Does the beer buyer at the liquor store ask your advice? Do you understand the difference between a turbid and a single infusion mash? Do you travel with a tulip glass handy? Have you even eaten ramen just to afford a vintage Cantillon gueuze? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be a Beer Geek and in need of this hilarious guide. Patrick Dawson provides everything you need to fully live a life ruled by beer, from the Ten Beer Geek Commandments and the Beer Geek Hall of Fame to guidance on what to drink, how and where to drink it, how to gracefully correct an uninformed bartender, where to buy “geek goods,” how to flawlessly execute a beer tasting, how to plan the ultimate beer-centric vacation, and much more. Includes quizzes to help you determine your level of geekery, as well as witty illustrations by Greg Kletsel.
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About the Author
Patrick Dawson is an award-winning beer writer, an avid homebrewer, a BJCP beer judge, and a general lover of all things beer. He is the author of The Beer Geek Handbook and Vintage Beer, and has written for DRAFT Magazine, Zymurgy, All About Beer Magazine, Craft Beer & Brewing, and multiple other publications.
Read an Excerpt
To a Beer Geek, beer is not simply something to drink, but a lifestyle. Just as tennis players would never consider their sport simply exercise, or sports-car buffs view a Ferrari as mere transportation, Beer Geeks see beer not as a means to get drunk but as something to be analyzed, researched, discussed, photographed, cataloged, and then, finally, consumed (see the first Beer Geek Commandment). Beer books fill their shelves, rare glassware is displayed proudly, and pennies are pinched to save up for a trip to Belgium.
While your Uncle Roy can immediately tell you that his favorite beer is Bud Light, when asked the same question a Beer Geek will struggle, asking qualifiers like country of origin, applicable weather, hop content, and sessionability before eventually settling on 12 definitive answers with an accompanying flow chart. Beer seeps into all aspects of life, resulting in dogs named Hunahpu and children named Simcoe.
The Geek and the Snob
It is important to understand that not all who obsess over beer are Beer Geeks. A fine but definitive line exists in the beery arena that separates the Beer Geeks from the Beer Snobs. While Beer Geeks will give the impression of knowing all (and not recalling a time when they didn't), they don't gloat or impose their knowledge like Beer Snobs do. Information is given gladly, but never in a condescending fashion.
Additionally, although the world of beer certainly has its specialized lingo (see The Beer Geek Dictionary), when a Beer Snob tries to impress the uninitiated with highfalutin language it only serves to isolate. Beer Geeks, on the other hand, learn to effortlessly tailor their vocabulary to the geekiness level of the person to whom they are speaking. For example, if you asked veteran Beer Geeks if they wanted a pour of "CBS," they would immediately know that you are referring to Founder's Brewing Breakfast Stout that has been aged in used maple syrup bourbon barrels. If asking a non–Beer Geek the same question, you'd instead simply ask if they wanted to try a "strong stout." A Beer Geek is aware that the beer will speak for itself. If the non–Beer Geek enjoys it (and they damn well better — it is CBS for crying out loud), a Beer Geek will use the opportunity to explain that it was aged in whiskey barrels, how that lends a vanilla-like presence, and so on.
To a Beer Geek, the more beer activism in the world, the better a place it will be.
To a Beer Snob, beer knowledge is something to be hoarded, and pulled out only to put a newbie in his place. A Beer Geek uses that same knowledge to show the uninitiated the light.
This all stems from a shared understanding within the Beer Geek community. Call it a list of commandments, if you will. This value system of sorts is something of an unspoken code, never really discussed but rather absorbed through interaction with fellow Beer Geeks, internet forums, and the like. Veteran Beer Geeks would have a hard time verbalizing them if pressed, but these tenets are second nature, like always serving a barleywine in a snifter.
The Beer Geek Ten Commandments
- I -
Beer is something to be understood, appreciated, and analyzed, not just a means to get drunk.
An intimate understanding of the various styles of beer is a must for all Beer Geeks. Before even drinking a beer, they already have a certain amount of knowledge that allows them to develop an expectation from which they can more deeply analyze the beer. When drinking, the aroma and taste of a beer are evaluated constantly, but not without pleasure. Their breadth of expertise and experience would allow them to easily write a 500-word review of a 1ounce sample of beer. Taking tasting notes at a bar is a normal thing. Without thinking it odd, a Beer Geek uses the terms horse blanket and cob webs when describing a beer.
- II -
A Beer Geek sees it as his duty to (tastefully) inform the world about the joys of beer.
