As my father constantly voiced to me, “There will always be people who have more than you and always people who have less, so never compare yourself to others.” These words have been something that I have attempted to live my life by; it’s not always the easiest thing to do since we live in a world where comparing ourselves to others is a common practice. How does this have anything to do with craft beer, you ask? Everything. Just change one simple word: “There will always be people who know more than you and always people who know less.” Thus, as beginners who know nothing about beer, don’t compare yourself to the people who seem to know everything. But even more so, for those of us who do know quite a bit about craft beer, don’t look down on others for not having the same knowledge set as you. Beyond just being a moral guideline, it’s a necessity to support the growth of the craft beer industry.
Let’s take a look at some fun facts.
There is no doubt that the craft beer industry is booming. According to the Brewer’s Association, as of June 2013 there are officially 2,483 operating craft breweries in the United States, which is up 137 from 2012 and up 513 from 2011. This is obviously exciting news for anyone invested in the craft beer world. However, the question then becomes, will this growth continue or will it be a boom and bust? This is a serious question we must ask ourselves as new craft breweries both open and close within the U.S. everyday. Another important question to ask: is the market for craft beer keeping up with craft brewery growth? In a recent analysis by Demeter Group, they projected that by 2020 Craft Beer will represent nearly 15% of the Beer Industry. While this is an exciting increase, Mintel, a Chicago-based global supplier of product research, indicated that solely overall, “some 36 percent of American consumers drink craft beer.” Thus, in order for these newer breweries to survive (despite producing a good product obviously), we need to, as a community, continue to educate people about craft beer.
The issue is, there is a pretentious air amongst the craft beer world. “I know more than you” can often be the name of the game. However, if we want to be an industry that continues to grow, then we must support our craft, not selfishly snicker at those who know less. My main point being, we want people to DRINK craft beer right? Well, if all they know is Bud Light, guess what? The consumer is going to order a Bud Light. However, if as people in the industry, we can offer craft varieties they may enjoy then they can finally stray from their comfort zone. Remember, you didn’t always know everything about beer either. You had your mentors, you had your time for questions. Where would you be today if someone didn’t offer you a guiding hand?
This is where craft beer education takes a huge role in maintaining the growth of our industry. If we educate the commercial consumer then I have no doubt that our industry won’t bust but continue this beautiful uphill trend. One of Mintel’s noted beverage analysts Jennifer Zegler, emphasized the need for beer education: “to expand craft beer’s appeal beyond Millennials, Mintel said more educating of beer drinkers about craft beers is needed. That education could take the form of classes and tastings that inform consumers about the distinctions between craft brews and other alcoholic beverages…” This is why we find it so important to create a beer school with a judgement free zone. If instead of poo-pooing what other people are drinking, help them by introducing them to different beer styles. Help them explore their own palate and discover what flavors they enjoy and what styles they’d rather avoid.
I want to be careful here though. I do believe it is an important characteristic for all beer drinkers to know clearly what they like and what they don’t like. It’s great and even admirable to understand your own personal palate. Just be aware how much your palate changes over time, and how vastly different others palates can be.To use a non beer example. I use to HATE cottage cheese, just absolutely detest it. But for some reason the past month, I’m not just enjoying it but actually craving it as my daily afternoon snack. Palate shift. The same happens to beer drinkers. You may start out as a Bud Light, lager loving lad or lass but then discover the undeniable aroma of an IPA or velvetiness of a stout. Don’t judge someone just because their palate seems young. There palate may shift over time too.
Even more importantly to emphasize, we all have different tastes in beer. You may overlap with other craft beer lovers but then diverge at other points. Take us Broads for example. We both hate fruity Belgians and wheat ales and truly enjoy IPAS and brown ales. 4 Hands Centennial Red Ale, yes please. Allagash White, no thanks. However, inversely Founder’s Rubaeus get’s a resounding YES from Bri, while I find the beer too fruity to enjoy a whole pint of (comes with the territory of being a fruit beer, I know). And Iadore the Anchor California Lager, while it just doesn’t click with Bri’s taste buds. Instead of judging each other harshly for our differing views, we discuss, learn and gain an appreciation for these beers even if we don’t personally enjoy them.
The same approach can be said for introducing beers to newer crafties. Give them the opportunity to discuss with you what they’re tasting, smelling, and what they’re overall impression of the beer is, because you’re helping them develop an awareness of their budding palate. It all goes back to the simple proverb we learned in elementary school, “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.” Instead of telling people what they should be drinking, what they should be enjoying, show them how to determine it themselves. If you make people comfortable within the craft beer world, they’ll stick around. More craft beer drinkers, more people to buy the increasing number of products produced daily.
So what someone doesn’t know Bell’s Oberon or Lagunitas Lil’ Sumpin Sumpin? Or so what someone enjoys Miller Lite? Teach them, help them learn, help them grow because I promise you, it will help all of us craft beer nerds out in the long run.