I’ll never condone being a dummy. Education keeps life interesting and I’m afflicted with a constantly curious mind. Working in the craft beer industry, however, I’m immersed in the nitty-gritty of 100s of different hop varietals, barrel-aging techniques, and specialty malts — at any given time. And sometimes I find myself thirsty for an uncomplicated pint. I wonder: can knowing too much ruin a simple pleasure like drinking beer?
If visiting a brewery taproom feels more like an episode of Jeopardy than a low-key adventure, signs point to yes. There’s certainly a time and a place for quizzing the beertender about a brewery’s history. And if you taste a rare brew you like, there’s nothing wrong with asking about the recipe or brewing process. Moderation is key, and here we’ll apply a philosophy that spans more than just beer drinking: don’t take yourself too seriously.
Craft beer is a fun, collaborative industry. One need only read a list of silly-named beers like New Kids on the Hops (Altamont), Ninja vs. Unicorn (Pipeworks), or Fist Bump (Cloudburst & Stoup) to realize that the eccentricity behind some of our favorite brews is often what catches our interest — bonus points when the flavors and overall sipping experience charms us as well.
What I mean to say is, beer invites more lightheartedness than medical science or accounting, for instance. The world will not stop turning if a brewer combines Mosaic Hops and coffee, and then ages it in red wine barrels…for no reason other than to test our palates. And sometimes a good ole’ crisp AF Pilsner doesn’t warrant further discussion beyond “this is the perfect BBQ beer.” Maybe, on occasion, drinking a beer and not talking about it is just the chill pill we need to fully appreciate it.
*For anyone who does want geek out and delve into the specifics of beer styles, brewing history, and flavor identification, I’m considering starting a Cicerone Certification study group meetup in Seattle. Let’s grab a beer, talk about our place in the larger brewing universe, and maybe even share some flashcards. (Don’t worry, we’ll always make time for a no-frills brewski or two.) Sound scintillating? Comment on this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org — if I hear from enough of people, it’s on!