Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Craft Beer Community: Barriers to Entry

It's been said many times in one way or another that the Craft Beer Community is one of the best communities to be a part of. We'll tell you that we're a bunch of happy go lucky guys and gals and that we just want to spread the word of good beer and share a good laugh while we're at it. But is that true? How open are we really to those who aren't already card carrying members of the Craft Beer Community?

I've pondered this question briefly before, but I never really sat down with it until this past weekend after attending a beer event at one of the bigger craft beer spots in Baltimore. I'm not going to throw their name into the mix, because for the most part the people that work there are class acts. I've had many a good time there in the past and I no doubt will continue to do so in the future. But something rubbed me the wrong way about the interaction between bartender and customer that went on this weekend. At the time I brushed it off because I didn't think it was worth dwelling on, but after learning that the same bartender offended Deana's sister later that night (long after I went home) it really got me thinking about how one bad experience could potentially prevent a significant amount of people from joining our club.

I like to think I know a thing or two about beer. Afterall, I have 100 badges on untappd god dammit! But one thing I fully admit to is my lack of ability to pronounce the names of foreign breweries. I don't speak German and Norwegian or anything other than English so naturally I'm going to mispronounce a lot of foreign words. I don't think I'm unique in that sense. Vereinigte Historische Bierfanatiker Grodziskie. Can you say that? Beyond that, can you even remember the order of the words when you're in a loud bar that's 100% fuller than the pint of Hofstettner Granitbock Ice you're looking to replace? I don't know whether you can or not, but I do know that you shouldn't be looked at sideways when you can't or given the evil eye when you give up and just point to the words on the menu.

I asked a bartender (the same one that expects all customers be multilingual) later that night if they had any more of XYZ beer . After we establish the fact that I'm a simpleton for the third time that night , he says "I don't know" and walks away chuckling to himself. My response should have been "Well, what makes you think I do?"  Eventually, he makes his way back and says "Of course, we have more. It's 90L. Where did you think it'd all go?" Again, how the hell was I supposed to know what they still had behind the bar and how much they had of it. Is there an app I was supposed to download that shows me how much beer is left in each of their 100 kegs? Was it crazy for me to assume that on day two of a big festival they could be running low on certain offerings?

As I mentioned earlier, for the most part I didn't dwell on my experience but Deana's sister's run in (she had the audacity to be unsure about what to order) with this guy got me thinking about it all over again. She isn't a beer connoisseur in any way, but she is willing to try something new. And as many of you can remember, it can be intimidating ordering from a craft beer menu when you really don't know what you're looking at. It can be even more intimidating when you're looking at beers named Vereinigte Historische Bierfanatiker Grodziskie. I get that the bartenders are busy, but they aren't there just to serve the knowledgeable. They are there to serve the customer no matter how much they know about craft beer.

If you're the type of person who is easily intimated, a bad first experience like this could ruin you from craft beer forever. That's not cool and it's not something that should be taken lightly. And I don't want the focus of this post to be solely on the bartender. Sure, he was an asshole, but there are going to be assholes no matter what. But it got me thinking, how many times have one of us made a joke about people that drink Bud Lite or Blue Moon? How many times has someone read our comments or overheard a joke we made to our friends in the bar and shied away. I know I'm guilty of it, but after this past weekend I'm going to make a concerted effort to be a lot more patient and open to those of us who aren't already in the know but want to be. We all take beer seriously. If we didn't, why would we write about it or read things like this. It's big part of our lives. It lightens the load of a long day and connects us with history. Everyone deserves to get to know craft beer, so let's not be so precious and uptight about things we prevent people from entering our kick ass club. There's room for everybody.


  1. This place sounds awful!

    But this is an excellent write up,and summarizes all of the things I am starting to hate about this community.

    Was this at a place that rhymes with Taxes?

    1. There is a 51% chance that your guess is correct.