The wild world of craft beer is a wonderful, beautiful thing. My 10 years of magical memories (and many a hazy, hop-fueled night) in this hobby are a testament to that. But for all its merits, the beer community isn’t exactly conducive to newcomers, especially now that the “craft beer movement” has fully hit its stride. Every passionate pastime has its share of bad apples, and when it comes to craft beer, there can be an awful lot of downright assholes ruining the fun for everyone.
By and large, beer nerds are fine, upstanding people but occasionally, we can be petty, immature, insecure, and completely exclusionary to someone who’s just discovered life outside of BMC (Bud/Miller/Coors). Seriously, look at all the crap that fresh craft converts get whenever they ask innocent questions such as “What are sour beers?” or “Where can I buy a bottle of Pliny the Younger?”
Look, I’ve been there. As someone who dove headfirst into this craft beer game with no similarly-minded friends, it was incredibly tough (and lonely) to even stay afloat. And it took a decent amount of mistakes to find my group of drinking buddies in this hobby.
Here are four important tenets to friendship that I’ve gleaned from my stupidly long and storied career as a craft beer enthusiast and borderline alcoholic.
In this day and age of BeerAdvocates, TalkBeers, and Untappds, the Internet is undoubtedly the place to go if you’re looking for camaraderie in this crazy hobby. But just like every other passion project, the anonymity of the Internet makes these places an unbelievable breeding ground for assholes, snobs, and scammers looking to score big off unwitting first-time traders. The craft beer crowd is already a smarmy bunch of sharp-tongued know-it-alls, but the Internet can exacerbate those traits straight into unbearable pretension.
If you can stick through the tough times and develop a thick hide, you’ll have the testicular fortitude to ward off the bullshit and perhaps find long-lasting, meaningful relationships with your fellow beer kin. If you can’t handle people giving you shit for asking the most basic of beer questions, or don’t want to be preyed on by scumbag profiteers, the Internet is not the place for you.
By now you’ve probably done your research on the best craft beer haunts in your area, and you’ve likely decided on a bar, tasting room, etc. that gives you full enjoyment of your newfound love. If you’re rolling solo, don’t relegate yourself to a lonely table or patio seat. Do yourself a favor and park your keister where all the action is: at the bar. Like-minded sole individuals usually congregate at bar areas, and it’s usually not too difficult to glean some beer-centric conversation out of them. Even if you’re surrounded by a gaggle of socially awkward Debbie Downers, once the suds start flowing and their tongues get loose, sloppy, passionate conversation about your favorite IPAs and barrel-aged saisons is inevitable.
And in the case that there isn’t anybody around to lend their ears, you always have the bartenders and barbacks with whom to engage in conversation. Typically when it’s a slow day for slinging suds, the employees of many a fine drinking establishment will be more than willing to talk shop. I’m not ashamed to say that a good chunk of my friends (virtual and otherwise) were gained from late nights spent being a little too friendly/intoxicated at San Diego’s acclaimed watering holes.
A good old-fashioned bottleshare is always a surefire way to earn some extra friend requests on Facebook or Untappd. What better way to force peer-to-peer interaction than with a social event predicated upon the spirit of good will and generosity? Whether it’s a share of common beers or god-tier whales is irrelevant; a bottleshare allows a large group of people with similar passions to come together and discuss what makes them giddy. And rare or not, the mere fact that you’ve brought a piece of your own personal stash to enjoy with complete strangers makes for a great first impression.
As long as you’re a decent dude that respects the beer and doesn’t get too sloshed, you’ll make friends in these situations in no time. Which brings me to my final rule:
This is more a rule of life than anything, but it applies especially well to beer. There’s no amount of great grog that’ll hide your assholery and general scumbag behavior. This includes offenses such as taking full pours of others’ beer, letting only “worthy” people have a taste of your beer, and generally acting like your beer-dick is bigger than everybody else’s. Pretension, self-righteousness, and a holier-than-thou attitude have no place in a hobby where puking yourself and wetting your pants is a very realistic endgame.
Be respectful of everyone else, don’t act like you own the place, and, first and foremost, don’t take things so seriously. There are always bigger and better beers, and there’s always someone out there with more expertise than you. The college fratboy “my cellar is danker than your cellar” mentality is not the way to craft beer enlightenment. And if you do encounter a beer douchebag in the wild, kill them with kindness (and a pint or two).