The New Wine Snob

My affection for Miller Lite and inability to pronounce “zymurgy”* disqualifies me from being a beer snob, but it’s not too late for you

Wine snobs have been around since the beginning of time. I’m certain that when Jesus was performing his famous water-to-wine miracle, there was someone there swirling it around in a glass and then sneering slightly about its incredibly recent vintage. More than likely, that person had a French accent.

Historically though, beer drinkers have been a much more laid-back group. Sure, there were a few Belgian monks here and there who took their brewing seriously. And, of course, no one is accusing the Germans of being laid back (about anything). But here in America, Prohibition’s watered-down bootlegged beer began the trend in our taste for weaker brews today. Until a few years ago, that is, when craft brewers became all the rage and suddenly guys who’d previously only used phrases like “tastes good” and “it’s cold” began talking about full-bodied ales that leave a light impression on the sides of their tongue and come with a nutty aftertaste. And thus the beer snob was born.

At first, I couldn’t understand beer snobs. The only kind of food pairing I did with my beer was when I washed down ballpark hot dogs with a Miller Lite. And the only thing beer tasted like was, well, beer. But every year Charlotte offers a variety of beer festivals and, inevitably, every year my friends think that paying good money to go stand in a hot field and try warm beer is a good idea. I come along for three things that are frequently served with beer here in the South: barbecue, funnel cake, and attractive men.

I can’t say that I’ve had some epiphany while standing in one of those fields—after all, if we’re going to be honest, I spend most of my beer tasting time with all the other girls in whatever tent serves the ale that tastes like strawberries. But I did gain enough of an understanding to occasionally pass for a beer snob. Here’s how it works:

First, always order a beer with the strangest, most complicated name possible. (If any beer on the menu has ever been featured in commercials or heard of by more than twenty people, it’s best to contemptuously snarl and move on.) Ideally your beer’s name will include the words Santa, horse, polygamy, drool, or bastard. After you’ve ordered the beer, comment to your drinking companion about how excited you are that this bar actually has it because it’s been impossible to find this side of the Mississippi and only 100 bottles are produced a year. (Ignore your companion’s eye rolling.) When the beer comes, swirl it around and look intently at the beer’s color, then take a sip (tempting though it may be, no guzzling allowed). Slowly, as you smack your lips contemplatively, place the beer back on the table and note how it has the same chocolate flavors of your favorite microbrew but isn’t malty enough to your liking.

There’s a chance this won’t work. There’s an even bigger chance your companion will have left the table before you’ve gotten to the “malty” part because the only thing more annoying than a turtleneck-wearing wine snob is a guy in a T-shirt that says Dogfish Head telling you he has a sensitive palate when it comes to hoppy ales.

Don’t be discouraged though, beer snobs. With new local craft brewers popping up seemingly daily and a calendar full of beer fests, this is your time. Gone are the days when sommeliers ruled the domain of pretentious alcohol consumption. You too now have the chance to throw around phrases like “bitter” and “yeasty” to describe something you actually think people should ingest. Meanwhile, I’ll be the one nodding along during discussions about fermentation methods as I try to discreetly cover my drink’s offensive Bud Light label. So embrace your new role and enjoy your pints of Polygamist Santa’s Horsedrool Bastard Brew with pride. Cheers!

*Zymurgy (zai-mêr-jee): the branch of chemistry that deals with fermentation processes, as in brewing.