To Reiterate: My Beer Sucks

I got some more scoresheets back from another competition I entered, and – like last time – they were not good. But honestly, I actually feel much better about this than after the previous competition, and I have couple reasons why.

The scores – a 23 and a 24 – are roughly the same as I received last time (23 and 24.5), but the feedback related to the IPA (The Howler) matched up pretty closely with my hypotheses about why these beers were tasting and scoring so poorly.

Oxidation – mainly from poor packaging – is something that came up in every judge’s review of every one of the four beers, if not by name than by description. I am a pretty big noob when it comes to packaging for competitions, so this seems like an obvious area for improvement. It’s also worth noting that I’ve been drinking The Howler from the keg for a couple weeks now and haven’t noted any of the off-flavors the judges picked out. What I have noticed are their other critiques:

  • Low/subdued aroma – I had an abbreviated dry-hop on this beer in order to package it for the competition
  • Low carbonation – the beer was rushed and wasn’t fully carbonated when packaged
  • Low hop flavor – something I’d noted myself for a next pass at this beer.

I entered these competitions with the hope of getting this kind of constructive feedback. I think proper packaging alone would be enough to add 6-8 points to the overall score and move it up into the “Very Good” range. It’s a beer I enjoy and plan to brew again, especially with some guidance on modifications to improve it.

Frankly, I should have been entering competitions much earlier in my homebrewing “career.” This sort of feedback is invaluable even if it hurts to read. So I’ve bookmarked some upcoming comps; let’s up we start seeing some higher scores.

Cheers.

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Peak Brew Season

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Spring has sprung, and Prince is dead. The two aren’t related at all, and only one has anything to do with homebrewing but I’m a whore for web traffic.

I managed to squeeze in another brew day this past weekend, and after a few consecutive successful brews I was due for a number of screw ups. I brewed a new IPA recipes, Eighty-Sixed (recipe below and here) and managed to knock out the diptube while stirring my wort. Instead of emptying the keggle and trying to re-attach it, I went with the “fuck it” approach, realizing I’d lose some volume. Not a huge deal… until screw up numero B.

I use these spice infuser balls to keep my hop crud from clogging up my equipment or getting too much trub in my fermenter, and being this is an IPA I put a lot of balls (hehe) into this beer. Unfortunately, two of the balls popped open so that may have also contributed to my lackluster pull from this batch… only about 4 gallons.

So we’ll see how this IPA turns out. As you can see in the recipe below, this IPA contains oats and not a particularly flocculent yeast so I expect it to be cloudy; so I’m not too worried about the extra trub/hop crud in the keggle and fermenter. As we speak it is fermenting away in one of the fermentation freezers in my basement.

Also fermenting/conditioning are the rebrew of Uncommon Wrath which received 2 oz of Cascade dry hops a couple days ago. Wrath will be kegged tomorrow and bottled for competition on Sunday (and turned in for competition on Monday!). In addition to Wrath, the second 5 gallons of Carcosa are conditioning on chocolate, vanilla, and bourbon and have been for a couple months now and I’ll probably allow it to stay that way through the rest of the Spring and Summer (unless, of course, the first 5 gallons get kicked and I’m hankering for some stoutly goodness). The first 5 gallons conditioned for only about a month, so it’ll be interesting to see what the longer conditioning period will do for the stout’s flavor.

And lastly, my homebrew club – you know, the Mash Holes – brewed a barleywine to put into one of our club barrels. I brewed my 5 gallons worth of that barleywine the same weekend as Wrath, and that is still fermenting in advance of it going into the barrel next weekend (or the weekend after. I forget. I’m a bad VP).

Looking forward, I’m getting a special yeast from White Labs – Hansen Ale Blend – which I tend to build up and start harvesting and using for IPAs across the Spring and Summer. With any luck (and if it’s any good), I’ll using it for my hoppy beers for a while. The description is below:

This is a blend of many IPA strain favorites. If you’re tired of only using WLP001, this strain is for you. It has the attenuation of WLP090 and the character of WLP007.

