(No. 3 in the Twelve Beers of Chirstmas series)
I hate being called a “beer snob.” Here are two stories about beer snobbery and where it will get you.
Two of my own family members fired the term off at me during Christmas dinner last night. Okay, so I did bring my own Belgian-style beer chalice and a few bottles of “fancy” beer for my own consumption, but does that make me a snob?
I actually anguished over whether to bring the glass and the beers to the dinner or not. I was afraid of precisely this analysis of my behavior. After mulling it a bit, I decided to go for it, thinking “hey, this is all family. Christmas beers at Christmas dinner with family. They all know beer is important to me and I know that most of them like craft beer little or not at all, so surely they will permit me this pleasure.”
But no, instead they hurled the “s” word at me. According to thesaurus.com, ‘snob’ is a noun meaning “braggart, high-hat, highbrow, name-dropper, parvenu, pretender, smarty pants*, snoot, snot, stiff neck*, upstart.” Jesus, is that really what they think of me?
My offense? I brought and drank two winter ales and shared a 750ml bottle of Ommegang with the one other person who I thought might enjoy it. Meanwhile, others enjoyed sparkling white wine, chardonnay with ice, Coronas, and Heinekens. I said exactly nothing about anyone’s choice of beverage. I enjoyed the after dinner drink my sister served to all, Bailey’s and Butterscotch schnapps. And later on that night I cracked open a bottle of Heineken with one of my brothers-in-law. And for this behavior I get called a beer snob. Part of the reason it stings so much is that one of things I like so much about beer is its democratic tendencies. I like breaking not building class barriers.
The second story is a warning to current and would-be beer snobs. Mend your ways or else risk being a buffoon. A few weeks back, I attended the Holiday Beer Tasting at RFD. Hugh Sisson, owner of Clipper City Brewing, presented a cask-conditioned version of his Winter Storm, which is either an Imperial IPA or an Imperial ESB. Some folks at my table commented that this version seemed far less hoppy than usual. Hugh described its “pure hop power, floral and aromatic, enhanced by dry hopping, a method meant to increase the aromatic hop presence.” Hmm, we all thought it was missing the hops, but whatever. A couple tastes later, Jason Oliver, brewer at the Washington D.C. Gordon Biersch, prepared to take the stage to comment on his seasonal offering, a double bock. But he paused, sniffed his tasting cup and made faces. It quickly became clear to him and the rest of us (we had already been served our samples) that this was no bock. It was extremely hoppy and the wrong color, a deep gold instead of a ruby-brown. Oliver asked if the other brewers could identify the mystery beers as one of theirs being served out of order by mistake. No one could place it as their own.
It was later determined that the beer served as Hugh Sisson’s Winter Storm was actually Jason Oliver’s Bock. Sisson never caught the problem, even when specifically asked to taste the mystery beer and determine if it could be his Winter Storm by mistake.
If Sisson were known as a beer snob, he would have been chased out of the building for this mistake. But instead, because he makes great beers, is a well-liked member of the community, and is no “high-hat braggart,” everyone took the situation in stride and enjoyed a second tasting on the house due to the mix-up. So, even in a roomful of so-called beer snobs, no one heckled or belittled Sisson. No one acted like a snooty, stiff-necked smarty pants.
These two stories taught me a valuable lesson. I simply have to accept that the masses of common rabble will always mistake my sophisticated brilliance for snobbery.
Oh, by the way, that’s me in the picture wearing one of the pirate eye patches Hugh Sisson handed out during the of tasting of his Winter Storm, which is part of his pirate-themed Heavy Seas brand. What a snob.