Butthurt. I'd never really understood what that common internet epithet meant...until I started offering my opinions publicly on craft beer. Then, I quickly realized, "Wow, there sure are a lot of people out there who get butthurt."
Some butthurt folks called my light-hearted personal essay, "How to Be a True Beer Geek," "mastubatory one-upmanship." My humorous attempt to teach you "How to Throw a Craft Beer Party for Normal People" had one angry beer blogger responding with a post that was longer than my original effort. Finally, my provocatively-titled "New Jersey Beers Suck, But It's Getting Better" had...well, pretty much the bulk of Garden State beer drinkers proffering that not only was I wrong, but I would probably have some Sopranos-type eager to take me out the next time I ventured across the Hudson (despite the fact my piece was largely positive).
Yes, I've learned it the hard way: it's virtually impossible to write about craft beer without offending someone. True beer experts will always want to dispute your credibility and/or call you a douche, while average Joe swiggers will surely label you a "snob" for having any sort of intellectual thought on something as stupid as brewskis, bro.
To a certain extent, it's the Joes who are right. Beer geeks deserve to be called out. For we — I'll include myself — do indeed participate in some of the most douchey, snobby, and mockable things around. Prepare to get butthurt.
In college there were the kids who assiduously took pages of notes during any professor's lecture. And then there were the kids who skipped class to go drink beers at the bar and avoid having to hang out with those note-taking dweebs. It doesn't work like that anymore. Go to any bar with a sexy tap list and you'll soon see a slew of solo drinkers hunched over the bar scribbling away in their Moleskines. No, they aren't America's next great tippling troubadours, they're simply filing away their thoughts on the appearance, aroma, taste and "mouthfeel" (don't ask) of the brew in front of them. Thankfully, with the advent of smartphones, I'm witnessing less and less overt note-taking and thus fewer things worth mocking while I try to drink. Then again, just last week, I noticed a gentleman flap back his iPad's smart cover, prop it up on the bar next to his platter of loaded nachos, and start rotely logging each and every beer he drank into Untappd.
Like those overly-smiley guys in cheap suits stalking the train tunnels with poorly-designed flyers, beer geeks likewise can't rest easily until the whole world is also drinking "good" beer. While cigar fans pretentiously read Cigar Aficionado and wine sluggers arrogantly flip through Wine Connoisseur, we beer drinkers like to think we're far more proletariat. In fact, our top source for info is humbly called Beer Advocate. The word "advocate" might have originally been an attempt to be all-inclusionary, but it has really just turned into us all being really annoying about that which we love the most. Like missionaries, or perhaps cult members, we beer geeks sure love to evangelize about "our" beer to the swill-drinking masses. I'd never dare walk up to a man with an ugly wife and "advocate" he start banging someone a little hotter, yet why must I smirk at the guy drinking Blue Moon and arrogantly tell him he should really be having an Allagash White instead? Do we all hope to one day live in some Shangri-La where no one dares drink something with a twist-off cap? In fact, I am almost surprised there aren't fat, bearded guys in Hill Farmstead T-shirts walking around Times Square trying to get tourists to take part in blind tastings before handing them some literature they might find useful. Heck, maybe there are, I just haven't been in a while (the beer bars nearby suck).
No matter your passion in life, whatever your obscure hobby, there is an online forum devoted to discussing its boring minutiae. It would be hard for me to believe, though, that there are any online forums as patently mockable as what hardcore beer geeks want to talk about online. Get a load of some of the current threads on popular beer forums. Losers pointing out the minor typos and factual errors they've found on beer labels. The heart-breaking tale of some guy who can't figure out how to get his wife to drink beers at more appropriate serving temperatures. Pages and pages of anecdotes about people getting in physical confrontations over beer, which I highly doubt looked anything like The Rumble in Jungle ("The Jiggle in the Beer Aisle?") Sometimes I think these posts have to be satire because I can't conceive of the type of shut-in who would log in and create these topics. If you've never visited a beer forum before, I wouldn't necessarily advise you jump down that rabbit hole. For me, I sadly can't help myself. They're like a car wreck I can't stop gawking at. A car wreck that simultaneously makes you feel a lot cooler about your place in this world.
Beer geeks don't use glasses, we use "glassware." Tulips, nonics, steins, each are perfectly appropriate...but only for the perfectly appropriate style of beer. Oh boy, and when someone dares to give us the incorrect drinking vessel, we are prone to flip out. No, I'm not talking about your old university friend handing you a beat-up John Stockton 1992 Dream Team commemorative cup when you visit his bachelor pad and ask for something to pour your Brooklyn Lager into. I mean moreso when a bartender serves you a Belgian dubbel in a Heineken-logoed pint glass. Are you shitting me?! Or when he dispenses your IPA into a frosty mug — a grave insult. A glorious imperial stout in that dumbass Stella chalice with the cheap gold foil around the rim?! Get the fuck outta here, man. And if you so much as suggest I should drink that German weizenbock from a 96-ounce beer boot...
Bottle release parties
When is a party not a party? When a brewery is releasing a "rare" bottle of beer. Every weekend, in just about every part of America, some local brewery releases a limited bottle of some specialty beer that is probably (pick several): barrel-aged, highly-alcoholic, loaded-with-obscure-ingredients, hand-numbered, corked-and-caged, dipped in wax, highly-priced, and only available at the brewery in question on one solitary afternoon. Undoubtedly, many of these beers are excellent and I'd certainly love to try them all. But not if I have to attend a "party" to get my allotment. Because, after having attended countless over the years, I can tell you, beer release parties are some of the most embarrassing events on planet Earth. Predominantly male gatherings of nerds squeezed into obscure brewery T-shirts standing in a line snaking around some warehouse or office park, chatting for hours about adjuncts, yeast strains, and final gravities, just praying they'll get to the front of said line before the bottles run out. If a random pedestrian stumbled upon the scene, he'd surely guess the gathering was for a Jean-Luc Picard autograph session or the latest release of some role-playing video game. Not to purchase something that, you know, gets you drunk. Limited-release beers are surely the world's only asocial lubricant.
The "drain pour"
Finally, there's the dreaded "drain pour," the epitome of mockable beer snob behavior. It's pretty self-explanatory: you take a sip or two of beer, find it somewhat subpar, stop drinking it, and, like a girl who doesn't swallow, you immediately sprint to the nearest sink, the contents of the bottle getting dumped down the drain. You say, what's wrong with not putting something in your face you find unpleasant? Nothing, except for the fact that beer geeks seem to take a perverse pride in drain pouring — the higher-regarded the beer the more worth it to brag to the world about your "latest." (If a drain pour happens without you telling the world about it, then it didn't really happen.) For me, the drain pour is the most embarrassing thing beer geeks do, because it's the pretension of saying that not only am I too good for shitty corporate beer (who isn't?!), but I'm even too good for the beer that other beer geeks find good. It's just beer, it gets you drunk and makes you more interesting...finish it.