Used in the White Labs Tasting Room. Visit here – http://tastingroom.yeastman.com – and search under the appropriate “strain #” for more details.

In the Tasting Room, the strain produced dry attenuation, was hop-forward, with minor ester production, and was a great flocculator, according to White Labs Brewer Joe Kurowski.

Phew! Lots of doings here at Anti-Hero Brewing. Until next time!

 

Eighty-Sixed

Stats

 OG: 1.073
FG: 1.021
IBU: 86
SRM: 5
ABV:6.8%

Batch & Boil

  • Batch Size: 6.0 gal
  • Boil Time: 90 min

Fermentables

Amount Fermentable Maltster Use PPG Color
7.5 lb

Pilsner (DE)

Any Mash 38 1 °L
7.5 lb

Golden Promise (UK)

Any Mash 37 3 °L
1.25 lb

Flaked Oats

Any Boil 33 2 °L
0.75 lb

Turbinado

Any Boil 44 10 °L
0.63 lb

Carapils (Dextrine Malt) (US)

Any Boil 33 1 °L

Hops

Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
1.25 oz Nugget (US) 60 min Boil Pellet 14.3%
1.0 oz Chinook (US) 30 min Boil Pellet 12.0%
1.1 oz Centennial (US) 15 min Boil Pellet 10.5%
2.0 oz Citra (US) 0 min Boil Pellet 13.7%
3.0 oz Citra (US) 4 days Dry Hop Pellet 13.7%

Yeasts

Name Lab/Product Attenuation
London Ale Yeast White Labs WLP013 71.0%

Extras

Amount Name Time Use
1.5 g Calcium Chloride 90.0 min Boil
1.5 g Calcium Chloride 1.0 hr Mash

Beer Recipe Creation: How I Do It

A lot of you have been asking (i.e. someone might have asked once, maybe) how I go about creating recipes for the beers I brew. I don’t think it is a particularly involved process, which is great because I’m lazy and that makes it pretty straightforward to write. Let’s dive in, shall we?

1. Style

My first step is determining what type/style of beer I want to brew. This is largely influenced by the weather; I love stouts, porters, scotch ales and barleywines, but when it’s over 90*F and the humidity is at 120% I don’t want to be drinking them. Since beer usually takes about a month from grain to glass (at its shortest) I have to think about a month out. Foresight and fore-planning aren’t my strong suit which is why I had pumpkin beers at Thanksgiving and Christmas beers for Valentine’s Day.

Either I have a particular style already in mind, or I think about the types of beers I like to drink. That’s the more interesting/fun approach. For example, I had Avery’s Ellie’s Brown Ale at jm Curley’s in downtown Boston a few months ago. I then bought a sixer of it from the Craft Beer Cellar in Braintree because it reminded me of how much I like brown ales. Ultimately, I ended up making a brown ale earlier this week (despite the fact that it’s probably not in my Top 10 Styles I’ll Want to Drink in June).

2. The Basics

This is where I cheat do some serious research. Being a child of the Internet, my favorites folder is filled with stupid memes, pictures of naked people, and (relevant for this post) a whole bunch of websites/articles containing different homebrew recipes. I also have the very useful Brewing Classic Styles book by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer. That book is usually my first stop to get an idea of what the style markers are. These are notes like ‘it should have a subtle caramel flavor,’ ‘little to no hop aroma,’ or ‘light mouthfeel.’ This gives me an idea of what the style is supposed to taste/feel/smell/look like… as a baseline.

3. Common Parts

Since I have all these various recipes at my disposal, I next look at the common parts. A perfect example is the hoppy wheat ale – R’lyeh – that I brewed recently. In looking for hoppy wheat ales, I came across two well-regarded beers that I haven’t tried before: Three Floyd’s Gumballhead and Modern Times’ Fortunate Islands. I looked up a clone recipe for Gumballhead and went to the Mad Fermentologist for Fortunate Islands. I noticed they have very similar malt bills: About 50-60% wheat malt, 30-35% US 2-Row and 5-10% of some caramel/crystal malt. Given that these are well regarded beers, I figured that this made sense as a baseline malt bill for my beer.

