is an award winning
member of the North
American Guild of Beer
Writers. His column
Adventures in Beerland
is now a regular feature of
|People watching can be fun especially at a bar. Of course it may not be as exciting as seeing classic bar events like
the slippery fingered bartender dropping two glasses in the just filled ice bin, an about to kick tap spitting foaming
liquid over everyone within 10 square feet, or even a loose toupee falling into a guy’s shaken but (let’s say it all
together )- not stirred- martini but it can have its moments. In addition to the entertainment factor observant bar
goers can also learn a lot about just what types of people prefer what type of beverage.
Most of the bars I go to do not serve a lot of wine so if you were to ask me my impression of wine drinkers I would
have to say, that unlike my Uncle Max who after a few drinks, does a great impression of Bela Lugosi, I have nothing
to report. I don’t do impressions. Oh, for those clamoring to see Uncle Max’s impression of Lugosi speaking of wine,
I direct you to his post on youtube. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbQxMIlx8qY
As for my observations about those drinking distilled spirits I’ve noticed two distinct groups at the places I frequent.
There are the traditional shot of Jameson group made of adults in body, mind and spirit(s) and there’s the younger
crowd that orders a Wild Turkey Fruit-Tutee with a side of kombucha. When someone next to me does that I
immediately ask for my check so I can go to a real bar.
When it comes to craft beer drinkers however I can offer some things that are quite obvious to the trained eye and
even more so to a blood shot one after a few glasses of Dogfish Head 120. Warning - if you want boring, accurate
stats you’re in the wrong place since no one’s ever accused me of being accurate. Oh, what the heck. I’ll give it a
try. It shouldn’t be that hard to find some. You can find anything on the Internet; some of it might even be true.
So the question is just what a craft beer drinker in America looks like. No peeking in the mirror, please.
Seems there’s a recent survey done by Nielsen (loved him in Airplane and those Naked Gun movies or was he the
guy in those Taken flicks?) that claims the average craft drinker is male, 21 – 34 and has a very high paying job. It’s
nice to know what I always thought – I’m not average. That goes for most everyone I know too.
The survey went goes on to say there are two general groups of craft drinkers, those who are “weekly” consumers
(45%) and those who consume several times a year (55%). That makes no sense to me - my group is not
represented in the statistics. Hey, Mr. Nielsen, what happened to the several times a day consumer?
Here’s an interesting tidbit – 47% of weekly craft drinkers said they are drinking more craft beer while 18% said they
were drinking less. What about the missing 35 %? Were they in the restroom when that question was asked? Have
they become teetotalers? Did they switch to drinking Johnnie Blue to save money considering the prices of some
craft beer? Then again, maybe they aren’t drinking any more …..or any less for that matter.
Let the enlightenment continue. The survey says that fifty percent of craft beer drinkers believe locally made is
either “very” or “somewhat” important while nearly 90% felt the making of beer was “of importance.” I’m proud to say I
have nothing to do with the survey, that question, or the answer.
When asked to list reasons why they buy craft beer just over 42 percent said it’s the distance between them and the
brewery. Someone’s not studying geography. So the reason they would love to drink things like Piny (take your pick
of senior or junior) , St. Bernardus Abt 12, Treehouse King Julius, Cantillon Fou' Foune, etc. is because they live
close to the breweries? Imagine having them all within walking distance of your house? Sell the car and buy a dozen
pairs of Nikes.
You might not be shocked to know that the three-quarters of those surveyed said social media is their main source of
inspiration for selecting which beer they purchase. It’s comforting to know the reasons weren’t silly things like taste,
quality, or price.
One statistic that probably will give traditional pubs a shiver is that brewery tasting rooms are now one of the main
ways the average craft beer drinker learns about and enjoys beer. Indeed, those visits provide a sizeable chunk of a
brewery’s overall revenue, money that otherwise would be spent at a traditional bar. More good news for breweries
is that 24 percent of the people in the survey said that they were “purchasing a lot more” of that brand after visiting
the brewery. Might that explain why the sales of macro watery lagers continues to drop – they don’t have tasting
rooms? Probably not.
While I respect the results of the survey I do disagree with some of the results. After all, if I agreed with them then
we’d both be wrong. So let me give you a few of my observations about craft beer people I’ve watched at bars.
Craft beer people have facial hair. I know it’s stating the obvious like the fact that peanuts grow underground and not
on trees, 50% of 7 is the same as 7% of 50, or that ponies are not baby horses, but it should be mentioned. I’ve
been told that the Great American Beer Festival could also double as the Great American Beard Festival. Makes
sense in a way; after all, a mustache is a great way to strain and clarify a beer while a beard doubles as a perfect
All this beard stuff however can get to be too much even for me. The fusion of beer and facial hair hit an absurd
peak with the release of Beard Beer from Rogue Ales in Oregon. It’s an American wild ale made with Sterling hops,
Munich, C15, Pilsner malts, and yeast harvested from the beard of brew master John Maier. That was gross enough
to almost get me to shave.
I’ve noticed that many craft beer people are name droppers. They will mention Michael Jackson, Garrett Oliver, Jim
Koch, and Ken Grossman without waiting for a hat to drop. I, on the other hand, have a real reason to mention my
good friend Mr. Garrett Oliver of the Brooklyn Brewery. I once received an e-mail invitation to a party that had over
175 people listed after “to”. There, thirty-six names away from mine was Mr. Oliver’s. Really. Garrett Oliver. I may
not have ever met him but if you’re on the same mailing list that fact becomes moot. Sadly, the party was eventually
canceled. It seems the host never met him either.
Serious craft drinkers have a tendency to remember and babble about most of the beers they’ve ever had. I’ve had
a 20-year-old Cuvée René, a 12- and 17-year-old Chimay Blue Label, a 12-year-old Cantillion, and an ‘86 through
‘94 vertical tasting of the Bigfoot over the last few years. I’ve also had a 10 month old Bud De Licious, a 2 year old
Forty of the Five Colt, and a simply wonderful 20 month old Milwaukee’s Best Premium (with an emphasis on the
One easy way to recognize a craft beerster is they listen in to other drinkers’ conversation about beer They lie in wait
to unleash their knowledge on anyone who will, or won’t listen. Many craft aficionados are certified Missionaries of
Beer ordained to save their fellow drinker from the wrath of Bud, Coors, and especially mediocre craft beer. In my
book that is a worthy mission indeed.
You can start your own mission now. Here’s how. You will inevitably hear someone at a craft beer bar mispronounce
“gose”. Gently but with firm authority correct them. Tell them the correct pronunciation is” goes-ah”. A pure soul
who wants to learn will embrace you. If however they turn their back on you don’t worry. It’s just the way it goes ah.
There is however one indisputable way to know who are true craft beer people. They will tell you it doesn’t matter
how you pronounce gose or anything else; a great beer by any name will still taste as good.
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