It’s just beer, why you gotta be that way?
Earlier this week, I walked into a bar in the East Village. This place, which I won’t mention by name, is a spot known for its excellent beer selection. I was with a buddy of mine who doesn’t really have that much knowledge about beer. No biggy though, right? We just wanted to have a couple brews, catch up, and enjoy ourselves. You know, do the stuff people do when they get beers together.
We walked up to the bar to find a selection of rare taps. I’d only heard of a few of them, but my friend was clueless. He asked the bartender — a seemingly approachable woman probably in her thirties or forties — for a recommendation.
“What do you like?” Her voice was a bit forceful, but nothing out of the ordinary. This was a bar, after all. Sometimes bartenders can be a little sharp.
My friend, in a moment of hesitation and insecurity, responded. “Well, uh, do you have any ales or lagers?”
The bartender stared at my friend. A beat passed. She furrowed her brow. The air felt a bit uncomfortable. My friend looked up and down and down and up from the menu. After about 10 seconds, she snapped at him.
“Well, all beer is either ale or lager,” she said, glaring at him as she spoke, firmly scolding him. “So. You’re going to have to be more specific.”
In about three seconds, the bartender had humiliated my friend and pretty much ruined our experience at that bar, and all he did was ask a question. Granted, the question was a bit silly — even people who don’t know a lick about beer probably know that ale and lager are the only two sub-categories. But why does the bartender have to be so mean? My friend’s question wasn’t aggressive. He wasn’t trying to be a jerk. He was genuinely curious and wanted to learn more, and his questioning was made to feel stupid.
On a greater, more problematic level: I’d like to know why people insist on being such dickheads about beer. Beer is one of the happiest and most jovial substances ever to exist. When you ask someone to “grab a beer,” you’re entering an unwritten social contract that you’re going to go out, relieve some stress, and have a good time. Yet, because we’re a culture that loves to be narcissistic, we tend to get all snobby about it. But what’s the point? To have a good time, you don’t have to be drinking Dogfish’s latest IPA, Sixpoint’s seasonal, or the newest concoction from Founders. The only requirement is consumption. Hell, it could even be, god forbid, a Budweiser.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that beerheads shouldn’t take pride in their knowledge. Nor am I encouraging everyone to start drinking Bud (which I’m sure a few commenters will assume). It’s just… the pretension needs to stop. This attitude does nothing positive for beer or the culture surrounding it. Is it really that hard to be a reasonable human being and let one another drink whatever we want? And if someone has a question, even if it’s the most basic question in the world, answer it — without acting like you’re the first person on the god damn planet to say a brew smells “a bit toasty.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 31, 2012