4a. Customization

One aspect I almost never steal borrow from a recipe is the hop bill. Hops are the big sexy thing in beer ingredients these days (my money is you’ll start hearing show-off nerds asking bartenders about “water profiles” next), largely because they can have such an impact on the flavor and aroma of the beer, and obviously on the bitterness/sweetness as well. I vary my hop bill for two reasons: personal taste and hop availability. I’m often limited to what is available at my local homebrew store, and if they just sold out of Citra and my recipe called for Citra… well now my recipe has to call for something else (in the case on the Bandito IPA that something else was a metric fuckton of Mosaic).

But outside of the hops, I will also take some liberties with the malt bill components (usually I’ll sub in Maris Otter, my favorite malt) or the yeast strain (Cheeky Bastard was made with Heady Topper’s Conan yeast… because I had some). For the brown ale I made on Tuesday – named Arctos after the Latin species name for a brown bear Ursus Arctos, because it’s a brown beer, you see, and I’m a Bruins fan and no I don’t want to talk about it – I took the common parts from a few American Brown Ale recipes, subbed in Maris Otter for the base malt (10 pounds of it) and replaced the yeast with Denny’s Favorite (WY1450), which is supposed to give the beer a creamier mouthfeel.

4b. Personalization

I love sharing my beer with, well, anyone brave enough to drink it. But if we’re being honest, the person who ends up drinking the majority of any batch is me. This is why the Customization step is very much tailored to my personal preferences. For example, most brown ales are supposed to be smooth but relatively light, but I like my beers with fuller bodies and a lot more of a creamy texture (don’t). That’s why I subbed in the Denny’s yeast, and I also love the nutty, biscuity flavor of Maris Otter so I made sure to have a good amount of that in the malt bill.

5. If It Fits Your Macros

I stole this term from the diet industry, and I like it even though it is not applicable at all. What I do here is I take my ingredients and plug them into some brewing software. I use BrewToad because it’s quick, easy, clean and free (I’m cheap).  BrewToad will tell me if my combination of ingredients fits within a selected style. It will also help me estimate my possible alcohol content, and will help with some mash water calculations and recipe scaling. I also log my brews using their Brew Log feature so I have the data to go back to.

6. Tweaking – Part One

If I don’t like the way the beer’s stats are lining up, I will make small tweaks to the recipe. If it looks like I might have too much booze, I may raise the mash temperature or remove some of the base malt to compensate. Or if my IBUs are too low, I may add more hops at 60 minutes. And so on. After that’s dialed in, I go and buy my ingredients (and tweak again based on availability of the hops and malts) and perform the alchemy that ultimately results in beer.

7. Tweaking – Part Two

Beer’s done, and I’m usually the first person to taste the finished product. So how close did I get? Is it too bitter? Too astringent? Not creamy enough? The Homebrewer’s Curse is that no beer is ever perfect. But if I’m pretty close on a recipe I can take some notes, figure out what I like/don’t like and adjust the ingredients (or brewing style) accordingly. Usually I’ll edit the recipe directly or create a variant (Bandito is a Cheeky Bastard variant) for a rebrewing, and then basically repeat this process ad nauseum.

 

So that’s pretty much how I do it, with varying degrees of success. If you have any questions about the process, or want more details, let me know in the comments.

2014 First Trimester Brewing Goals Update

Now that April is officially behind us, the first third of 2014 has come and gone. Where does the time go? Anyway, I thought this would be a good opportunity to check my progress on the 2014 Brewing Goals. You can read about them at the original post, but I’m re-posting them here along with my updates

 

2014 Brewing Goals

Compete in a Homebrew Competition. Pretty straight-forward. The best way to improve is to have your beers critiqued. While I appreciate the general thumbs up/thumbs down from my friends, so more pointed criticisms should help me as a brewer.

Status: I haven’t gotten around to this yet. There were a few at the beginning of the year but I didn’t think I had anything worth entering.