While Beer Geeks may take pride in their skill and proficiency, they aren't apt to flaunt it. Instead, they parse wisdom when necessary to correct a situation (such as a bar using frozen mugs), or when they see an opportunity to encourage a burgeoning beer lover. It's not unusual for them to be mistaken as an employee at their favorite liquor store, or even to have the store's beer buyer ask their advice. An act as simple as stopping a guy from buying bottled Heineken — and letting him know that the canned version won't have the dreaded "skunky" flavor — might very well bring another convert into the ranks of Beer Geek.
- III -
A Beer Geek is not cheap, at least when it comes to beer.
Unfortunately, good beer often comes at a premium, and some degree of disposable income is required to fully revel in the Beer Geek lifestyle. If circumstances dictate that your disposable income has to come from eating ramen alongside your vintage Cantillon gueuze, so be it. A Beer Geek has surely had at least one three-digit liquor store purchase and has probably used the word bargain when describing certain beers over twenty dollars. Money is still used wisely, though, and metrics like dollars-per-ounce are applied when considering beer purchases.
- IV -
A Beer Geek understands brewing techniques.
To properly evaluate the end product, a Beer Geek relies on his understanding of the various processes used to create beer. For example, knowing the difference between a turbid and a single infusion mash enables one to recognize that the former will retain a superior mouthfeel if cellared. And if that sentence made no sense, beyond making you chuckle at the word mouthfeel, have no fear; we'll make a Beer Geek out of you yet.
- V -
A Beer Geek shares her beer freely, regardless of its rarity or her audience.
While Beer Geeks are certainly enticed by the rarity of a bottle, they also understand that it's a product that ultimately begs to be enjoyed. The Beer Geek community is one of sharing and generosity, where bottle shares are common and nothing (well, except for that one bottle ...) is held back. In the spirit of converting the enthusiastic, Beer Geeks will happily open a whale for those who might appreciate it.
- VI -
A Beer Geek has a beer cellar.
Whether it's the crisper drawer of a refrigerator or a 2,000-bottle offsite storage unit, a Beer Geek recognizes that beer is a time-sensitive product that sometimes requires a month or a decade to mature. Potential domiciles are carefully evaluated for their beer storage and temperature control capabilities.
- VII -
A Beer Geek's travel plans revolve around beer.
Beer-centric vacations (beercations) — focused on visiting breweries, bars, and general regions that specialize in sought-after beer — are the norm. Beer is always brought back for in-home consumption and sharing, and a Beer Geek is intimately familiar with an airline's baggage policy. To facilitate hotel-room quaffing (and expand drinking time), a Beer Geek typically travels with a tulip glass.
- VIII -
A Beer Geek is part of the local beer community.
There is a social aspect to being a Beer Geek. Attending tastings, frequenting brewery taprooms, camping outside of liquor stores, etc. not only permit a Beer Geek to stay in the loop of local happenings, but also provide opportunities to share knowledge of the latest beery news. Inevitably, a Beer Geek's circle of friends will be made up of fellow Beer Geeks.
- IX -
A Beer Geek has a vast understanding of regional distribution systems.
Budding Beer Geeks quickly realize that the best and most-desired beer happens to be that which is not distributed to one's home state. It is essential that Beer Geeks know which breweries are in their local beer distribution system, but also the distribution portfolio of other areas so they can best determine how to acquire that must-have beer.
- X -
A Beer Geek keeps up on the pulse of the beer scene.
The craft beer scene changes rapidly, and one must stay vigilant to keep informed. In addition to being locally involved, a Beer Geek regularly cruises internet beer forums, follows breweries' social media feeds, maintains beer magazine subscriptions, and reads the latest beer books. A month or two out of touch will cause a Beer Geek to miss out on limited releases or epic tappings, causing a downward spiral that will surely lead to misery and desolation.
Beer Drinkers Commonly Confused with Beer Geeks
Beer Geeks don't typically fit into an easily recognizable mold, at least not in a physical sense. They come in skinny, rotund, old, and young. Outside of a Toppling Goliath shirt or a BREW OR DIE tattoo, there are not many ways to pick them out of a crowd. Instead, behavioral cues based on the Beer Geek Ten Commandments will tip you off to a person's affinity for fancy suds.
Unsurprisingly, the non–Beer Geek populous often mistakenly thinks that anybody who drinks great amounts of craft beer is automatically a Beer Geek. Meet the usual suspects ...
