5 Things I Wish All Beer Nerds Would Start Doing

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4 Beer Nerds in the wild drinking from their local watering hole. The Festival-branded 5oz glassware is native to their geographic area.

In the craft beer world, we like to brand ourselves as a welcoming and friendly industry that is filled with people and companies that are more like friends than competitors. Yet, there’s still so many people too intimidated by condescending beer nerds to get into craft beer, people that back away hesitantly from their local breweries clinging to their wine glasses with white knuckles.  Humour me here, let’s pack away all of our certifications and beer biases for a hot minute and get back to why craft beer is so great- community. Too far up your own butt to know how to do that? Don’t worry, I got you covered- in a fancy listicle format because who doesn’t love listicles??  HERE’S HOW:

  1. Stop bashing people’s beer choices.

If you think you’re going to switch somebody off of a corn-based macro brew to your barrel aged saison by berating and belittling their beer choices- you’re going about it the wrong way. I know, we all get a bit caught up in the excitement and wonder that is locally made, quality driven, and naturally created beer. It’s easy to become blinded by passion for quality and complexity in your beer and let it take over your better judgement. That’s why I’m here. So don’t. Okay? It’s mean and it’s not cool, especially when you know that person paid money for that beer.

2. Remind yourself that craft beer is for everyone- not just you and your super rad friends.

Remember when men used to think women couldn’t drink beer? That was pretty terrible and no fun at all. Can we please just let everyone enjoy beer now? Don’t overlook a person or rule them out because of the group of people they associate with. Don’t assume Brad in the Leafs Jersey only enjoys crushing Budweiser in the locker room, he is just as capable of enjoying and respecting craft beer as you are.

3. Be confident in your own preferences and tastes, and let that be enough.

Be confident enough that you don’t have to try to validate yourself by bullying someone else into agreeing with you about what specific orchard fruit is on the nose of that Belgian ale you cracked open. Shoving beliefs of any kind down a persons throat is generally a terrible idea, but it can be pretty discouraging to a person just starting out their foray into craft beer. I’ve said it before, but beer is totally science, so take a hint from scientists and encourage people to prove you wrong and give you different results from the particular beer experiment in your hand. Any time I’ve spoken with Brewers about their beers, they’re intrigued and open to hearing about what flavours and feelings you get from their brew, so don’t take it upon yourself to decide that there can only be one correct way to experience any given beer. Science, bitch.

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Bar Hop Peter St.- Natural habitat of the wild Torontonian Beer Nerd. Photo by Mike Burton.

4. Understand that craft beer is not the be all and end all of beverages.

The Craft Beer world is amazing, but there are many different worlds our there that are amazing to a lot of people. Let’s talk about Brad again. Maybe he’s crushing a Budweiser. What you may not know is that maybe he’s hesitantly enjoying that Budweiser because last night he dipped into his private scotch collection that he’s been grooming for years and got a little too crazy and just wants something different today. Brad is a genius when it comes to scotch and knows a whole lot more than you, and places a lot of value in scotch rather than beer- but you didn’t know that when you interrupted him and trashed his beer choice. Respect that, appreciate it, and give that Brad some props for having a beer at all. Because he’s a whole lot closer to being persuaded to drink craft beer than a full-on beer hater. Feel me? It is okay for people to not enjoy beer.

5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

I’ve met a lot of people who have been in the beer industry for longer than I’ve been alive, and they are the first ones to reach over and shake hands and make friends and buy rounds, and most of the time they aren’t the ones bashing anyone else. Remember that beer has been around for a pretty long time, and just because you developed a passion for it when it started to become trendy, does not make you an expert. Be forgiving and allow yourself to enjoy a beer without scrutinizing it too carefully, or attend a party without trying to convert someone to craft beer. It’s just beer after all, we’re all going to carry on living our lives after we finish our pints. And don’t get me wrong, if you love craft beer, please indulge in all of the resources and literature and certification programs there are in this world and soak up every piece of information you can. Learning is seriously the best. Just remember why you liked beer in the first place, and allow yourself to take it easy every now and then.

Thats all for now. Feel free to disagree with me, or if you’d like, add to this list. I’m open to discussing with anyone who has an open mind. Let’s try a bit harder to live up to the reputation of the inclusive community that we started out as and are known as, and appreciate the different places and backgrounds that all beer drinkers come from.

*exhale*

How to talk about beer without using the word “Hoppy”

This is not a rant about beer terminology; this is more of a public service announcement. I would personally love to see more people exploring more beers and in my experience the word “hoppy” tends to be a bit of a roadblock for a lot of people. Though I do realize how many amazing puns this word provides us and I do not wish you to stop making them.

Lets just start out by stating the obvious: all beer has hops in it.

So on that note, I would like to provide you with a few alternative words to use so as not to scare your friends/family/strangers at the bar away from beers that they could potentially love!

Without getting super sciency and boring let me say that there are tons of different types of hops that can give beers a huge variety of flavours. Also, the character of the hops changes depending on what point in the brewing process the hops are added. The basic purpose of hops is to provide the beer with bitterness, which is a lot of what people don’t like about them but believe me some bitterness is necessary to balance the flavour of the beer. Hops also provide beer with a bunch of flavour and aroma, this is where using more specific descriptors really comes in handy!

 

First lets do a quick review on tasting beer. Here are some things you should pay attention to when drinking a beer that you wish to talk to others about. Note: most of these descriptors are aimed at hop-forward beers, there are many other useful terms to describe malt and yeast-forward beers, which are not mentioned here. A more comprehensive tasting guide can be found on Mirella Amato’s website beerology.

Appearance:

What colour is it?

Is it clear or hazy?

Does it have foam? If yes, is the foam dense or light and fluffy? Does it last or dissipate quickly?

