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Promoting beer knowledge vs. snobbery

Now the New York Times has written about the city’s first beer sommelier, a already discussed here a couple of months ago.

This will lead to a whole ‘nother round of posts in various blogs, and probably touch upon some more interesting ideas (including still more discussion if sommelier is a wine specific word). I promise not to beat you over the head with too many pointers, but here is an interesting thought from Roger Baylor:

This is the part that I’m having a problem embracing:

“We don’t aim towards pub people,” he said. “We’re about the beer geeks, people who want to try a new experience.”

Whether or not there is a word that accurately describes the function of ordering and recommending beer — a beer sommelier — how can it be so blithely divorced from the consciousness of pub people?”

In my experience, that’s where the “geeks” came from in the first place.

Beer knowledge is important, and to disseminate it through the experience and wisdom of a “beer sommelier” is something worthy of praise, but to imbue it with pretentiousness is both unnecessary and potentially self-defeating.

It’s hard enough going out there every day and having to un-do the incessant dumbing down of beer perpetuated by a half-century of megabrewing theory and practice without mimicking the excesses of wine snobbery.

Feel free to discuss.


3 Responses to Promoting beer knowledge vs. snobbery

  1. Chris May 30, 2006 at 2:48 pm #

    “We don’t aim towards pub people,” he said. “We’re about the beer geeks, people who want to try a new experience.”

    This statement makes no sense. What he should have said is:

    “We cater to true biere connoisseurs, the type of biere drinker that really wants to explore the marriage of food and biere.”

    If he is making statements like the above, I personally do not want him representing the biere community as the first “beer sommelier”.

    I would love the term “beer geek” to be phased out, we are all really connoisseurs.

    Biere De Table

  2. Donavan June 6, 2006 at 5:31 pm #

    I wonder if the mimickry of wine snobbery might not work in some regions of the US. For example, in regions that are particularly blessed with a superabundance of wineries mimicking the wine culture might win a few converts.

    Chris’s comment is worth considering. I’ll use the terms beer geek and beer connoisseur around other beer people, but when I’m talking to the public, I try to avoid both terms and instead describe beer lovers as beer enthusiasts or craft beer appreciators. No designation is perfect, but we in the US seem to be particularly sensitive to the names we use to describe subcultures, especially the ones we belong to. Beer culture is definately a subculture with an identifiable mentality–we know who we are.

  3. Stan Hieronymus June 7, 2006 at 3:18 am #

    I don’t think it’s a matter of mimicking, but some of America’s most innovative breweries (and that often means they are getting top dollar for their beers) operate close to wineries.

    That includes Southamption Publick House in your backyard, Donavan.

    It certainly includes outstanding breweries north of San Francisco, but also many to the south. In regions where wine has been gaining new respect so has beer.

    For instance, the Paso Robles for a bunch of wineries, but also Firestone Walker Brewing.

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