Here’s a column that appeared in today’s Illawarra Mercury about the recent beer year story that ran in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Melbourne Age.
Earlier this month a journalist by the name of Scott Ellis wrote a column about his attempt at what’s known as a “beer year”.
A beer year is a quest where someone attempts to drink 365 beers (or 366 in a leap year) over the course of the year. The general rule is that it has to be one beer each day – so you can’t head off to the pub and rack up 10 beers in a night and take a week off.
There are variations – some do just Australian beers, some just American. One guy went crazy and pledged to drink 1000 beers in 2010 – in round figures that’s three beers a day.
Though it appears from his website that he didn’t have to drink 1000 different beers. Which would have been an amazing feat. Only slightly less amazing is the fact that he reached his goal – and with a week to spare. Presumably he celebrated by having a beer.
Ellis and his mate Shane Maguire set out to drink a different beer every day during 2012. It started out easy but Ellis wrote that after two months he’d drunk everything in every pub and bottle shop within 5km of his house. He complained that he had to start looking further afield – getting interstate friends to bring beer with them when they flew in for a visit, checking the beverage list on a US flight and sussing out beer lists at restaurants.
Craft-beer geeks went into overdrive, mocking Ellis’ and Maguire’s paltry efforts and claiming that they weren’t really trying because it was oh so easy to find new beers. One could almost hear the beer geeks’ sense of superiority as it oozed out over the internet.
I should know, I was one of those doing the mocking. A bit of a craft-beer aficionado, I took a look at Ellis’ list and, within about a minute, I’d found a number of easy-to-find beers that he’d missed. “Jeez, he can’t be trying too hard,” I mocked, “if he’s missed beers like that.”
My attitude changed days later when I realised I was acting like a beer snob. I came to craft beer via wine and the one thing I hated more than anything else about the wine world was the wine snob.
That’s the person who thinks they’re better than you just because they know a lot about wine. If you profess ignorance about some style, they look down their nose at you as though you’re hardly worth their time.
When I started exploring the world of craft beer, I hoped there would be no beer snobbery. Seeing as how beer was a more egalitarian beverage than wine, there should be no need for snobbishness. And yet I have myself as proof that I was wrong.
So now I promise to change my ways. Rather than mocking Ellis and his mate, I reminded myself of what I was like when I started out. Like them, I didn’t have much of a clue.
But also like them, the journey excited me. Still does – I’m often compelled to duck into bottle shops just in case there’s something new there. It’s also the reason I started up beer blog beerisyourfriend.wordpress.com (it’s a shameless plug, I know). Rather than mock these guys for their newbie impressions of beer (they were surprised that beer tastes better when you don’t serve it “ice cold”) we should welcome them to the club.
The craft-beer world needs to be inclusive, because when someone starts drinking good beer we all win. The more people discover how good beer can be, the more people there are drinking it. And the more people drink it, the bigger the market gets, and the bigger the market gets, the more breweries that start up. And the more breweries that start up, the more new beer there is for me to try. And how can you not love that?