Join a Homebrew Club. I sought to do that in my first year as a brewer, but I’ve struggled to find one whose time and geography fit my schedule. Since I travel a lot for work, weekday meeting nights don’t really work for me. I also don’t want to drive more than 30 minutes away from home if I can avoid it.

Status: I mentioned in my last post there would be news about this coming up; I have been in contact with a couple of people who are starting new homebrew clubs. One of which is actually being started by my local brewshop. First meeting is tomorrow night, so I’m pretty excited for that.

Improve my Homebrew Setup. This is one-part buying new/better equipment, and one-part analysis of my setup to better understand where I’m losing efficiency and how I can make my brewdays more productive.

Status: Thanks in part to my brother James buying me a false bottom for Christmas and my decision to finally start using my outdoor burner, I can say that I’ve crossed this item off. I do, however, want to do an inventory of my brewing equipment and purchase some upgrades/replacements especially for my plastic and vinyl.

Re-Brew Cheeky Bastard. Cheeky is probably my most successful brew to date. The aroma on this brew was awesome – 5 outta 5 awesome. I’d like to dial in the bitterness and mouthfeel on this beer because I think it could help me with…

Status: Another success on a technicality. Bandito is a very similar recipe to Cheeky Bastard. I’ll probably continue to fine tune this as my IPA recipe. Once I get that dialed in to where I like it, I may try something new in the IPA range.

Develop a “House” Beer. I want to start establishing a “roster” of beers that are 1. good and 2. re-brewable so that I can start dialing them in and perfecting them. Obviously an IPA should be one of those brews, so I think Cheeky will make the short-list. I’m also enjoying Winter Sun, but want to wait to see how Hairy Dog’s Breakfast turns out before settling on a stout.

Status: Some contenders but no stand outs for this one. Hairy Dog and Winter Sun could potentially be the stout of choice at Jackson-Jackson: The Disco. I’m also waiting to see how Bandito turns out.

Switch to Kegging. This is something I almost pulled the trigger on multiple times this year. So far the more consistent problem I’ve had with brewing is carbonation. I pitched extra champagne yeast into Cheeky and that sort of threw off  the mouthfeel of that brew; Suicide by Hops, 187 and Midnight In the Garden all failed to carbonate.

Status: No progress. With a broken chest freezer I don’t even have a fermentation chamber at the moment. If I pick up a new freezer and find a way to fix the old one, I think that’s a good opportunity to make the switch.

Improve My Yeast Ranching. Part of the reason I believe those beers failed to carbonate was due to poor yeast ranching on my part. I want to improve my ability to wash, harvest and propagate yeast. I have some Conan from Cheeky that I plan to propagate for another brew.

Status: No progress, largely due to my time constraints with work travel that don’t allow me much lead time to make a starter. I did finish reading Yeast though.

Finish Reading BrewingYeast, and Hops. I have been buying/reading various different brewing books, but I haven’t finished one since How to Brew. I plan to sit down and focus on reading a few of these books to help improve my brewing knowledge.

Status: One out of three isn’t bad for a third of the way into the year. Yeast is done and I’ve started on Hops. With less plane travel coming up my reading will probably decrease but I’m going to try to read a few pages before bed each night.

Brew 20+ Time in 2014. This is a pretty ambitious goal and comes down to one brew every 2-3 weeks for a year. I think I can hit this target and if the brews keep improving, I should make for some interesting beers.

Status: Only 3 brew days so far this year; the Matt Brown Marzen, Bandito (1.5) and R’lyeh. I’m definitely trailing behind on this one, but if I can get a little more time at home I think I can bust out a few beers over the spring and take advantage of the nice weather and temperate fermenting conditions (since my chest freezer is busted).

A Bad Day For Beer

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks/months at The Disco aka Anti-Hero Brewery aka my house. The holidays are naturally hectic, but overall they’re a positive. That positive didn’t really include much brewing for me. And despite my resolutions, I’ve fallen way behind the 8-ball on a bunch of them already.

