It's Time To Dial Back The Craft Beer Snobbery


Hear me out. I enjoy beer. I enjoy craft beer. Like a good Michigander, I thanked Bacchus the day Two Hearted Ale finally arrived in New York City. I have not been “up for whatever” bland, antiquated piss was lying around since college. Even then, never on my own dime.

I’ve enjoyed the proliferation of quality beer. The trouble is success swiftly breeds excess. Before you’re cognizant, you find yourself conquering Burma or releasing Physical Graffiti, because you can.

Craft beer, in polite society, has become “beer.” Snobbery about said beer has taken a step too far. To be truthful, it has taken about 30 of them.

There’s nothing wrong with making craft beer your hobby. Consenting adults should get up to whatever they wish, even if it is a short, steep slope to handlebar mustaches, flannel and self-imposed celibacy. Take every vacation to Portland or rural Michigan. Rank IPAs on your website. Drain pour to your disdainful heart’s content.

Trouble comes when that niche interest colonizes mainstream life.

Ordering beer now resembles ordering wine. Waitresses no longer rattle off a single-digit number of taps at discerning establishments. They hand you a beer menu, which is a minimum of four pages long. Ideally, it is inscrutable to anyone without an active presence.

There’s a humbling conversation with the waiter or guesswork involved. Your order is probably a very hoppy IPA, an over-alcoholed and/or over-spiced Belgian-type concoction, or a stout with varying notes of coffee, chocolate, and unpasteurized breast milk. Whatever arrives, it’s coming in stemmed, specialized glassware to best exhibit the quaff, the feel and the lacing.

While wine complements your food, that beer annihilates your cheeseburger like the Japanese Navy at Tsushima.

The entire enterprise seems designed to create demand for a certified beer cicerone, which is now a fucking thing. I often end up ordering the one boring lager on the menu for damage mitigation, the very phenomenon the craft movement sought to overcome.

Large bottles of weird beer with pop tops have become acceptable party offerings, in lieu of wine or food. The utility of said gift is unclear. It’s too small to share at a party. It’s too much commitment for one-man consumption.

Do I whip out an array of small glasses I don’t have for an impromptu group beer tasting? More likely it sits in my fridge like an overbearing house guest before guilt necessitates a polite sip and, invariably, a drain pour.

Trapped at a social engagement where your only options are macro brew? There’s now a tea bag for that.

Beer has been around for millennia. It predates history. In fact, a major impetus for civilization was the efficient production and distribution of beer. Beer has been, for most of that duration, the common man’s drink and a social lubricant.

Recent, relentless elevation has eclipsed beer’s roots. As with coffee or getting exercise, beer has become an elitist, asocial endeavor. It has, like much of society, become a forum for competition.

No half-assing allowed. Your moderate interest can always be done better, with a more exhaustive degree of authenticity. There is always some asshole lurking around to one up you. The highest end of beer snobbery seems to be being that oppressive asshole.

From a commercial perspective, mainstream beer snobbery has led to every brewery –craft or not– cranking out rare, limited editions and jacking up prices. The world does not need Guinness made from the finest whiskey malt sold in a black velvet box.

Fetishists will do what they will. The rest of us can dial things back a bit. Bars can support local small brewing without embarking on an amorphous rotating tap list with every seasonal varietal. Humans can restrict themselves to reasonable, mild ribbing, when a good friend orders a tasteless macrobrew.

Beer should be an accessory to life. It has become an ever vying centerpiece.