The wine snob. It's an archetype anyone who has any dining experience knows all too well. That asshole with the "perfect" palate peering around the room, conspicuously judging any and all bottles that people brought with them to the tasting so he can pick apart every drop of your offering and pair it with the flaws or inconsistencies that lay within your soul. Only one person in the room likes this guy: himself.
The sad thing is that many of these people are insanely knowledgeable, but their fatal flaw lies within their approach: that bullish, condescending desire to make you feel stupid and thereby boost their own ego and further cement their superiority. It turns people off and is the reason that wine, a product often produced in mass quantities and available at all price points, has a reputation for snobbery, when it could just as easily invoke memories of working-class Mediterranean families sitting around a wooden table, enjoying each other's love and company.
Enter craft beer.
Beer is at an important crossroads in the United States. Following Prohibition and the death of many early local craft breweries, major corporate entities like Budweiser, Miller and Coors meticulously cultivated a populist image for their products, often evoking the industrial or western working man in their ads. This was in brilliant contrast to the bourgeois image that came with wine and cocktails, and it helped mold American beer culture through the 21st century. Now craft beer is making a comeback and we are faced with an important question: How do we keep craft beer from going the way of wine?
The answer is simple: Inclusivity.
Snobs in general thrive on an artificially created sense of superiority. It's a defense mechanism masking any number of insecurities these people deal with. Beer snobs exist just like wine snobs, but, unlike wine, we have an opportunity as a community to shape an image that hasn't quite dried in the plaster yet. It is an opportunity we must seize if we want craft beer to succeed.
So, you're into craft beer and you want the scene to continue thriving? Think about the first time you tried a craft beer or went into a craft-centric bar. It was a little intimidating, and maybe you felt a little out of place. I bet you had someone — a server, bartender or even another patron — say something helpful, encourage you to try something new or just generally welcome you to the establishment. Maybe someone offered you your first craft beer at a party. Whatever the case, you now have an opportunity to do the same for someone else. Recognize that not everyone has the same palate, and flavor is often subjective. Be positive and friendly. It really is that simple.
As corny as it sounds, I believe in craft beer as a catalyst for building relationships. It is part of the reason I work in the industry. I love sharing my passion for interesting, well-made craft beers, whether it be the clean German-style ales and lagers we brew at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery or funky, complex Belgian sours, and helping others find something new that they enjoy. Craft beer, especially local craft beer, is an opportunity to engage people, to expose them to something new that is made in and benefits their community. It's an intimate experience, if you really stop and think about it.
North Carolina is slowly establishing itself as a leader in the craft beer industry, especially on the East Coast, and Charlotte has a lot to be excited about. We have a great community of passionate people here in all areas of the industry, from the brewers to the salespeople to those of us who write about and promote it. Follow the hashtag #cltbeer on Twitter and you will see what I'm talking about.
The craft beer community should be for everyone, no matter their tastes or experiences. The sheer number of beer styles is so vast that no one "has to" like anything specific, and every individual should trust his or her own unique palates. There is a lot to explore, no matter how much knowledge you may already have. Like most things in life, the more you learn about a particular topic, the more you realize you don't know. And contrary to what one might think, that's actually a great thing. There's always something new to drink, to experience, to enjoy. If your beer knowledge is strong, pass it on humbly, passionately and without a need to be acknowledged as somehow superior. If it isn't, welcome to an awesome, growing and constantly evolving community. There's plenty of room for you at our table.
Cam Heiliger is a freelance writer, homebrewer, educator and overall craft beer geek. He works in marketing and distribution at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, where he runs social media, gives tours of the brewery and ensures that Charlotte has the cleanest OMB beer lines around.
I just saw my first episode of Big Daddy's House...I don't know exactly what you…
What kind of God creature are you to use Gods name invein ? When sharing…
Charlotte has never tried to preserve much of it's history. Uptown is a perfect example…