Aroma:

Take a sniff, what do you notice?

Is it floral? fruity? spicy?

Maybe you can’t smell any hops and it just smells sweet or even boozy, that is perfectly okay, your nose is not broken, sometimes the hops will not be very noticeable in the aroma but this is why we DRINK the beer

Taste:

When people say they taste something “upfront” or “on the finish” they are not necessarily trying to be a pretentious A-hole, they usually just want to communicate at which point each flavour is most prominent. Try to think of your sip like a story in grade school: beginning-middle-end. Complex beers have different flavours happening at each point in the sip where a bland beer can be described as one-note.

Here are some ways to describe what you are tasting:
This beer is hoppy citrusy

This beer is hoppy floral

This beer is hoppy fruity (if you want to get fancy, try to think of the type of fruit you are being reminded of, for example pear, apple, apricot, tropical, melon etc)

This beer is hoppy earthy

This beer is hoppy herby

Finish:

How long are the flavours lingering after your sip? Does the bitterness sit on your tongue or is it gone right away?

Mouthfeel:

This is a funny word that people often mix into the taste category. You will know if your beer is very sweet, heavy and full bodied and you will probably not attempt to describe that beer as hoppy. But sometimes the feeling on your tongue after sipping a drier beer can be similar to the lingering bitterness from hops. A highly carbonated beer also provides a nice sharpness that people like to automatically attribute to hops.

So lets give credit where it’s due, here are some ways to describe what you are feeling (yes, beer chat can get emotional but I’m talking mouthfeel here):

This beer has a hoppy dry finish

This beer has a hoppy crisp finish

This beer has a hoppy sharp finish

 

Now that you have a few more descriptive words up your sleeve, I hope you will reconsider the use of such an umbrella term as “hoppy”. If not for your own sake, for the sake of those who will automatically say “I hate hoppy beers” and then stick to the same boring beer (because that is who you are really hurting!)

 

Thanks for reading, I hope I have slightly expanded your beer vocabulary but also keep in mind that tasting beer can be very subjective as explained in Victoria’s recent post. And so I encourage you to keep drinking learning!

Cheers!

-Beth

I Say Kombucha, You Say Ketchup – Why Beer is Subjective and You Should Drink Whatever You Want

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Beer is pretty. Photo taken by Mathew Renda at Folly Brewpub

Picture yourself in a crowded and dimly-lit bar with your best pal, trying out a fancy new kombucha flavoured beer. You’re sipping it, you’re well on your way to reaching pinnacle Adventurous Beer Drinker status, and the Untappd badges are just rolling in. Tastes like glory. But then, in a cruel twist of fate, the girl next to you looks at you and says, “I don’t know, it kind of tastes like ketchup.” You take another sip, convincing yourself that there’s no way that this super awesome beer could taste like a processed red condiment… oh wait, there it is. It’s all you can taste now. (This story is based on true events, sorry to publish your pain, Melissa).

Even though that’s a tragic tale that ended in a dumped pint- there is an important lesson to be learned here. Beer is completely and exclusively subjective, and the way you taste a beer can be affected by a whole lot of different factors. The kombucha story wasn’t enough to convince you??

Take for example a story from my coworker: she was guiding a tasting of 7 different beers at Your Friendly Neighbourhood Brewery, and bravely led people through flavour profiles of one of her favourite Scotch Ales, only to realize afterwards that she actually poured them a very bitter American brown ale (okay, okay, it was totally me, I am ashamed). But the weird part is, as she (ahem, I… cowers in embarrassment) was describing the sweet flavours of honey, caramel, bold notes of coffee and espresso etc. to the group, absolutely NOBODY stopped her and said “I don’t know, I taste pine needles and a grassy bitterness.” Could this have come from lack of experience on behalf of the tastees? Quite possibly. But it brings up an important point: you probably shouldn’t believe all of the things people tell you about flavour.

On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve had someone taste the same APA as me and tell me that they taste dill. Like the pickle. To that person, I say bravo. Congrats on not letting anyone tell you how to enjoy your beer, and I applaud this person’s ability to dig deep and find complex flavours out of their beers. This method is referred to as The Drinking Whatever You Want, and Not Giving A Shit Method, and I wish for all beer enthusiasts to embrace it.

Basically, the purpose of this article is to tell you to trust in your own abilities and tastes. People will always be eager to tell you what you SHOULD be tasting, and sometimes that can be really helpful. But the best way, in my opinion, to truly taste a beer is to draw your own conclusions rather than adopting the views of others. This requires a certain degree of attention to context (see more about being present in Mike’s article here) because there are way too many things that can affect the way you taste your beer. Whether it is what you ate earlier that day, what the room smells like, what order you tried beers in, or what the label says- there are tons of ninja deception tools that can trick your tongue into tasting specific things. It can get pretty confusing, but it will inevitably always lead to you tasting a beer differently than someone else. It also takes a degree of confidence- it can be hard to offer up your take on a beer to a bunch of seasoned beer snobs.

Ultimately you have to learn how to come up with these tasting notes yourself, and discover new aromas and flavours that are personal to you. It starts with being able to distinguish flavour profiles that you like and don’t like, and then from there, trying out more and more different styles of beers until you can decipher what it is that you are tasting in a brew. Trust your own palate, and understand that your opinion about a beer is the only one that matters. When it comes to Yours Truly, I’m recently discovering that I am not a huge fan of Galaxy hops- or at least that’s what my beer sleuth skills have been leading me to believe. I could be wrong, but hey, that’s my take on it. Yours can be completely different.

Me and three other beer nerds, drinking whatever we want.
Me and three other beer nerds, drinking whatever we want.

P.S. Yes I work at a brewery, no they don’t pay me to say anything, yes I can still have neutral views on issues in the beer industry. Drops mic