You love the blog, so subscribe to the Beervana Podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud today!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Ignore the Beer Geeks

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of returning to the Holiday Ale Fest one last time, and spending it with a couple of newbies. I've known them well over a decade, and was rocked to learn they'd never been to any beer fests. At a certain point, one of them hollered, "I love this!" I nodded sagely. The Beer Sherpa was pleased.

The experience was pleasurable for another reason, too. These two friends are quite big beer fans, but they aren't beer geeks. They don't study the history and definitions of style, they don't care about the chemistry, and they don't have a burning interest in trying every weird beer there is. They have honed the critical faculties to identify a good beer within the styles they like, and they apply this to the simple joy of drinking a tasty pint.

It occurred to me that the interests of the "advanced amateurs" (for want of a better phrase) and beer geeks can often be quite a bit different. Beer geeks spend a huge amount of their time and energy--especially at beer fests--pursuing extremely esoteric beers. Sally and I were the first to arrive at HAF, and I had my first ale in hand--the Figgy Pudding Olde Stock. For some reason, that pour was quite a bit warmer than Thursday's and also expressed a great deal more brett character. It had a sharp, dry-leather quality that overwhelmed most of the more nuanced sugars and fruit flavors in the recipe. When my friends arrived, I had them sample it, and then had to go into a long song and dance trying to describe what Block 15 had been shooting for. They were polite but it was clear that their view about the bottom line wasn't going to change: not tasty.

Beer geeks, by dint of having tried hundreds or thousands of examples of certain styles, tend not to spend a lot of time seeking those styles out or discussing them. Our own Doc Wort has been on a years-long jihad against breweries who make only familiar styles. But spend a little time with the average drinker, and you are reminded how joyful the experience of drinking a great porter, say, really is. There's a perverse kind of focus beer geeks place on certain kinds of beers--the barrel aged, the sour, the experimental.

But, if you were to draw a Venn diagram showing the beers 'advanced amateurs' and beer geeks like, you'd see enormous overlap.

All of this is fine, of course. I'm not about to start passing up the wild and wonderful, and the truth is, given a choice between sampling a nobly failed experiment and a solid classic beer style, I'll go for the noble experiment. (I might learn something!) That doesn't alter the fact that it's a failure.

Almost all of my friends are beer fans but not beer geeks. They have no interest in the intellectual pleasure of beer--they want the pleasure pleasure of a good beer. Yesterday's experience reminded me that we do a disservice to most drinkers when we focus only on the exotica. (Hell, we do a disservice to ourselves. My brain had completely filtered out Hop Valley's Festeroo, and English old ale, when I saw the list of beers. Pssh, English old ale--show me something I haven't seen. But it was fantastic!)

Mostly, people shouldn't listen to beer geeks. We have our own thing going on. Toward the end of our time at the Fest yesterday, my friend had settled into Eel River's Climax Noel ('09). He was blissfully going back for pour after pour. It was a bit sweet for my taste--but he didn't care about my taste. He had discovered his bliss without me.


  1. I think that your right in the fact that some times we get tunnel vision. But I also think it is better to be a beergeek than a snob. Snobs scorn those who don't have the same views about esoteric beers.

  2. Because I always do what blog headlines tell me to . . . I've gone directly from the headline to comments (reading nothing along the way).

    I need to clarify something before proceeding. Don't you think that in a neutral internet poll more than 50% of those voting would classify you as a beer geek?

  3. BG, I agree with your parsing there. Unless you're talking about Supporters of Native Oregon Beer, which are exempted. They're mostly geeks.

    Stan, you did the right thing. And yes, everyone should ignore me.

    Unfortunately (or fortunately), 99.17% of the people who read blogs are beer geeks. The other .83% got there mistakenly after failed Bing searches.

    If I could create a blog that appealed to the millions of 'advanced amateurs," I might be able to make enough scratch to pay for my beer.

  4. I totally agree with the sentiment. Many times, I have had to just shut up and enjoy the beer in front of me.

    And no matter how far we go down the beer road, as long as we realize that others want/need something else from their beer, you will be a trusted source for anyone who wants to know about beer.

  5. Might be worthwhile to add 'Beer Hobbiest' to the bunch (Venn slightly askew above the other two) . Less an enthusiast or knowledgable than the Geek, more curious than the advance amateur, interested to an extent in the experimental, and more likely to like failed experiments which hit a certain favorite note (i.e. this year's watermelon wheat at Brewfest). Also, curious up to a point on the chemistry, but more interested in the vagaries of marketing and style. *(the folks that like Morimoto from Rogue though it tastes like batpiss). Also, we tend to join SNOB simply for the shirts!

    I'd say many Micro drinkers are trending hobbyists. Like wine, enough knowledge to get in trouble, but more than enough to advice the advanced amateurs in the Safeway isle.

  6. I think you have some interesting and somewhat obvious points, Jeff. Most beer drinkers are not Beer Geeks, many just like beer. That said, even the Amateur Beer drinkers DO have a sense of appreciation. They may not appreciate the beers I like, but they do appreciate what they like and dislike. Diversity of beer drinkers is a good thing for all parts of the beer market.

    More than once you have stated you cater to the Novice to Moderate beer lovers. It appears you want to give them validity as beer drinkers. Sure, why not.

    Going one step further. By noting the Docs restricted focus on beer doesn't mean much to your audience. The Doc focuses on the Beer Geek or Beer Snob arena. Your audience probably doesn't look at beer the same way I do.... and that should be an acceptable difference.

    As we both always say, reviewing beer is subjective, Judging beer is a different story.

    The Doc gets a kick out of novice and moderate commenter's who want to argue their stance on a beer or brewery. Some might as well be trying to arguing Theoretical Physics to Stephen Hawking! (Not saying I'm a genius, but the levels of knowledge is often that extreme) The Doc loves to discuss beer drinkers different reviews on beers, but only when they can have a knowledgeable beer discussion. What does that mean? It means the Doc isn't reviewing beers for the Moderate beer drinkers, period. I like to leave them for you Jeff.

    In regard to Figgy Pudding... If you read the Docs review, you'll note I'm on the fence with my personal opinion of that beer. I really liked certain aspects of the beer, but some parts were disappointing. I could give it a thumbs UP or DOWN, but did try to explain my thoughts. Gee, I guess the DOC tries to be diplomatic at times? Good or bad are not always the only options. :-)

  7. One more thing about geeks vs. Moderates. When I have a Amateur Beer drinker try a Wild Fermented Belgian beer (Sour or the like), I really don't expect them to enjoy the beer. It's an acquired taste. Sometimes, it's only appreciated by evolution of the taster. I don't expect the Amateur to appreciate these beers, but also don't expect Amateurs to argue head strong that they're horrible. Yet, Beer Geeks will hear these arguments from some Amateurs. I don't like to eat liver, but I enjoy Pate. I like Fish, but not caviar. I wouldn't argue the validity or quality of the Liver or the Caviar. ;-}

  8. If I could create a blog that appealed to the millions of "advanced amateurs," I might be able to make enough scratch to pay for my beer.

    a) Hire a marketing department. b) Have focus groups read your posts first. c) Be sure to list the IBUs or ABV of every post.

  9. Was that The Monster family?