Craft Drunk. Knowledgeable about craft beer, particularly when it comes to high-ABV bruisers. An expert on the expected amount of alcohol in beers with names that include "double," "imperial," or "extreme." Considers an entire bomber a single beer and is the life of the beer tasting.
Ticker. If it ain't rare, it doesn't exist. The Ticker's only desire is to obtain and display the most hyped, rare beer. Once the beer has been drunk, there is no point in ever trying it again (hence the name, as the beer has been "ticked" off a list). Frequently posts beer "haul" photos on social media sites and makes snide remarks on beer trading websites. Has never drunk a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Also, often a Glass Snob (see Glassware: Always a Proper Vessel).
The Old Guy. Fell in love with craft beer during the '90s brewery boom and still refers to all craft beer as either "microbrews" or "imports." Avoids overly hoppy or funky beers but has a deep appreciation for the Euro classics. Has a best friend who used to own or work at a brewery, usually Charlie Papazian or Larry Bell. Often seen at chain brewpubs drinking mugs of kolsch and wearing a Pete's Wicked Ale T-shirt.
The Foodie. Has a profound love of culinary adjectives. Does not eat vanilla pudding but rather French-made, hand-curdled blancmange made from heirloom miniature Dutch cow milk. Applies same gusto to beers. Asks unsuspecting servers ingredient-sourcing questions such as Did they use whole leaf hibiscus in this saison? Is the coffee in this stout shade-grown? Tell me about the upbringing of these New Zealand hops ...
Beer Hipster. Longing for nostalgia (and broke from buying hundred-dollar hand-stenciled neck scarves), the average hipster often opts for retro-labeled canned adjunct lagers (perhaps not knowing they're just rebranded and brewed by industrial conglomerates). Identified by their combination of a waxed moustache and an affinity for beers or breweries with literary names (preferably nineteenth-century Russian authors).
Granola Junkie. Loves mountain-centric activities (hiking, skiing, biking) and beer. Opts for breweries that have at least one collaboration beer with a musician whose apparel portfolio includes tie-dye (preferably a bluegrass or jam band musician). Prefers low-ABV, balanced beers that lend themselves to activity-based imbibing.
BEER THE ROOT OF ALL
It's easy to get lost in the hoopla of beer trading, one-off releases, and beard- grooming techniques, but in the end, being a Beer Geek is really about a deep, unnatural love for beer. A love that transcends class, race, and sex and can only be completely understood by others who have seen that perfectly opaque, lightly carbonated golden light.
Since the time of the ancient Sumerians, humans have appreciated the result of fermented barley or, as we call it, beer. Way back then, it provided the multiple benefits of sanitizing drinking water, delivering sustenance, and taking the edge off after a long day of creating civilization. In short, the world as we know it wouldn't exist if it weren't for our forebearers' affinity for earthen mugs of ale.
Beer has been on a long journey ever since. From the first hopped beers in the ninth century to the barleywines of 1800s England, this sweet nectar has been gradually tweaked to match the tastes and ingredients of different cultures. In the globalized information era we live in today, though, brewers are only limited by their imaginations, and beer drinkers have responded enthusiastically, to say the least. Beer is making a strong case for the world's drink of choice, and Beer Geeks are banging the rally drum for all to hear.
The Ideal Beer
What does a Beer Geek look for in a beer? This is a complex question to answer, and every adored beer has a slightly different story. A common set of characteristics seems to surface among such beers, however, painting a picture of what it takes to brew Beer Geek gold.
Aroma: A beer must provide an aromatic experience. Beer Geeks savor their beer and get almost as much satisfaction from smelling it as drinking it.
Brewer credentials (optional): Most Beer Geeks pride themselves on being able to appreciate a good beer regardless of its producer. However, knowing a beer is made by a fellow Beer Geek makes it that much more enjoyable.
Mouthfeel: An IPA may be delicious and smell like a hop field in bloom, but if it has the body of club soda, the experience is ruined. Mouthfeel completes the package.
Complexity (optional): A Beer Geek may love the simple, acrid nature of a coffee stout. But to make her heart sing, barrel-age that same stout to add flavors of vanilla, caramel, and coconut.
Taste: A beer must taste good.
Brewing method: Beer Geeks pour their hearts and souls into their enjoyment of beer and expect the people who make it to have the same attitude when brewing. Beer Geeks thrive on learning and appreciating the work that goes into their brews, and therefore frown greatly on shortcuts.
