With an ever-increasing selection of high-quality beers available, well, pretty much everywhere, craft beer enthusiast are experiencing an age of taste enlightenment, a malt and hops renaissance clad in glass, bearing colorful, cleverly labeled heraldry. With so many options, it was inevitable that drinkers and drinking habits would naturally stratify, form groups based on behaviors and preferences and concentrations of alpha acids. I give you, distilled from the hot mash of beer culture, the ten archetypal craft beer drinkers. For the record, I’m some kind of mix between #4 and #9.
(Side note: I used the pronouns “he” and “his” for simplicity only, and am by no means suggesting this is a male-only thing. We’ll just assume that “guy” in this context is as gender malleable as “dude.” Everyone is a dude, male or female or equine or mythological.)
1. The Local
This guy drinks beer brewed in his home state, and maybe the bordering few states, exclusively. He’s a champion of the local craft scene, often espousing the local nanobrew that is climbing in popularity in a new brewpub two towns over or announcing what seasonals his favorite nearby brewery will be shipping out next. He doesn’t scoff at great beer from other places, but given the option, he’ll say “think locally, f*ck globally” every time. You can’t really be mad at him for it either; he’s a catalyst for brewing progress, keeping the smaller brew pubs alive, supporting the system at the roots, nourishing all those little guys with precious praise and dollars.
2. The Old Faithful
This guy has worked the same job for ten plus years, orders the same meal every time he goes to that same restaurant, and to absolutely no one’s surprise, always drinks the same beer every weekend from the comfort of a well-worn chair. It’s usually something pretty good: an IPA from an established brewery or a modern, well executed lager. But, like an old man stuck firmly in a rocking chair at a retirement home lamenting how the world “used to be,” he gets grumpy and dismissive if someone suggests he tries something new. He’ll likely drink that beer until he dies, or until the brewery goes under, at which point he’ll try to find a beer exactly like it which may be the only time in his life that he tries new beers.
3. The Critic
This guy is a roiling mess of negativity, who despite having downed some of the best beer in existence, cannot seem to say anything good about any beers. His rampant criticism of anything and everything beer related makes the people around him wonder if he actually likes beer at all, or if he just really likes to talk about how much he doesn’t like beer. He’s not uneducated, often correctly pointing out faults like over-hopping, high acidity, off flavors, and weak malt backbones. He’s probably tried more beers than most people who claim to “love/adore/admire” craft beer. But no one has ever seen him actually enjoying a beer. The day he does, the universe might implode.
4. The Appraiser
This guy is the antithesis of The Critic, who, despite tasting some stuff that a man stumbling through the desert dying of thirst would reject and wave off, loves pretty much everything that passes his lips. Even beers that could potentially be toxic or cause a severe allergic reaction; even bizarre beers, like that homebrewed rutabaga porter he tried last week; even beers that are stored and served in screw top two liter Mountain Dew bottles are OK in this guy’s world. If the beer really does taste awful, he’ll find something else to compliment, like the labeling or cool off-curlean blue of the bottle cap. When his drinking buddies say, “How can you drink this shit? Tastes like Scotch tape mixed with pureed owl pellets!” he’ll respond with, “Yea, a little bit I guess. But it’s definitely not the worst I’ve thing I’ve ever had!”
5. The Clueless One
This guy really wants to be part of the craft beer wave, really wants to fit in with all his friends at the bar on a Friday night as they take turns sipping from a sampler, but the combination of an unsophisticated palate and a possible learning disability keeps him from grasping the finer nuances of good beer. He’ll often ask, attempting to look beer-literate, if a lager is a pale ale, or if a stout is a hefeweizen. He means well, and seems to enjoy his beer, but can’t for the life of him keep styles or breweries straight. He once correctly identified an IPA and now that is all he will order, partly out of fear that people will realize he has no idea what he’s talking about, partly because he’s proud he finally got one right.
6. The Flavor Finder
This guy could be also be named “The Bullshitter.” His ability to identify flavors – many of which were not intentionally added to the brew – borders on paranormal. He’ll sniff at the settling head of an IPA and make verbal note of the subtle wafts of “raspberry, turmeric, and waffle batter.” He’ll take a sip and, swirling his tongue around his mouth, ask if you noticed the way the hops created “a dirty, rusty flavor” but “in a good way” then point out how the finish is like “molten cashews, cooked over a fire of pine needles and Brazilian rosewood.” The dude will claim to taste things humans can’t physically taste, like passion and eccentricity. If he is really tasting all of this stuff, there might be something really, really wrong with his tongue. Or maybe he’s about to have a stroke. No one knows.
7. The Beer Snob
Everyone knows one of these guys, the person not just happy to crack and pour and drink his beer, that guy who cannot control the urge to explain why the beers he drinks are vastly superior to the beers you drink. He’d never be caught dead with something less than 9.5% ABV, somehow equating alcohol content to quality. If it’s not a double or triple or Imperial version, he won’t even consider drinking it, as it is clearly below his refined tastes and standards. He spends his free time on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer writing short, overly-harsh and condescending reviews, always adding the note, “it’s no Old Rasputin” to the end of each. No one really likes this guy, but he thinks he’s doing the beer-drinking community a favor by ranting about the “impurity of large scale brewing” whenever he can.
8. The Beer Snob Snob
This guy has gotten all meta and is snobby about how snobby the beer snobs snob. He is the counter-culture backlash against the condescension that permeates the beer world, falling back on non-craft beers with lots of folk lore, like Pabst Blue Ribbon and National Bohemian. He wears square rimmed glasses, porkpie hats, and too-tight pants. This guy isn’t actually into beer for the sake of the beer, he just really, really likes to annoy people and say the word “irony” a lot. As soon as good beer isn’t cool anymore, it won’t be cool to like bad beer, which means it won’t be ironic to like any beer at all, and this guy will fade into mismatched, dub-step thumping obscurity.
9. The Comparer
This guy can’t help but compare the beer he’s currently drinking to every other beer he’s ever drunk. The first words out of his mouth after a virgin sip of a new (to him) brew, are always, “Hmm, this reminds me of…” It’s his mission to compile a mental database of every beer ever, to create connections between breweries, to be a walking, talking reference encyclopedia of craft beer. He’s actually great to have around if you’re trying to find new beers of a certain style to try, but otherwise his incessant obsession with categorization and beer hierarchy make him tough to hang out with. Never, ever, under any circumstance, unless you need to kill two or three hours, ask this guy what his favorite beer is. Trust me on that one.
10. The Brewbie
The new guy! The excited guy! The guy who just tried his first Stone Ruination IPA and just can’t stop talking about it! A new craft beer fan is born in the maternity wards of brewpubs every Friday night. This guy is usually overly enthusiastic, recommending every person try every beer ever, even if they’re underage, not a beer fan, or not even a human. He’ll go on about how IPAs are his favorite, no ambers, no pilsners, no stouts, no IPAs again; drunk on the new breadth of styles and flavors he’s just discovered, and also the beer itself. This guy tends to drink too much out of excitement, not realizing that his new beau is a good 2 or 3 or 5% ABV higher than the stuff he was drinking in college. No one gets mad when he gets a little out of hand though. His zeal and excitement remind us of ourselves when we first took a sip of that beer that turned casual drinker into enthusiast, and turned beer into art.
“Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.” -Arnold Schwarzenegger