ADVENTURES IN BEERLAND
Vince Capano
is a two time winner of
the Quill and Tankard
writing award  from the
North American Guild of
Beer Writers.  

Vince's column is now
a regular feature of
beernexus.com
Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.

Yes, there I was with two other BeerNexus colleagues, the popular Dan “Beer My Way” Hodge and the Poet of Brew,
Brian Lynch.  The aforementioned “there” was (hold on to your hat) a bar. To be specific, said bar was The Gaslight
Brewery and Restaurant in South Orange, NJ.  We were appearing in a TV pilot for a show called “Beer Snob”.  My
best guess was that we three were chosen because Moe, Larry, and Curly were not available.  

Since the show was about beer we were all comfortable even when told that out that our part was not scripted since
they wanted a touch of reality.  That might have made lesser performers uncomfortable but we didn’t worry; beer
drinkers are a creative lot.  As the director said, “you three look like you drink a lot of beer” obviously meaning we
had enough creative fluid in us to do the job.  

Our part may have seemed small but as they say there aren’t any small parts, just small players.  I think that’s also
the motto of the Munchkins of Oz Toddler Softball League. Anyway, the camera pans the room and settles on the
three of us seated at the end of the bar.  Then, with regal flourish, we drink from our pint glasses. It's a heart tugging
scene to be sure. Since the beer was being paid for by the generous producer we made sure multiple takes were
necessary.  I'm guess that also makes us professional actors or at the very least professional drinkers.

After a short break to accommodate a muffled burp from one of the drinkers (no, not me), the director yelled
“Action”.  With that the amiable host strolled in the shot and asked us “what are you drinking?”  
Mr. Hodge: “a stout”.
I say, “I….P….A” with feeling, giving my part some needed gravitas.
Mr. Lynch sits silently for several seconds, lifts his glass, then turns to the director and asked “what’s my motivation?”
The director replied “you’re drinking a beer at a bar.”
“Ah” says Brian, with an understanding nod.  

We do the scene again.  It’s done so perfectly it’s obvious to the entire crew that our segment will be the show’s
highlight.  After all, you can’t have a show called Beer Snobs with beer snobs.  Case closed.  

Finally it’s time to film the show’s poignant, gut wrenching, passionate, climactic scene.   We each are given a
filled pint and asked to extend our arms, clinking glasses with the program’s host. The camera zooms in, resting on
our glistening glasses which seductively drip beer.  Did I hear someone say the word ‘Emmy’?

After several run-throughs we’re ready. Glasses are raised, clinks completed.  The director asks for another take
and that’s when inspiration hits Brian.  He quietly rubs his sweating glass on its beer mat, one of the most beautifully
decorated “Save Water, Drink Beer” ones you’ll ever see.  Now as he lifts the glass it becomes the only one with a
coaster attached.  Fellini would be proud.   The director must have understood the existential symbolism of it all
since he kept it in the final cut.  Either that or he just didn’t notice.

The show wrapped and the producer told the director to thank “those three characters”.  She must have meant the
sound and lighting guys since we were now thespians of the first order.  Dan quickly ordered another beer either to
celebrate a tough day of acting or to get one more pint on the show’s tab.  Brian did likewise and began to
experiment sticking different styles of coasters to his glass in preparation for the inevitable sequel.  I ordered too,
worrying we were all going to be typecast as beer snobs.

After all, to many folks, beer snob is a pejorative term.  Ask macro beer drinkers what term best describes a person
who only drinks beer from a glass, wants it served at a temperature that would get them thrown out of the bar car on
the Silver Bullet Ice Train, and when ordering scotch mean a Traquair House Ale, not Johnny Walker Black.  They
inevitably will say - Beer Snob.  And they don’t say it with a smile.