After the holidays my work really started picking up. I got tapped to manage an internal project and it is my first real managerial experience. Spoiler Alert: I’m not very good at it. That’s not “woe-is-me” it’s just an honest assessment, and believe me I’ve got plenty of blame I’m willing to unload on other people but for now let’s just say it is what it is and move on. Part of picking up this work meant a two-week trip to the UK.

When I tell people I travel for work they get all excited or envious. They shouldn’t. Travelling work is all of the hassle of a vacation with none of the perks. Of the 11 days I spent in England, I got 2 off. One I spent sight-seeing (and over-paying for a tour bus) and the other I spent with a buddy (and that was actually a good time). But I ended up sacrificing 3 weeks (the first was lost to travel and the third to jet lag) to work 12 hours days, ride the London Underground and sleep in a hotel with a very stiff bed. Wow, I sound like a spoiled brat… the point was: I didn’t have any time to brew.

To bring all this home, for Christmas my youngest brother bought me a false bottom (*snickers*) for my mash tun. I haven’t had the chance to use it until I decided to brew today. Unfortunately, as I found out today, the false bottom’s connection hose didn’t fit my ball valve (*more snickering*). So I had to make a trip to Lowes’ and jury-rig up a quick fix. The quick fix, naturally leaked.

The whole brew day was pretty much a disaster. I missed my sacc. rest temperature, my sparge got stuck (first time for me), it took forever to get a boil going, and I ended up with only about 3.5 gallons of what was supposed to yield 5.5 gallons. Yup, somewhere along the way I managed to lose 2 gallons of beer. Everyone talks about the potential money-saving implications of homebrewing… those only occur when you don’t massively fuck up your process. Because when you do, you’re out $50-70 and a whole weekend day.

My gear is a mess, too. Next weekend I’m dedicating some time to taking inventory of all my brew gear, organizing it, fixing my mash-tun/false bottom, and then upgrading a much of my equipment. I definitely need a new brew kettle (one that doesn’t condensate like crazy) and some new vinyl tubing (that isn’t cloudy and stained). This might also be the kick in the pants that gets me out of the kitchen and into brewing on my propane burner that I bought and have yet to use.

But what was a bad day for brewing became just an overall bad day for beer. I went to the Craft Beer Cellar in Braintree (this is my local, and I highly recommend it to anyone on the South Shore), and they had a tasting from Westfield River Brewing out of Westfield, MA. They had a couple of brews, all decent, and a milk stout I enjoyed. I grabbed 2 cans on the milk stout, and after cleaning up my brew gear and my kitchen (leaky equipment leaves a messy kitchen) I was jonesing for a nice beer.

Well either something went wrong with the beer, their canning line, or my glassware because the milk stout tasted like soap. Soapy taste is usually from the glassware, but I haven’t had an issue with mine before so I’m guessing this was just a bad can. Sigh. Some days you just can’t win. I had to dump the beer, which sucks because 1. I obviously hate wasting beer and 2. the beer I had at the tasting was really good so that makes pouring out what should be a good beer even worse.

Just all in all a bad day for beer.

Winter’s Revenge

Today I had my buddy Mike over to brew. He’s one of a couple of friends I’m slowly brainwashing convincing to take up homebrewing. The plan was to brew a sweet stout, Winter’s Sun. Mike came over yesterday to bottle the IPA that we brewed a few weeks ago – Cheeky Bastard – and since he was around, I took him for his first trip to my local homebrew store, South Shore Homebrew Emporium. So he got to see the process from purchasing up through brewing.

The brew day went fairly well. For the first time I started taking measurements of how much wort I was collecting and boiling off, so that I could have a better idea of my system’s efficiency. We came in under our target gravity (1.052 vs. 1.060) and I think that it was due in part to the fact that I estimated losing 2 gallons to evaporation and we only lost 1.75. That extra quart would have concentrated the beer a little closer to the target, but I’m unsure if it would’ve gotten us all the way to 1.060.

