Taps Knobs....(Tap Snobs)


We craft beer lovers have a certain air of
snobbishness about us when consuming our
favorite beverage: proper style for the occasion,
proper glassware for the style, and proper
serving temperature, for example, are variables
to be considered to complete the beer drinking
experience; variables which are completely
unimportant to the average canned Budweiser
drinker. To him, we're probably considered nuts,
(and to us he's considered unenlightened), but ,
as in everything, there are those who take our
side to the extreme, and I'd like to present
some examples of same, so the average craft
beer lover won't be considered a "Tap Snob".

The appreciation of beer goes beyond aroma
and taste. Appearance is equally important to
us. There's not much fun drinking a big IPA out
of one of your kids' Donald Duck plastic cups. A
clear glass allows us to see the beautiful color
and frothy head before actually sniffing and
tasting the beer. But even the ultimate beer
expert, Michael Jackson, who forgot more about
beer in the last days of his life than I'll ever
know, carries this aspect of beer appreciation to
the extreme. I have a video in which "The Beer
Hunter" puts his nose to the rim of the glass,
holds it aloft to view it prior to tasting, then
inexplicably turns the glass around to look at
the other side! Could the beer possibly look
different on the other side? Did he spot a small
swimming object? Or was he examining the
glass for a lipstick smear? We'll never know and
the guy drinking Bud from the can (certainly not
a Tap Snob) needn't worry about the answer.


At a beer festival a few years ago I became
engaged in a conversation with a nerdy looking
beer guy who was holding a glass of
Sticke
beer, a variation of Alt brewed only occasionally
by Dusseldorf altbier brewers  to a greater
strength than the everyday alt.  Stickebier is
therefore very limited in availability.  In the
thousands of beers I've sampled in my life, I
don't know if I've had more than one. But this
early twenties Tap Snob remarked to me that
the beer he was holding was one of the best
stickebiers he had ever tasted.

It reminded me of a restaurant review I once
read in which the reviewer commented
negatively on the "Hunterdon County goat
cheese" she had been served, denouncing it as
"one of the lesser Hunterdon County goat
cheeses" she had tried. How many Hunterdon
County goat cheeses are there? Are they that
substantially different from Somerset or Sussex
County goat cheeses? I realize that Hudson
County probably doesn't have an entry in the
goat cheese wars, but with twenty other New
Jersey counties to choose from, how in hell
could she possibly determine from whence the
goat cheese came, let alone it's standing in
competition with other goat cheeses from the
same locality? Perhaps a little bit of snobbish
pretension there, similar to our stickebier
maven.

But I digress. Back to beer. At another festival
I observed what I first thought was a Secret
Service agent, quietly whispering into a lapel
mounted microphone, but which actually turned
out to be a high-tech Tap Snob, making his
comments and tasting notes into a hidden
recorder. It's certainly more efficient than
jotting down some notes in a notebook or on
the back of an envelope, but the shoulder mike
might be a little much. Reminds me of Dick
Tracy's "two way wrist radio" being applied to
the beer world.

Beer guys are generally divided into different
classifications: malt lovers, "big beer" lovers,
"session" beer lovers and "hop heads" to name
a few. This last one always intrigues me. To be
sure, there are certified beer judges and
brewmasters who are schooled in the art of
distinguishing particular hop varieties and how
those varieties help to create thecharacteristics
of a particular style. I look upon such people
with wonder and envy. But there are other "hop
heads" who pose as experts with little more
than an amateur's knowledge. At yet another
festival, a tipsy beerfan, slurring his words after
forty or fifty 4oz. tastings, announced that he
really liked the mittelfrueh hop character of the
beer he was trying. Similar to how salty Bosun's
Mate Farragut Jones so aptly put it in "Don't Go
Near the Water", when griping about his
pompous ass captain's inability to identify a
bow anchor, "He wouldn't know a mittelfrueh
hop from a goat's balls!"

My good friend and fellow Mummer, Joe
Rennick, who has adopted Germany as his
second home, in good part because of the
Teutonic rigidity in the serving and drinking of
beer, has aggravated many an American
barmaid with his explicit and detailed
instructions on how to properly pour his beer.
There is a right way and a wrong way, but when
fighting through a five deep press at the bar of
a stop on the annual St. Patrick's Day Mummers
Pub Crawl in Springfield, MA, who cares?
Nobody of course, except a Tap Snob.

Nothing is worse than a wannabe Tap Snob
showing off before company. One such
individual walked into the Gaslight, sat at a
table with some friends he was trying to
impress, and ordered a "lager". When the
waitress brought him a Black Bear Lager, the
house offering in the schwartzbier category and
the only lager on tap, he loudly proclaimed it to
be obviously a stout and sent it back  with a
request to "just bring me a Miller", a sure
indicator of his very refined beer palate. When
the Miller arrived and proved to be a Miller Lite,
it too was sent back with the loud
pronouncement "I don't drink lite beer".

At this point the unhappy and still thirsty beer
expert was asked to hit the bricks and find a
new venue in which to demonstrate his
propensity to be a Tap Snob.

A common sight at beer festivals and tastings
is the "dump bucket". Occasionally beerfans
discover a brew that's not palatable and must
be dumped. More often, they realize that in
order to sample as many brews as possible,
some must be dumped after the initial taste to
maintain sobriety and a clean palate. Hence,
the " dump bucket", which also affords a perfect
vehicle by which a Tap Snob can morph into a
Tap Slob. At a well attended Draught Board 15
meeting a while ago, standard two quart
pitchers were provided to serve as dump
buckets.

As I recall there were about twenty beers to be
tried that day, so the responsible members
made frequent use of the pitchers to dispose of
unwanted beer. By meeting's end the pitchers
were three quarters full of twenty different
beers of a variety of styles, along with wads of
chewing gum, bits of crackers, bottle caps and
"backwash", making the ultimate blended beer.

As several of us were straightening up, we
noticed a now former member who fancied
himself a Tap Snob, pouring himself a pint of
this eclectic blend. From Tap Snob to Tap Slob
in one easy gulp!!
  
Retching at the thought of that scene brings an
end to this discussion of Tap Snobs. Even a
dedicated drinker of canned Meisterbrau would
eschew the dump bucket!!







Cheers,

Dan
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