Rarity (optional): A beer doesn't have to be difficult to acquire, but damned if that doesn't make everything taste better.
The Importance of Knowing (and Ignoring) Beer Styles
To truly love beer, a Beer Geek needs to know beer, and not just that it's made from barley and hops. One needs to understand the entire spectrum of types and their nuances. For example, a classic mistake of a noob (a somewhat derogatory term for one who has not reached Beer Geekdom) is to downplay pilsners, grouping them all in with the mass-produced American factory lagers. But a Beer Geek knows the bliss that can come from the floral hops and crisp, carbonic bite of a Weihenstephaner Pilsner. A firm knowledge of the subtleties that differentiate styles allows Beer Geeks to set an expectation for the beer before tasting it, enabling them to maximize the quality of their analysis and subsequent enjoyment (or critique).
The guidelines for beer styles are laid out and defined by two different governing bodies: the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and the Brewers Association. These two generally tend to agree, though the BJCP guidelines are typically more comprehensive while the strength of the Brewers Association guidelines is that they are updated more frequently and therefore include newly emerging styles (Brett IPAs, for example). For the most part, the guidelines were created for the sake of beer competitions so that beers could be judged against similar counterparts, but they are also used by brewers who design beers.
The style guidelines are written, reviewed, and maintained by an assembly of beer "experts" (historians, brewers, writers, drunks, etc.) who use their combined wealth of experience to come to a consensus on what characterizes a specific style of beer. The guidelines include a description of the expected appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and overall impression of the beer. Along with the descriptions, there are quantified specifics like IBU range, final gravity, color, and ABV. Since these guidelines are designed to aid brewers in designing beers, also included is information on typical or acceptable ingredients, as well as any historically significant brewing techniques (such as decoction mashing of a bock).
While no Beer Geek will argue the importance of being aware of and understanding the guidelines, many will debate their usefulness. Some say that using them to critique a beer is shortsighted, that they are arbitrary constraints that hamper creativity. The opposing side, the style tyrants, reply that the guidelines are critical, time-tested outlines that lead brewers toward creating the ideal beer.
Excerpted from "The Beer Geek Handbook"
Copyright © 2016 Patrick Dawson.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Beer Geek Initiation1. Beer Geeks: An Introduction The Geek and the Snob The Beer Geek Ten Commandments QUIZ #1: The Beer Menu Beer Drinkers Commonly Confused with Beer Geeks QUIZ #2: Are You a Beer Geek?2. Beer: The Root of All Geekery The Ideal Beer The Importance of Knowing (and Ignoring) Beer Styles Beer Types: The Good, the Bad, the Trendy Glassware: Always a Proper Vessel Serving Temperature: Maximizing a Beer's Profile One-offs: The Ultimate Attraction DONGs! The Exclusive Draft-Only, No-Growler Beers Beware the Collaboration Brew Beer Cocktails: The Scourge of Beerdom3. Breweries: The Exclusive Club Formula for Cool QUIZ #3: The Beer Geek Formula The Classics: Pioneers of the Geek Frontier Has-Beens, Sellouts, and Other Garbage Cult Breweries: The Pinnacles of the Brewing World QUIZ #4: Are you a Fanboy/girl? The Beer Geek Hall of Fame Staying Current: Internet Forums4. Procurement: The Beer and Other Geeky Goods Liquor Stores and Their Beer Guys: Types and Strengths Straight from the Brewery: Filling Growlers and the Like Online Beer Sales: A Last Resort Beer Trading: The Dark and Winding Path to Bankruptcy The Value of Beer: Learning to Recognize (and Disregard) the $/oz. and Other Metrics Brewerania: Coasters, Signs, and Other Junk Beer Geek Essentials5. Drinking: Where and How Bars: Types and Strengths Brewery Taprooms and Tours: Yet Another Mash Tun Restaurants: Drinking Beer with the Kiddos The Basics of Beer and Food Pairing Beer Festivals: Geeking Amidst the Debauchery Hosting a Beer Tasting...with Style and Grace6. The Beercation: Seeking the Source Belgium: The Motherland Germany: The Fatherland The Pacific Northwest: Beerlandia Colorado: The Napa Valley of Beer California: Beaches and Brews New England: Leaf Peeping and Beer Drinking Beerymoons and Beer Geek Weddings: Consummating Your Geekiness Patience Is a Virtue: Being the Spouse/Significant Other of a Beer Geek (by Lindsay Dawson) The Beer Geek Dictionary Commonly Mispronounced Beer Names and Terms