I returned yesterday from a weekend in Chicago with a few of my college friends. We took in a Cubs game, an improv show, ate some pizza and spent the vast majority of the weekend cracking jokes at each other and enjoying our time away from the real world.
As a craft beer geek, one of the things I was most excited for was getting to try beers yet unavailable in Colorado. I use the beer app Untappd, and before I left for my trip, I searched for the most sought after beers of the Midwest, and added them to my wish list. Untappd is great because as someone constantly seeking out new beers, when I’m at a bar or standing in front of the giant beer case at the liquor store, it’s not always easy to remember what I enjoyed and what I didn’t.
So I consult Untappd, look at where and when I had whatever beer I’m searching, and see what my tasting notes were. For instance, at Revolution Brewing recently, here’s what I wrote about the Cross of Gold golden ale: “Dig it! Very smooth with some subtle bright Belgian notes. 4 stars.” If I ever spot that in the wild, I can peek at my rating and review, and feel confident in buying it again. Conversely, sometimes I’ll misremember a beer, go to purchase it, consult the app, and be happy I looked because it turns out I wasn’t a fan.
As I headed to Chicago, I kept my eye for a number of beer geek trophies. 3 Floyds Zombie Dust, Revolution’s Anti-Hero IPA, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, Surly’s Furious IPA, Breakfast Stout by Founders, and others. I found a few – Anti-Hero and Two Hearted – but whiffed on the others. While I didn’t find the Zombie Dust, I did have Gumballhead by 3 Floyds, and it was an exquisite hoppy wheat.
We had lunch at Revolution Brewing’s brewpub, and as I sampled and sampled their offerings, I talked my friend Brian through many of the tasting notes. Not a craft beer geek himself, Brian was curious about what I was doing. I talked him through the coriander, the yeast and the esters of the Belgian-style beers; the pine, the citrus and the dankness of the IPAs; the dark chocolate, the coffee and the warming finish of high ABV of the imperial porter. It took his understanding of beer to another level.
I enjoyed doing this because I had friends who talked me through tasting notes a couple of years ago, and I started to appreciate beer in a new way. It was fun, and I’ve been exploring flavors of all sorts – not only in beer, but in wine, coffee and food as well – ever since. Having an entry point is incredibly valuable in a pursuit such as this.
But there are those who take it too far. There are those who take this very narrow slice of human experience on focus on it to such a degree, they fail to see the forest for the trees. Which is to say, they lose the pleasure in their pursuit, and turn sanctimonious about it. You’ve met these people, and they are almost universally off-putting. Not just beer geeks, but wine snobs, football super experts, fine art aficionados, cigar dweebs, comic book nerds, travel freaks… the list goes on, but the severely myopic among us turn off potential converts with their intensity and their pedantry.
That’s why I never refer to myself as a “beer connoisseur.” That term is way too haughty for my tastes. I’m much more of a beer enthusiast. I will gladly share with you my thoughts and all my tasting notes on this crazy rare Belgian quad. I’ll seek out the best craft beer bars in new cities. And I will keep a running list on my beer app of beers I’ve drank, aspire to drink, or will likely never get to drink, but would like to someday.
But I won’t bust your chops for drinking a Coors Light. I’ll gladly share one with you at an Avalanche game. I won’t condescend to you if craft beer isn’t your thing. And I don’t care if you think I’m a huge weird weirdo.
Beer enthusiast. Not connoisseur.