Even some craft beer drinkers will use the term to castigate one of their own.  I was recently in the company of
several people who are "nouveau" craft beer drinkers.   These late to the scene arrivals know a bit about good beer,
appreciate it, and actually order it when available.  However they don’t understand or appreciate the history, the
complexity, or the varieties of serious beer. And maybe worse, they don’t see the joy in being a true beer hunter and
reveling in the totality of the beer drinking experience. They’re blind to the art in the brewer’s art.   

We had walked into a bar that had just been totally remodeled into a gastro pub featuring 40, yes that’s forty, taps.  
To protect myself from the wrath of this pretentious, overpriced establishment it will go unnamed (The Office) in this
article. Every one of their 40 tap handles looks the same – a generic round top with a number.  Above the bar is a
sign that lists the beer associated with the number.  It seems that using the brewery’s tap handle (often an artistic
achievement itself) is clearly beneath the bar’s -oops- gastro pub’s, seriousness quotient.  Customers order by
number.  Hey bartender, I’d like a half and half.  Give me half of #8 in column #1 and half of #15 from column #2.  
Wait, should I simply order a #23?  No, there already is a #23 in column #3.  Bu if I only want a half of #8 and half of
#15 should I get an 11 ½?  I've got a headache.

The 40 beers offered rarely change.  That is something a serious beer snob, I mean hunter, does not want to see.  
Nor would they want to see that there are no surprise drafts hidden in the 40.  If you’ve been drinking craft beer for a
while I guarantee you’ve already had 38 of the 40 offerings (it’s 40 of 40 if Bud Light and Coors Light count).  To me,
this place and their ilk are "Keyser Soze" bars –they pour the usual suspects.  And that doesn’t make for a great
beer bar no matter the quantity of taps.

“Beer snob, beer snob, beer snob” my companions harmonized after hearing my complaints.   It had a nice beat and
was easy to dance to but I wasn’t buying their CD, or their charge.  Sorry nouveau folks, having Yuengling, Magic
Hat #9, Shiner (pick any Shiner you like- they all taste the same), Sam Adams lager, and an array of  Bud and Coors’
‘crafty’ scions, doesn’t make it a place for me.  At least not in today’s enlightened beer culture where within shouting
distance of these usual suspect bars you’ll likely find at least one pub that serves beers from Founders, Stone, and
Bells.  They might even have, dare we say, stuff from Belgium breweries.   

To be fair, not all of the usual suspects bars are the same.   Some do slip in a brew or three that are serious craft
offerings.  But then they don’t know what to do with them.  Rather than educate the servers about beer, one place I
know ordered each bartender to answer every question about beer in the same way: “would you like a taste of
that?”  Help, it’s the attack of the Stepford Bartenders.  Next comes the ultimate insult.  These places inevitably serve
that great craft beer in frosted Coors / Miller/ Bud shaker pints complete with ice crystals inside and out.  The ice
comes at no extra charge.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I applaud bars that bring in craft lines, even if it’s just one.  When a neighborhood tavern starts
serving an IPA or stout it’s a good thing. These places have no illusions about being a destination stop for beer fans.
They’ve heard about the craft beer craze and see profits on the bandwagon.  The hope is that once they’re on the
bandwagon they just might not get off.  

Some people prefer the term “beer geek” to “beer snob”.  I see their point.  After all, a snob is a pain in the butt; a
know-it-all who enjoys looking down on the less enlightened; a self satisfied bore.  Geek might be better but it's still
vaguely offensive.  Just look up what the original sideshow geeks did to achieve their deserved infamy and you’ll see
what I mean.  

When it comes to TV shows however “Beer Snob” clearly makes for a better title than “Beer Geek”.  It’ll resonate with
the public more than a serious name.  After all, who would want to watch a show called Beer Connoisseur or Beer
Cognoscente?   Besides, some snobs are lovable educators reaching out to enlighten inquiring minds.  That’s it.  I’ll
be the good snob and Dan and Brian can play the bad snobs to give the show some dramatic heft.
Ah, now I see what Brian meant about needing motivation.

Hey, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.


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Watch the trailer for Beer Snob HERE



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click to contact vince
Sept. 2014