How to Spot a Beer Snob

by Jason Frye Oct 14, 2016

Just a few years ago, the title of snobbiest beverage snobs belonged to wine drinkers. Some of them would get a glass in their hand and find themselves unable to hold back from lecturing on the bouquet, the nose, the legs, proper decanting methods, temperatures, and who knows what else (not me, I stopped listening). Now the title of Snootiest Sipper belongs to the beer-drinking crowd.

Not every beer drinker is a true beer snob. Get two brewers together and they’ll talk shop for hours about things that may be over your head, but are far from snobby. No, the beer snobs are the ones who are new to the craft scene, who act like they’re the only ones who’ve heard of Pliny the Younger or SR-71 Blackbird or Heady Topper (even though they’ve never tasted any of them).

Well, in case you can’t spot them by their uniform (there are three: pastel Oxfords with khaki shorts, driving a café racer and wearing a longish beard and work boots, and dressed in every piece of brewery swag they can get), here are some traits that will identify them as sure as an IPA is hoppy.

In its native environment, the Beer Snob will:

Demand the proper glassware for every brew they drink.

No one cares that you just went to Köln (that’s Cologne, Germany, for you pedestrians), and had Kölsch served in a Stange (that’s the little 6.5 oz. glass Kölsch should be served in, cretins), you don’t have to get pissy about the glass your beer is served in. Consider the brewery: they’d need a special glass for every single beer they brew or serve? Outrageous and expensive and all those glasses would take up some valuable real estate better devoted to beer.

Proclaim that X is out and Y is the new thing.

A friend told me this story: “One time while behind the bar I heard a guy talking to a girl about what they were going to order. He said, ‘IPAs are SOOO out. Everyone is drinking goses now.’ Then he ordered a Kolsch. F that guy.” The only way this story gets worse is if he demands the right glass.

Act like BeerAdvocate reviews are the only thing that matters.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some sage wisdom in the BeerAdvocate reviews, but reviews aren’t the only thing that matters. And I say that as a restaurant reviewer. Sometimes it comes down to what you like, so treat reviews like what they are: guides, not rules.

Act like BeerAdvocate reviews don’t matter at all.

I know I just said the opposite, but it’s true, you can’t ignore the reviews. I mean, if 85 out of 97 reviews say this beer is bad, it’s probably bad, but, hey, it all comes down to taste and one man’s balsamic vinegar is another man’s Vichtenaar.

Mispronounce things in a loud and authoritative voice.

Like pronouncing ‘gose’ like the delicately floral wine, ‘rosé’. You may not be able to pronounce Schlenkerla or Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, but who can?

Cop an attitude about hops.

I’ll admit it, I’m guilty of this one, but hops, man, too many brewers use hops wrong. Hops should be used in the same way winemakers use grapes. Brews should accentuate the essence of each variety, bring out their best quality. Instead, the game seems to be “Use all the hops no matter what” and you end up with a skunky, piney, bitter brew that will make me do the Mr. Yuck Mouth face.

Sample. Everything.

Trying to choose between a couple of beers, ask for a sample. Want to know if that ultra-hoppy beer is too hoppy? Ask for a sample. What you don’t do is this: sample Every. Single. Beer. On. Draft. Sure, you may end up drinking a pint of beer for free, but guaranteed the bartender will hate you and pretend you aren’t there.

Ask for a frosty mug.

Frosty mugs look good on a beer commercial, but no, just no. A frosty, frozen mug will make the beer too cold; give it a big, burly head; and kill all the flavor and aroma in seconds. But it sure does look good.

Order “something rare.”

Unless you know your bartender and your bartender knows you, “something rare” doesn’t mean anything. At a bar I frequent, there’s one—one—bartender I’ll ask for “something new” or “something I haven’t had” or to “surprise me,” but I’ve been asking her advice for years, so she has a good idea of what I’ve tried, what I like and what will challenge me. Unless you’re tight with the staff, don’t go there.

Ask, “What’s on tap?” while staring at the taps.

Are you stupid or just trying to make conversation?

Show off their beer “knowledge.”

Ignoring the bartender’s recommendations and going off into their own beer-lecture universe, the truly egregious beer snob will hijack the conversation and provide recommendations for their friends — or even order for them — in the same way a gym-rat meathead will give you advice on the proper form for a squat.

Not shut up.

They won’t shut up. Not ever. They won’t stop talking about the best beer they’ve had, the rarest brew, the last brewery they visited, the superiority of the Double IPA over the IPA, their love of hops, their hatred of hops, how fruit does/does not belong in beer, why session beers are the worst, how cask ales are carbonated, or that strange glass Kwak comes served in.

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