You love craft beer. Duh. Odds are, everyone around you knows this. You talk about beer, take pictures of beer, wear t-shirts from breweries, stand in two hour long lines for bottle releases, home brew, check every beer into Untappd, have a Beer Advocate account, and are a member of no less than 50 craft beer centric Meetup groups. You’re THE beer guy among your friends. Like any passion, you want to share it with those closest to you. There’s a problem, however. Some of you’re closest compatriots, don’t, like, beer… gasp! You’ve tried everything possible to bring them around to your way of thinking. They just aren’t having it. In reality, your tactics are likely the reason for them stubbornly digging in their heels and resisting all of your attempts at getting them to try the beer you just ordered at the local watering hole. Short of ditching them all and finding friends with better taste, what can be done to remedy this situation?
One of the best things about the craft beer industry is how open and friendly it can be. Collaboration and support among breweries is standard, and for the most part, craft beer enthusiasts are inviting of newcomers. All will gladly embrace you in brotherhood and take you under their wing to guide you through the many complexities of craft beer. The often mocked beer snob ale hole certainly does exist, but they’re usually just a caricature of some the worst, although well meaning, enthusiasts traits all rolled into one pretentious shell. The way you go about trying to sway your friends to the dark beer side gives credence to the stereotype though.
It’s important to remember that not everyone shares your passion. Like the time you brought your stamp collection to show and tell, sometimes too much zeal can be off putting (and mockery inducing). Instead of cranking it up to 11, we should all take it down a peg or two. Those new to craft beer are skittish and can be easily frightened. One too many bad experiences and they can scurry back to the comfort of yellow fizzy Macro beer. They might never again venture out of familiar territory if you make any of these critical errors.
Hand them the craft beer you’re drinking
“Here try this,” you say. “What is it?” Your friend asks, cautiously taking the glass of murky liquid you’ve offered. “It’s a Russian Imperial Stout, one of my favorite beers.” What are you thinking!? That’s an advanced beer right there. If craft beer drinkers leveled up, you’d have reached the cap a long time ago. How can your friend possibly appreciate the subtle nuances of cocoa nibs and hazelnut that are infused in your Russian Imperial Stout aged in first use charred white oak barrels. You’re handing a novice a far too complex beer. It’ll likely overload their palate, make them pull a stupid face and hand it back to you choking. Statements of “How can you drink that?” or “That beer is so heavy” will likely follow. You’ll then roll your eyes, shrug, and mumble “well I like it” over the rim of your glass as you defiantly take a sip. It takes time to develop your palate. The same way you don’t jump into the deep end of the pool on your first day of swim class, you didn’t drink a Triple IPA for your first craft beer. If your friend enjoys Miller Light, then why would you think they’d enjoy your advanced beer? A far better idea would be to make a suggestion that would ease them into more flavorful beer. A gateway beer. Something better than a Macro, but still on the light end of the spectrum. Use all that knowledge you’ve acquired and give an honest to goodness thoughtful suggestion.
The golf pro at a local country club is a good example of a professional slowly easing a newbie into a competent back swing. When he’s not banging your wife, he’s giving her methodical instruction in easy to understand chunks. It’s your job to do the same, minus the banging of people’s wives part. Take it slow, start with the basics, and provide guidance when necessary. Above all else, be encouraging. They’ll get there if you just give them time and don’t scare them off.
Make fun of the beer they’re drinking
Almost all of us started out drinking Macro beers. You didn’t know what you were doing, much like when you lost your virginity. Over time, and through questionable encounters, you developed your repertoire. The problem is, you’ve forgotten just how far you’ve come, stud. You no longer tremble nervously every time you bring a new beer home. You’ve been around the block and your number is in the hundreds, you slut. Instead of being a gentle guiding hand, you showed up as the enemy and mocked your friend’s choice of beer. Comparing it to water is a great way to turn them off towards wanting to try anything you suggest.
It’s our instinct to try and protect our identity. If someone doesn’t like something that we do, we feel the need to defend it. Almost as if their lackluster feelings about one of our our most intense hobbies is a personal affront to who we are at our core. Just remember, it goes both ways. The natural human instinct is to lash out. Belittling someone else or their choices is the quickest way to put ourselves back in the drivers seat and protect our fragile psyche. The flip side is, you lashing out only injures the other persons ego, so they must reciprocate by developing the opinion that you’re stupid, so everything you love and hold dear must be stupid as well. Especially your stupid craft beer. Just like you don’t listen to your parents when they tried to tell you Liberal Arts might be the best option for a degree. It’s not a phase mom! You just don’t understand me! Instead of belittling their choices, maybe try a more accepting approach. All beer has it’s place, and given the right set of circumstances, even yellow fizzy beer can be damn refreshing. After all, who likes to listen to someone who criticizes them all the time.
Over complicating it
At the end of the day, it’s just beer. Blasphemy I know, but not everyone will like craft beer, and that’s just science. Using terms they don’t understand, talking about proper tasting techniques, and the benefits of cellaring can overwhelm the fledgling beer drinker. If you come off as a know it all, then people will likely not care to listen to what you have to say on the subject, regardless of how right you may be. You have to approach someone on their level. It would have terrified you if the doctor had given the technical name of the STD you had. Instead, he dumbed it down, spoke in layman’s terms and a shot of penicillin cleared it right up. Keep it simple and as basic as possible. Use words like tart, bitter, earthy, or nutty. Pull deep from that fount of knowledge you’re so proud of.
A beer flight is an excellent way to expose some to craft beer while simultaneously showing them just how varied it can be, even among the same style. Order them a flight and choose several of the same style, blonde ales, for instance. This way, they can try a sampling of beers, all fairly similar, while seeing that a beer is not a beer is not a beer. It’s entirely possible to hate one beer of a particular style and love another. Slow and steady wins the race, after all.
They’re your friends for a reason. Somewhere along the line you developed a rapport. Try not to get so caught up in trying to convince them and share a simple conversation of likes and interests. Ask them what they like and try to find a beer you think they genuinely enjoy. If in the end, they never quite come around, then so be it. You’ll still be friends, and lord knows you need all you can get.