Regardless the missed target wasn’t the biggest snafu of the day. I like to chill my boiled wort outside to allow the ambient temperature to speed the cooling process and aid my immersion chiller. I thought we’d have a nice quick chill since it was below freezing outside. Unfortunately, because it was below freezing – and my house has a screwy water system – my hose was frozen solid with ice. We couldn’t get a steady flow of water through the immersion chiller. After trying to hook the chiller up through my showerhead (a failure), we opted to rack the still hot wort into the carboy, cover it with tinfoil and leave it outside in order to cool off.

It’s about 2-3 hours into the process now. The wort is noticeably cooler, but still nowhere near the 68*F target that I’m looking for to pitch the yeast. We’ll see how close it is by the time I head to bed. The recipe is below. It is an adapted version of the sweet/milk stout recipe that appears in Brewing Classic Styles

Winter Sun

Grain Bill

Fermentable Amount Use PPG Color
 Maris Otter Pale (UK) 7.5 lb 69% Mash 38 3 °L
 Caramel/Crystal 80L (US) 1.0 lb 9% Mash 33 80 °L
 Lactose (Milk Sugar) 1.0 lb 9% Boil 41 0 °L
 Pale Chocolate Malt 200L 0.75 lb 6% Mash 34 200 °L
 Black Patent (UK) 0.57 lb 5% Mash 27 525 °L

Hops

Hop Amount Time Use Form AA
Golding (US) 1.5 oz 60 min Boil Pellet 5.0%

Yeasts

Name Lab Average Attenuation
Wyeast Whitbread Ale Wyeast 1099 70.0%

Mash steps

Step Heat Source Target Temp Time
Saccharification Rest Infusion 152.0 °F 60 min

Notes

Alt. Yeasts: WLP006 Bedford; WY1084 Irish Ale.

Mill the grains and dough-in targeting a mash of around 1.5 quarts of water to 1 pound of grain (a liquor-to-grist ratio of about 3:1 by weight) and a temperature of 151 °F (66 °C).

Hold the mash at 151 °F (66 °C) until enzymatic conversion is complete. Infuse the mash with near-boiling water while stirring or with a recirculating mash system raise the temperature to mash out at 168 °F (76 °C). Sparge slowly with 170 °F (77 °C) water, collecting wort until the pre-boil kettle volume is around 5.9 gallons (22.3 L) and a gravity of 1.051 (12.6 °P).

The total wort boil time is 60 minutes. I prefer to mix in the lactose with the first runnings, which gives me lots of time to make sure it gets dissolved before firing up the kettle. Add the first hop addition as soon as the wort reaches a full boil and then start your timer. Add Irish moss or other kettle finings with 15 minutes left in the boil.

Chill the wort to 68 °F (20 °C) and aerate thoroughly. The proper pitch rate is 2 packages of liquid yeast or 1 package of liquid yeast in a 2-liter starter. Ferment at 68 °F (20 °C). When finished, carbonate the beer to approximately 1.5 to 2 volumes.

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Beer Geek vs. Beer Snob

Beer Geek. Beer Snob. What’s the difference?

This is a topic I’ve wanted to write about since I started becoming more out-spoken in my love of all things beer. I guess the first and most obvious approach is to try to define the two terms in question: geek and snob. Here’s what I’ve got…

Geek – Wil Wheaton (of Stone Farking Wheaton W00tstout fame) explains it best: “You find the things that you love and you love them the most that you can.” Being a beer geek – to me – means exploring every possible new style and frontier of beer. It means homebrewing (even if you make mistakes); it means taking a $10 chance of a 22oz bomber; it means buying (and reading) books about something you used to drink out of plastic cups that someone threw a ping-pong ball into; and it means loving beer as much as you can.

Snob – A snob is an obsessive, someone who revels in minutiae. It is someone who uses words like “revels” and “minutiae.” A snob is, almost by definition, a judge; a self-defined barometer of quality. Snobs give a “thumbs up/thumbs down” to beers. Snobs will say things like “This beer sucks” instead of “I don’t like this beer.” They make excellent BJCP judges, but sometimes also rather poor company. Snobs think they can taste the contract in a contract-brewed beer.

