That is, “craft beer virgins.”
Not to be confused with the strong willed, religiously inclined, or plain unlucky for which abstinence is a way of life. But whether abstinence of the flesh is your virtue or not, we can all afford a little hedonism in our glasses, bottles and cans. And let’s be honest: we craft beer lovers are big fans of hedonism. So much so, that our zeal often becomes a veritable force-field that pushes all other less seasoned beer drinkers away, often times never to return to the fold.
I have a problem with this. I have observed and even been part of this phenomena and I’d be willing to bet a beer that you all have been, as well.
Crafty folk tend to be unmindful of the people without an Untappd profile, a climate controlled beer cellar, or a bevy of homebrews maturing their way through tertiary fermentation. In other words: virgins. Easily recognized in a bar, they are the ones with the fizzy, barely touched, yellow-ish pint of Anheuser Busch’s latest offering, looking uncomfortable while you and your friends swap snifters of 13% ABV tar discussing the merits of barrel ageing as they try to remember what ABV actually means. For a time they will smile and nod along but eventually they’re attention will inevitably drift to their phones where they will desperately look for a socially acceptable escape to the situation.
Let’s be real and call it what it is: it’s damned awkward.
Alas, there is another side to this dirty penny of exclusion and I am willing to bet yet another beer that you have experienced it as well. It is that ill-fated moment when you walk into a party, bar mitzvah, or some other gathering and you are promptly offered a beverage in a plastic cup that bears a striking resemblance to urine, which you promptly turn down with a customary: “I’m good, I brought my own.” In your mind you have dodged a bullet and presented yourself as a gentleman capable of providing for himself in a situation where gratuitous mooching is customary. In your mind, you’re something akin to James Bond. However, in their mind, with that slick bottle or new hipster can of something crafty, you’ve made of yourself an asshole. That’s right, a big asshole… and that’s awkward.
So why care what every other drinker thinks of you and your refined taste and deep pockets? Why fret over the loss of someone who couldn’t tell the difference between a pilsner and a Belgian quad if their life depended on it?
The answer is simple.
Because YOU were a virgin once, that’s why. Yes, I speak true. There was a time when scantily clad models wrestling in fountains provoked you to ponder over which was better; “MORE TASTE” or “LESS FILLING” and nothing more. I know it seems hard to digest but you were not born with the knowledge and palette you have today. You were not fermented in your mother’s womb, left to gestate in Heady Topper amniotic fluid. There may well be beer running through your veins now, but it was not always so.
As ambassadors for the craft beer movement, we owe it to the drink we adore so much to make of it an enjoyable experience for everyone. Like a camp of heathens, too often are we brutish and clumsy in our efforts to wean virgins into our midst and the result is counterproductive. We must seek not to deflower, but to enlighten. Virgins today are the head brewers of tomorrow and if we invest a little time and effort, hell, there might be some good beer to come out of it.
I believe that by doing a couple simple things we can better promote the legacy of great craft beer.
First, ask questions of those you drink with. Ask them what flavors they like in beer and in food, try and understand what rubs their taste-buds the right way. Once you get the idea you can make a few modest recommendations, IF and only IF they ask for your advice. The idea is to create an atmosphere where they are excited and not intimidated and throwing out a small menu of suggestions from memory when the bartender comes is intimidating. Let them order and when they get their beer, let them enjoy it and ask them what they like or dislike about it. Repeat this whole process until they stumble upon something they love, and they will, and then you really are James Bond. Basically, be friendly and inviting; it’s not a hard concept to understand.
Here is a little list of some (somewhat) easy-ish to find, approachable beers that might just tickle a virgin’s palette. Keep some of these in mind when you’re browsing an establishment’s offerings and you have a handy starting point on your path to beer-mentor.
- Sweeter Preferences?
- Lindemans Framboise Lambic, Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, Hell or High Watermelon, Southern Tier Pumking (seasonally, obviously), Goose Island Sofie, Steigl Radler, Petrus Aged Red, Dogfish Head Midas Touch, Harpoon UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen
- Dry, citrusy, spicy fan?
- Sixpoint Resin, Stone Enjoy By:, Troubadour Magma, Bells Two Hearted, Cigar City Jai Alai, Founders All Day IPA, Victory Dirt Wolf, Lagunitas Sucks, Avery Maharaja, Tripel Karmeliet, Boulevard 80 Acre Hoppy-Wheat Beer
- Rich, full-bodied, and burly…and dark?
- Founders Breakfast Stout, St. Bernardus Abt 12, Oscar Blues Ten Fidy, Left Hand Milk Stout, Hardywood Raspberry Stout, Founders Old Curmudgeon, Founders Imperial Stout, Terrapin Wake-n-Bake, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, Chimay Bleue
- Adventurous, “I’ll try anything once” aka “I have no f***ing clue what I like, but I want a beer!”?
- Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier-Fastenbier, Terrapin Monks Revenge, Allagash Curieux, 21st Amendment Monks Blood, DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus!, Troegs Mad Elf, New Belgium La Folie
It’s a numbers game, its economics. The more beer lovers you have out there, the greater the demand for great beer. The greater the demand for great beer, the greater the supply. More supply means more competition and we should all know that when businesses compete, the consumer wins. And when it comes to beer business, the consumer wins in a big way. So do yourself and your virgin friends a favor and step down from that imagined pedestal you’ve been perched on and have a seat at the bar like everyone else.
So have a beer with some craft beer virgins (still talking about beer), make their experience a great one and pass the torch to them. Remember, that beer is only as good as the company you keep.
Stay crafty my friends,
Adam Fisher, Richmond, Virginia