No. More. Snobs.
As we are all aware, Craft Beer is a growing industry. Combine the “Craft Beer Boom” with a little bit of economic recovery we’ve seen over the past few years and you have a recipe for serious capitalism. It seems like every week we are reading about a new bottle shop and/ or brewery opening up somewhere in the Triangle. To “Craft Beer People” this is great news. However, to those who don’t see themselves as “Craft Beer People,” I often receive eye-rolling responses and comments with keywords like “snob” or “exclusive.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who hears this. Too often, “Craft Beer People” are seen as elitist or highbrow, not to be bothered with conversation unless it’s about IBU and SRM and other abbreviations to make those not in the know feel even more outcast. And to be honest, I can’t blame people for feeling this way because we all can make them feel this way. Whether it’s through purposeful exclusion in conversation or a lack of customer service by industry professionals, if we as a Craft Beer community aren’t careful, this industry growth we currently enjoy might not continue.
Here’s the deal: we’ve all been around or been involved with a person in a conversation who is a name-dropper. He uses people’s first names, lest you mistakenly think he doesn’t have a close association with the subject. The same can be said for some of our Craft Beer friends. I’m sure you all know That Guy in your beer club or local brewery/ bar. He’s the one who monopolizes conversations with all of the knowledge he can spit out, all the while telling you what you should be tasting in the beer, if only the brewer hadn’t put too much damn Crystal in it again. He’s the one who scoffs at you when you hesitatingly tell him you happen to like a certain beer. He tells you that the only reason you like that beer is because your pallet isn’t developed (and because you’re obviously too stupid and unrefined to drink good beer, like him…you know, the kind that apparently makes you a giant douche canoe) or you just haven’t had enough “good beer” yet to know the difference.
To That Guy I ask: How many friends do you have? Seriously? There’s probably a reason you have such beer knowledge, and it likely has something to do with the fact that you don’t know how to communicate appropriately with others. What’s your success rate in getting someone to agree with you after you’ve put him down or made him feel stupid? I’d guess it’s not nearly has high as it would be if you might take the time to chat with that dude at the end of the bar who just ordered a Blue Moon because he was overwhelmed by the number of taps at the bar and just wanted something he knew he would like. Maybe, if you’d start up a conversation with him and encourage him to try something similar to what he’s drinking, but something that’s made by an actual craft brewery (or, better yet, local brewery), you could be part of the solution. Maybe think about it that way. Maybe, if you’re such a beer connoisseur, you could ask the bartender to get your new friend a few samples of similar beers so he could taste what you’re telling him about. That’s what I’d say to That Guy.
Similar to That Guy at the Bar, we often have the Beer Snob working at the bottle shop. Seriously, if you’ve been to enough bottle shops, you know who the Beer Snobs are, when they’re working, and when to stay away from which shop. These are the guys who, as you walk through the door and say hello, they usually respond with a bit of an irritated head nod or mumble grunt—not so much an acknowledgment of your arrival, but more of an expression of displeasure that you had the audacity to be pleasant and friendly in his presence before kissing the ring. Plus, you interrupted his count, you idiot! Can’t you see he was counting a case of bombers that he just opened and he needed to make sure all 12 were there? And now he lost his spot. He was at six. Or was it seven? He’ll never know because you walked through the door and made that damn bell go off! And don’t even think about asking him a question about when something might come in stock. Because he’s not in the mood to talk to you! There’s a really good song on the radio and That Guy From the Bar just came in (yeah, they’re buddies—likely the only friends they each have) and they’ve got shit to discuss, so if you’d please just find a few bottles (quietly) and be on your way, they’ll wait until you’re gone to talk about you and your lack of beer knowledge.
To the Beer Snob at the Bottle Shop, I say this: See what I asked your friend, That Guy. And this: Do you think you’re helping your business by ignoring your customers or making them feel like nuisances? When I walk in the door and say hello with a smile on my face, is it really that big of a problem that I’m in your place of business, ready to buy your merchandise? Or, if my wife walks in, looking for a gift (or, gulp, some beer for herself) could you possibly find it in yourself to mark your spot on your inventory count and help her out? Hey, she likes to spend money, too! You might even be able to suggest some extra bottles for her to buy (this is actually helpful to your bottom line!). Seriously, what I really want to say to those very few people (and, trust me, the VAST majority of those who work at our local bottle shops are very friendly and incredibly helpful) is that you’re a representative of our Craft Beer community, so please keep that in mind when handling customers. You’re paid to share, not only your knowledge of Craft Beer, but a little bit of good cheer as well.
Please don’t misunderstand me. The majority of our Craft Beer community is great! We love our beer and our local breweries, and we want more people to be a part of the experience. We don’t want to be thought of as snobbish or exclusive. We want our cheap-beer-drinking friends to experience what we love about Craft. However, there are those who aren’t helping our cause. But there’s still time for them! There’s still hope! All we need to do is help them remove their heads from their rear-ends and start smiling and sharing, instead of scoffing and ignoring.