingstock. Among other things, Alexander Keith's IPA was listed as being the best beer from outside BC, ignoring the facts that it's
(a) brewed in Creston,
(b) not a real IPA,
(c) goddamned terrible.

Needless to say, everybody who drinks real beer was a trifle upset. I think Chuck's head may have exploded. See his take at Barley Mowat, and mind the swears. There were some successes: Driftwood, Central City and the Alibi Room all got mentions, but it was not what you'd call a banner day for craft beer. But it wasn't quite a horrible one either.

The fact of the matter is, we're getting there. I'm actually just about to head out the door down to the Beagle, where I will no doubt be delighted with the offering that Central City is showing up with. Week after that there's two casks of Naughty Hildegard around Victoria, and more to come. Meanwhile, over in Vancouver, you'd have to be a raging alcoholic to attend every cask event that's going on over the next two months. Either that, or an Australian.

So here's the good news: yes, we need ciccerones to educate the masses so they quit poisoning themselves with pale-yellow fizzy corn-syrup, and grab a real beer instead. And yes, from time to time, I'm a little wary of the tulip-stemmed glass crowd and the attendant pretentiousness that is always just around the corner when you start getting elitist about anything. But beer is, and will always be, more than just a drink that the pedantic can get snobby about.

What it is, when you think about it, is liquid bonhomie. Sure, most beer contains yeast, barley, water and hops, but the good stuff, the stuff all us beerthusiasts are really after, the stuff that people like @sticklebract make, is the kind where they add a fifth ingredient: pride.

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