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Beer Snobbery

Feb 11, 2012

This is an important post. I’m tired of experience, discernment and real knowledge being mistaken for ‘snobbery’, and people considering all opinions to be equal and all beer knowledge to be subjective – they simply are NOT. For many years a debate has raged in the craft beer community about what constitutes beer snobbery, and what does not. In issue #61 of BeerAdvocate magazine, the Alström Bros define it in the following terms, and I comment on each.

1. You think your palate is better than everyone else’s.

OK, my palate is not necessarily better than EVERYONE else’s, but it IS better than most peoples’. Here’s why. If you have a multi-continent, 30 odd-year, multi-perspective experience of drinking beer, then by definition your palate IS more developed than someone that started drinking good beer last week. This is part of a larger problem where experience is shunned. Why? In what world is experience in drinking beer NOT relevant to commenting on beer?

2. You put others down for their beer choices.

OK, no need to put someone down if they fancy a Bud Light Lime from time to time, since quite frankly, from time to time I might grab a ‘less than amazing beer’, BUT a consistent choice of undoubtedly inferior beer DOES allow me to make judgements about your beer knowledge and your appreciation of beer. Why sugarcoat it?

3. You criticize and dismiss beers you have not tried.

OK, but with experience you find that an increasingly small number of beers actually DO surprise you. With more and more experience, it becomes LESS likely that a prejudgment is wrong. I actually agree with this statement, BUT my experience suggests that I am seldom wrong.

4. You can’t refuse a beer which you deem inferior without being snarky.

I agree (if you can define ‘snarky’). Well, I agree as long as you are not in a craft beer environment. For example I can happily turn down Bud Light after Bud Light without comment at a neighbors Superbowl party, but I’m not going to reject craft beers that I deem inferior without comment in beer geek situations.

5. You feel compelled to correct people because you think they’re wrong.

Let be CLEAR. If it’s a matter of opinion, then I agree. If it it’s a matter of fact, then I 100% disagree. For example, when people continue to call beers over 4% ‘session beers‘, then I am going to continue to correct them. I will continue to be correct, and they will continue to be wrong. Subjective matters are very different to factual matters.

6. You think breweries are overrated  just because they’ve become popular or successful.

Difficult one, this. Just because a brewery has become popular obviously doesn’t mean that they have suddenly become less ‘good’, but there is a big problem here. The sudden popularity of craft beer has brought literally 1000’s of ignorant, uninformed people into the arena. So, for example, if Dogfish Head DOES actually make a crappy beer, far too many people will fail to deliver the criticism they deserve because they have insufficient knowledge and they think they cannot do any wrong. In short, don’t confuse MY knowledge with others’ ignorance, or the fact that success has brought with it a multitude of ‘fanboys’.

7. You feel the need to defend yourself after reading this.

This is a stupid statement. All you need to do is read what I have written above to understand why I feel that way.


    • Ding

      So, in your view, I AM a beer snob?

      • Ding

        For me, no, there is no doubt, and I am not a beer snob. I guess if you think my actions DO define me that way, then in your world I am delighted to be one and embrace the moniker.

  1. Chase

    Ding, would you have any issue if people used the term “American session” to describe a beer that’s of a slightly higher gravity than what would normally be accepted as “session” beers? If a session beer is capped at 4%, perhaps an “American session” beer would be capped at 5% or 5.5%?

    From observing you, it seems you have two main complaints at the heart of your argument: 1) the ignorant misuse of the term “session” and 2) the arrogant re-defining of the term “session” by American craft beer nerds.

    Seems like using an alternate term of “American session beer” could sate both camps in this one. Americans want a way to describe beers they consider sessionable, but the typical American craft beer drinker imbibes higher alcohol beer in general. It would kind of make sense to grade on a bit of a curve here. American craft beer nerds would now have a way of referring to what they deem to be sessionable beers, without bastardizing the well estbalished term that you work hard to defend.

    • Ding

      Hi Chase, well actually I have already addressed this issue in this post, when I said;

      “Notch Brewing have also drawn the line at 4.5%, but have taken it further than Lew by using the terms “American Session Beer” and “American Session Ale”. This is much more to my liking, since it clearly distinguishes that the definition being used is ‘American’ in origin and therefore should not be confused with the original, authentic one. I can live with that as long as the ‘American’ aspect is emphasized to distinguish it from the real McCoy.”

      So in short I can live with it, but here’s the pragmatic problem – people will NOT remember to add the ‘American’ part, and therefore the problem will not be solved! So, if we could guarantee the use of ‘American’ then I’d be on board, but we’ve already seen that expecting people to do the right thing is a largely forlorn hope when it comes to this particular matter!

  2. JoeLikesBeer

    #2 – You can “make judgments” without putting the person down. In fact, you can just keep them inside your brain and not say anything.

    Overall – There’s a time and place to voice opinions, state beliefs, and educate someone concerning beer. Being able to identify when it is or isn’t the right time/place is the difference between being a snob and just being knowledgeable.

    • Ding

      Agreed, but I don’t think that those accusing others of snobbery are necessarily concerned with whether or not the judgement is actually being ‘voiced’. I think they are saying it is wrong of me (and snobbish), to ‘judge’ someone’s ‘beer IQ’ (for want of a better term), based upon their persistent choices – regardless of whether I voice something or not.

  3. JJ

    For someone who seems to strive so hard to be accepted as intelligent by the American craft beer drinkers,you have really shot yourself in the foot by reprintng,and vainly attempting to rebuff,an article that was clearly written with you ( or someone EXACTLY like you) in mind. Your answer,and apparant total cluelessness of #7, borders on pathetic.

    I have never met you,and might very well like you in person (FWIW I am old enough to be your father,just for the record) but in print you have gone from a person who at times in the beginning was informative and well spoken,to a pathetic,sad parody of yourself. Your repeated rantings about the same things over and over and over border on psychotic.

    Alot is not a word,that is a FACT. But if I ever get to the point where I feel the need to point that out EVERY time I read it,I think I will check myself into a loony bin.

    • Ding

      I couldn’t care less about being ‘accepted as intelligent’ by the American craft beer community since in my experience their endorsement is not one that would mean much! Being unable to grasp ‘session beer’ as a concept, proves that!

  4. Traquairlover

    I didn’t renew my subscription and stuff like this list is one reason why. Leaving aside quibbles I might make with respect to some of the first 6, it’s really 7 that encapsulates the issue. They use a rhetorical device that basically allows for no discussion. They are right and if you have a different view, you are wrong. The arrogance of it is pretty incredible and it is a rude form of argumentation. It’s their magazine, they can do what they like. But I can refuse to support it. I do wonder if they think they are being clever, cute, funny or what.

    • Ding

      You’re right. Sensible discussion ended over there a LONG time ago.

  5. Fenris

    I actually was really excited about this issue, I love local beer and it was great to see (512) in the magazine. That said little quips like that one that appear in the magazines are obnoxious at best and insulting at worst. I agree with a lot of what you said in this post, glad I’m not alone.

    • Ding

      Interesting. I straddle both columns to varying degrees. Firmly in one or the other in some cases, definitely not in one or the other in other cases, and sometimes with a foot in both.


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