So which am I? (And which are you?)

———

My biggest beer snob moment – that I can remember – came at a bar in Hartford, CT. This is a bar that serves a lot of craft beer, but isn’t a “craft beer bar” (a distinction that itself is snobby). But that’s a topic for another time. Anyway, one of my co-workers was asking me why they used water rinsers on the glasses before they served them and I explained that it was to both chill the glass and the remove any residual detergents that could affect head retention. At some point in my self-indulgent spiel I mentioned that beer isn’t meant to be served “ice cold” but rather that beer is generally best around 40*F. Overhearing this, the bartender served my beer, waited for me to take a sip and asked:

Is that right at 40 degrees for you?

Being a quasi-normal, sometimes-decent human being I took the joke in stride and remarked that it tasted closer to 41, but I had that internal monologue that shouted “Holy shit, you sound like an ASSHOLE.”

After a bit of reflection I realized nothing I said was especially wrong (every beer has its best serving temperature, glassware, et cetera), and it was done in response to a question that was specifically asked of me, but there’s a perpetual nagging voice in the back of my head that comes from going to a high school that has ‘Latin’ in the name:

The wisest man is he who knows that he knows nothing.
– Aristotle (translated/paraphrased)

My response was snobbier in tone than it needed to be; and that moment and subsequent realization was a turning point for me. I realized that I never wanted to be a Beer Snob; I don’t want all the negative baggage that comes with being a “snob.” I want to be able to discuss all the finer points of beer and brewing and be able to train my palate to pick out the minutiae, but I never want to be the guy that says “I can taste the contract.” Mostly I want to love beer (figuratively), and love it as much as I can.

I have two friends who have VERY STRONG OPINIONS about beer. I consider them Beer Snobs. I love these guys and I love drinking with them and discussing beers with them, but I’m often taken aback by how strong their opinions are on just about every single beer they try. I also have a friend who basically gets dragged along to all the craft beer tastings I like to go to, and his responses are more along the lines of “EVERYTHING IS DELICIOUS.” He enjoys good beer. I wouldn’t call him a Beer Geek, because he rarely does much exploration of his own, but he enjoys having good beer, and he enjoys talking about good beer.

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That’s the attitude I have and want to maintain. I love beer. I like some beers more than others, but I don’t have a definitive favorite beer or even a favorite style. My friend Matt is Sours and Belgians over all. My other friend Matt just wants as much hops as you can shoehorn into a beer. He’d probably suck the lupulin right out of the cone if he could. I find that the more and more beer people I interact with, most of them have beers they absolutely won’t drink. Good beers, too. This is my list of beers I will not drink:

  • Heineken
  • Heineken Light

That’s it. Coors Original? I love it. It quite literally smells like piss, but I use to drink it by the case in college. Milwaukee’s Best? The Beast? Sure, why not? I’ve extolled the virtues of the oft-overlooked Sam Adams Boston Lager (and not just because I’m bros with Billionaire Jim). There are people who love Budweiser, not because they’re ignorant or they don’t know better, but because they like the way it tastes. And there is nothing wrong with that. For me there’s a difference between being a craft beer evangelist and being the guy that goes door-to-door (barstool-to-barstool) and asking everyone ” have you found Lagunitas today?” I try to avoid saying things like “You should try…” or “Don’t get that…”

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My point is that being a Beer Geek is about enjoyment of beer – any beer – because beer is great. Maybe this DIPA is 11% ABV, and therefore technically too boozy by BJCP standards… but so what? If I like it, I like it. Beer knowledge is awesome, but not when it gets in the way of beer enjoyment. That’s where I think the line falls. And I’m also talking about PERSONAL enjoyment. Not everyone is going to want to have Pliny the Elder or a Dark Lord. For some people 5pm is Miller Time. And that should not bother you. If it does, then the problem isn’t their beer choice: it’s you.

You’re a snob. Knock it off.

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So what do you guys think? Are you a geek, a snob, somewhere in between, something totally different? Do you have different definitions than me? Let me know.