Beer Flight

the art of enjoying beer

By Matt Abendschein

Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Grab a beer
Step 2: Open the beer (if on draft, disregard this step)
Step 3: Drink the beer

Simple, right? Not necessarily nowadays. New social beer norms seem to have gotten jumbled within those three easy steps and have made me question whether or not beer is truly being enjoyed anymore.

You might be asking yourself, ‘Where’s the step where I check into the beer? Where’s the step where I take a picture of the beer? Where’s the step where I wait in line for two hours for one beer?’ It doesn’t matter if the beer is rated highly on RateBeer. It doesn’t matter if the beer is barrel aged or inoculated with souring bacteria found in a person’s beard. What matters is the environment in which the beer is enjoyed. By yourself in front of the TV. Around a picnic table with loved ones. In a bar with friends. These are the times that beer is most enjoyed (sometimes too much I must admit).

Am I guilty of doing the above? Of course I am, I have a beer blog. I’m at the forefront of enjoying beer by means of social media. I also check into many beers via Untappd as I feel it’s a great way to keep track of beers I enjoy and don’t enjoy. I’m writing this because sometimes I feel like I myself get lost in all of the hoopla and forget to just sit back and enjoy the beer. There is a time and a place for using social media, a time and a place for judging, and a time and a place to set your phone down and just drink the beer.

With so many beer blogs, books and groups out on the market now, beer has admittedly gotten more and more complicated. Opinions getting jumbled with expert advice, local joy turning into negative focus, seeking *’whales’ turning into black market sales and beer haul pictures turning into envy inducing pictures. The days of walking into a restaurant and seeing just a few beer options are now drowned in a snifter of craft beer. Now, many bars and restaurants employ certified cicerones (beer’s sister to wine’s sommolier) to help educate the general public on its sometimes daunting choices. Technology has also played a substantial role in bombarding the public with craft beer. With apps like Untappd and forums like Reddit, every craft beer nerd and beginner alike now has unlimited information at their fingertips, and with it also a desire to conform to new beer norms like checking into every single beer consumed on Untappd or dogging new breweries on forums because they entered the market with supposedly ‘boring’ styles. All of this information, all of these new technologies and all of these new social norms seem to (at times) make everyone experts with strong, often times negative opinions. Lost is the art of constructive criticism, now engulfed in a trench of beer snobbery.

I asked a few of my fellow bloggers what they think about some of these new social norms when it comes to beer and if they’ve helped or gotten in the way of enjoying beer.

Chris Troutman – Austin Beer Guide

I think tapping into (pun intended) the social media and forums around craft beer is a great way for folks who are just getting into the hobby, like any hobby. Especially if someone is exploring the craft beer realms on their own and have little to no actual community to connect with. I think in Austin we’re lucky that being a bit more centralized than Houston or DFW, it’s easier to connect with other craft beer folks in person. If that were not the case, I think I could see myself drawn to the online community more.

That said, I think these same helpful tools can and do get in the way of actually enjoying beer and the fellowship that comes with enjoying with others in person. I personally have found myself less and less engaged with my phone and more so with the company I’m in or just the beer I’m enjoying. Beer is a party beverage, I don’t party much online. Of course, some people do really enjoy consuming beer with one foot online, so I’m no one to tell them they’re doing it wrong. It’s just not for me.

Eric Puga – An Avenue, contributor to Austin Chronicle

Sites like Untappd have made drinking beer into some sort of complicated strategy, like trying to give parenting advice on Facebook. I see the benefit for casual fans to quickly look up a beer’s overall desirability, but apart from that, I don’t see the need to know what you drank at the lake that day.

The issue with beer sites that cull ratings, like Untappd or even Beer Advocate for instance, is the lack of social and pragmatic calibration. Whom is rating these beers, and what do I have in common with him or her to help me determine my preferences? 

Joshua Wright – Fort Worth Brew Scene

Facebook beer groups, especially in smaller numbers, I think it has done positive things for sharing of knowledge, asking of questions, news, and the community aspect on and outside of the social media giant. People that are idiots on Facebook are idiots in real life, so that’s going to come with the general experience, but I think that there are still a positive thing. You will find better groups if you stay in the smaller, but active groups, typically focused on an area smaller than the whole state of Texas.

The same can be said when comparing something equally as variable and objective as music in terms of craft beer. If I don’t have a frame of reference to help me determine one person’s ranking of a beer as more legitimate than the next, the whole set-up is negligent. Facebook groups are a bit of a better resource only because there is more context there. I can tell if your opinions suck compared to mine.

Just remember, beer is exactly that, beer. It’s a humble beverage that has always been meant to be enjoyed by the masses. I’m happy to see it’s being taken more and more seriously by the food and beverage industry, but I hope it never loses its humble inner core. ‘Craft Beer’ has gotten a bad rep lately with the terms ‘beer snob’ and ‘beer douche’ being thrown around. Do they exist? Of course they do. Anytime there’s something of high quality there will be snobbery, in any industry. But that shouldn’t deter you from continuing the long tradition of sitting back with friends and throwing back a few pints with heads up, eyes locked and conversations rolling. Beer has always been an amazing medium for bringing people together, and THAT should be celebrated, not your Untappd badge.

*For those that are unaware, a ‘whale’ is a term referring to a highly hyped and sought after beer that’s hard to acquire

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