So I was recently called a beer snob and it got me thinking about what really separates a beer snob from a beer geek; and what about a beer nerd.
First let's start with some definitions...
Dictionary.com uses the following definitions:
Snob: noun, a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field.
Geek: noun, a computer expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often considered offensive when used by outsiders.)
Nerd: noun, an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit.
So let's look at a couple of situations and see how each group might handle it.
1. You meet and old friend from college at your local beer bar known for its amazing selection of craft beer. Your old friend bellies up to the bar and orders a Mic Ultra.
The beer snob expounds on how crappy the beer his old friend ordered is and explains that any self respecting person would order a "decent beer" and begins to explain how the choice he made is better than that of the old friend.
The beer geek might initially balk at his old friend ordering a macro beer and may try to encourage him to try something a bit more adventurous. But after sampling several craft beer options, the old friend goes back to his tried and true Mic Ultra. The beer geek respects his choice and they have a nice evening chatting about old times.
The beer nerd reacts in much the same way as the beer geek but instead of chatting about old times they chat about how the mashing process is different for the two beers they are drinking, the history of light lagers in America and the bittering unit to gravity unit ratio of their chosen beers.
2. You read in Imbibe Magazine that Barley Wines are the perfect beer for the holiday season.
A beer snob chooses not to drink anything but barley wines for the remainder of the holiday season because it is the "right thing to do". The once in a year Christmas beers come and go, the amazing seasonal stouts and barrel aged this and that disappear from the shelf and the beer snob does not soil his palate with such "inappropriate" offerings.
A beer geek may agree that a barley wine is perfect for the holidays but isn't going to deprive themselves or expect others to deprive themselves of other styles they love simply because of the date on the calendar. A beer geek recognizes that there are many different beers for many different palates and many different occasions and proclaiming one beer as being perfect is just silly. A beer geek may also go as far as believing that most barley wines need to be aged for at least six months to a year and instead of drinking them this holiday season will put them in their beer cellar with the 600 other beers they are aging.
A beer nerd, again, reacts much the same way as the beer geek but, while sitting back and enjoying a few too many barley wines, drafts a wordy letter to the editor of Imbibe Magazine detailing sixteen other beer styles that are great during the holiday season. And of course the beer nerd does not forget to add the new addition to the beer cellar to his handy dandy inventory spread sheet.
3. A celebrity brewer declares that only IPAs that have been dry hopped are worth drinking.
The beer snob begins to seek out dry hopped IPAs, shunning any IPAs that have not been dry hopped.
A beer geek goes out and tries many different IPAs, both dry hopped and not, and then makes the decision that they too enjoy dry-hopped IPAs more than non dry-hopped IPAs. A beer geek also recognizes that each person's palate is different so even if they think dry hopped IPAs are tastier, that not everyone will feel the same way.
A beer nerd sets up a blind tasting panel and gathers data on how many people like dry-hopped IPAs verses non-dry-hopped varieties. He spends his nights cross analyzing his data based on gender, age, hair color and blood type. He himself has not decided which he likes better because he feels gathering data on himself would be a conflict of interest. Instead he is still sipping on his holiday barley wine!
So then, what have we learned about the beer snob, beer geek and beer nerd?
A beer snob believes they are an expert in beer, and they may be. They put blind stock in whatever a brewer says or whatever is written in magazines. They hate certain beers just because of who makes them and deems anyone that drinks those beers as uneducated and unenlightened.
A beer geek believes they are an expert in beer, particularly craft beer and they probably are. They read a lot on beer and they listen to brewers and experts in the field as often as possible. Everything they learn is incorporated into their ever increasing wealth of information. These are the people you want on your trivia team when the subject is beer! The beer geek, though respecting the macro beer companies for what they are capable of doing, generally only drink craft beer. They expect it to be served properly and will not hesitate to make glassware recommendations to ensure their drinking pleasure.
A beer nerd is single minded; every aspect of their life revolves around beer. I'm not talking in an alcoholic sort of way. I am speaking of their job, friends, hobbies, environment. Everything they do is for the love of beer.
In a way, I probably qualify for the title of all three at some point. I might be a beer snob because although I try not to be condescending to non craft beer drinkers, I have been known to at times when people hold so true to their belief in one thing that they refuse to even try something else. I guess you could say I am not very brand loyal.
I might be a beer geek because I am a wealth of information on beer and I am not above requesting a specific glass at a bar. I have even been known to ask to pour the beer myself. I do typically drink only craft beer but I can respect the technology that goes into macro beer. As a homebrewer I could never hope to replicate their level of consistency. That is an accomplishment worth acknowledgement. They have provided their consumers with a solid and predictable product. Most craft breweries, though they may strive to achieve this, cannot deliver a product as consistent as the macro guys. As a beer geekI firmly believe that the artistry and soul that goes into craft beer is what sets it apart from its macro counterpart.
And I might be a beer nerd because every aspect of my life seems to have some association with beer. I work in the craft beer world, my friends are derived from beer related activities and organizations, every inch of my home has some breweriana, homebrew or beer collection in it. I probably own more brewery or beer related shirts than other shirts. My car is covered in beer stickers, as is my laptop. My vacations are scheduled around what brewery is releasing what and I follow as many breweries on Facebook as I do people. And let's face it, I do have a spreadsheet to go along with my 600 bottle beer cellar....
So what about you? Are you a beer snob, beer geek or beer nerd?