Are we beervangelists?

beervangelism.jpgLots of people who have an interest in beer, including us, aren’t just content to drink the good stuff themselves and let everyone else get on with it. They feel a powerful need to spread the word; to save those sinners who are wallowing in a world of nitro-keg Guinness and extra cold lagers. But what business is it of ours what other people drink? Why should we care what other people drink?

There are three possible reasons that spring to mind.

  1. Market economics. As CAMRA’s founding fathers worked out, a reduced demand for real ale (or any nice beer at all) means that pubs stop selling it. We want to increase demand for our favourite tipples to keep them on the market.
  2. Altruism. We know this stuff is good and we want to share our joy with others. Watching someone drink a bad beer when you know they could be drinking something delicious is hard.
  3. Know-it-all-ism. The difference between a nerd and a geek – the need to lecture and correct people.

Number three is a bad reason. People who drink bad beer aren’t “idiots”. They’re not doing anyone any harm. But if reason number two moves you to recommend a beer to a friend, is that such a bad thing?

Bailey

The language we use

beergeek.jpgThere’s some debate abroad about the language we use to describe ourselves, first at Lew Bryson’s blog, and then at A Good Beer Blog.

This reminded me of Stonch’s comment a few months back that he wouldn’t trust anyone who was inordinately proud of being called a beer geek.

We use beer geek all the time — we really don’t mind being called geeks (in this or any other field of obsession…) and don’t really regard it as a pejorative term. Beer nerd, on the other hand, probably is an insult.

Here’s the distinction, according to American comic Patton Oswalt:

A lot of nerds aren’t aware they’re nerds. A geek has thrown his hands up to the universe and gone, “I speak Klingon — who am I fooling? You win! I’m just gonna openly like what I like.” Geeks tend to be a little happier with themselves.

I think most of “us” — by which I mean, anyone who can be bothered to go out of their way to taste a particular beer, or update a blog every day or two with their reflections on this one narrow subject — have gone beyond a mainstream interest in beer.

Whatever we would like to be called, people who don’t share our interest are going to think our interests are a bit odd. It’s just beer, right?

We can try to convince ourselves and others that there’s nothing unusual about it by inventing what we think is a ‘cooler’ term:

GEEK: Actually, we prefer to be called ‘beer experts’.

OTHER: Yeah, whatever. Nerd. Oh, look — you’re slapping yourself. Why are you slapping yourself? Give me your pocket money.

We can try to conceal the level of our obsession, which is fine until you find yourself admitting the truth in tears the night before your wedding when a stack of Michael Jackson books falls out of the wardrobe.

Or we can show some self-awareness, shrug, and be happy with who we are and what we like.

Top of the Pops

jamesclay.jpgBeer enthusiasts in the UK owe James Clay and Sons a debt of thanks.

They’re the canny importers who have made it possible for us to get our hands on Brooklyn Lager, Goose Island IPA, and other exciting beers we’ve banged on about in the past.

On their website, they list their top ten sellers. As of Monday 24 March, this is how the chart looked:

    1.Duvel
    2.Erdinger Weiss
    3.Lindemans Kriek
    4.Lindemans Framboise
    5.Chimay Red Cap
    6.Schneider Weisse
    7.Vedett
    8.Brooklyn Lager
    9.Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
    10.Karmeliet Triple

Ring any bells? It’s what’s in the fridges in almost every even vaguely aspirational bar or pub in Britain.

Sure, it gets a bit boring seeing those same beers all the time, and, yes, Vedett is shite, but I’d be very glad if my local swapped its fridge full of Stella, Becks, Holsten and WKD Blue for just a few of those.

Don't let the bastards grind you down

saturday-night-sunday-morning.jpgThe more I think about so-called binge drinking, the more I think it is a result of the Northern European attitude to work — the weekend feels like the only time people can really relax, after slogging through five or six days of boredom, stress and aggravation, and they want it to be something special, memorable and overwhelming.

It’s not a new thing. In the 1958 social realist novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Alan Sillitoe described a Saturday night in Britain like this:

For it was Saturday night, the best and bingiest glad-time of the week, one of the fifty-two holidays in the slow-turning Big Wheel of the year, a violent preamble to a prostrate Sabbath. Piled up passions were exploded on Saturday night, and the effect of a week’s monotonous graft in the factory was swilled out of your system in a burst of goodwill. You followed the motto of ‘be drunk and be happy’, kept your crafty arms around female waists, and felt the beer going beneficially down into the elastic capacity of your guts.

People always talk about the sensible Spanish and French attitude to drinking, but could it have anything to do with the traditional long lunch breaks and 35 hour working weeks in those countries?

Binge drinking is not the problem — it’s a symptom.

Bailey