12 August 2013

The Ten Commandments of Good Craft Beer Citizenship

A few weeks ago, the Brewers Association reported that during the first half of 2013, sales of craft beer increased by 15% in terms of sales and 13% in terms of volume. Further, there are now 2,538 operating craft breweries nationwide, which is an increase of 446 breweries over last year. And in Indiana alone, there are 56 breweries and counting.

In short, lots of people like craft beer, and that number is only going to grow in the near future.

With more people on the craft beer train, however, has come the increased likelihood that some of those people will engage in less-than-desirable behavior--behavior that shows that some craft beer drinkers are not good citizens. In other words, we're talking about craft beer assholes.

We at Hoosier Beer Geek have discussed this sort of craft beer drinker and have looked at their behavior with dismay. So we thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of precepts that we think help make a good craft beer citizen. So here, in no particular order, are our Ten Commandments of Good Craft Beer Citizenship:

I. Thou shalt not hoard. Sometimes, demand for a particular beer far outstrips supply, especially for the breweries that produce the iconic, limited release beers of the craft beer world. You know, your Dark Lords and Heady Toppers, just to cite a few examples. But really, do you need to have it all to yourself?

No matter what Gordon Gekko said, greed is not good. Greed is not right. Greed does not work, especially for limited release beers. Screw greed. Fortunately, many brewers put a quota on how many limited release beers each customer may buy. But some do not. And so, for example, one jerk uses mules and trickery to hoard more than 30 bottles of a limited release beer.

Don't be this person. You don't need that much beer. This, by the way, is a good segue to next commandment--

II. Thou shalt share. Twice a year, we stage an event called Tailgate for Nothing. We do so because we like getting together with friends to share our craft beer stashes. Indeed, stuff piles up in our beer cellars over the course of the year because we're a bit compulsive when it comes to trying different beers. And we don't want to keep it all to ourselves. Yes, that Dark Lord was damn expensive and hard to come by, but do you really want to drink that bottle by yourself? You'd be nuts do so. What's better than having others grab a snifter, sit down with you, and partake in the wonderful beer you have? You'll make your friends happy and might just make some new friends in the process.

III. Thou shalt not disparage another's beer preferences. Everyone has different tastes. That's just the nature of being human. My palate is different from your palate; ergo, my palate will naturally like different flavors than yours. For example, among us Knights of the Beer Roundtable, there are certainly different preferences. Jason doesn't care for sour beers; I don't like most barleywines; and a fair number of us aren't into rauchbiers.

So why disparage a craft beer drinker who doesn't like particular craft beer styles? This isn't a test after all. You don't have to like IPA's to be a part of the club.

And consider this: We craft beer enthusiasts are still a small minority of beer drinkers. That means the vast majority of those who drink beer are still doing the macro thing. That's fine. We all started there, didn't we? So it doesn't do any of us any good to tell someone drinking a PBR that they're an idiot. Which leads to the next commandment--

IV. Thou shalt be welcoming to macro drinkers. We're not saying that you have to be a craft beer evangelist, though some of you certainly will want to be one. And we don't see anything wrong with spreading the word about craft beer. Therefore, if you are going to proselytize, be cool about it. Nearly all of us craft beer lovers began as macro drinkers, so put yourself in your old self's shoes. Did you want to be talked down to? No, you didn't. So if you're going to try to turn on other people to craft beer, be courteous. And don't get pissed off if your macro-drinking friend decides that he wants to stick with Bud Light after you've shown him some craft beer alternatives. Some people don't like, and will never like, craft beer. That's okay. The world will keep rotating even if you haven't grown the number of craft beer drinkers.

V. Thou shalt try beers whose names don't include the words "imperial," "double," and "barrel-aged." Just like you, we like "big" beers. But there's more to craft beer life than these kinds of beers. There are plenty of well-crafted session beers out there for everyone to love. Seriously, have you tried flavorful session beers such as Founders All-Day IPA or The Bruery's Hottenroth Berliner Weisse? So don't turn up your nose to session beers. At least give them a shot, even if your palate ends up rejecting them.

VI. Thou shalt know other styles besides the IPA. The India Pale Ale is probably the quintessential American craft beer style. And there are plenty of outstanding IPA's out there. But the craft beer world is so much bigger. American craft brewers are resurrecting delicious, long-lost styles such as Gose, Berliner Weisse, and Zwickelbier. So get out of your IPA rut and be adventurous. That's what craft beer is about, isn't it? And segueing to the next commandment--

VII. Thou shalt give lagers a chance. We've heard other craft beer drinkers disparage lagers with a disturbing frequency. "They don't have any flavor." "They're too pedestrian." Perhaps this attitude is a hold-over from their macro-drinking days. Regardless of the cause, this attitude is short-sighted when craft breweries like Chicago's Metropolitan and St. Louis's Urban Chestnut are centering their brewing efforts on producing some outstanding lagers. And in Indiana, Upland, People's, Fountain Square, and Sun King are just a few of the breweries making some excellent lagers. They're worth a try, particularly as a departure from the standard pale/IPA/porter/stout/amber/wheat ale lineups that you typically see.

So all we are saying is give lagers a chance. And our apologies to John Lennon for stealing his shtick there.

VIII. Thou shalt not turn up thy nose at a beer just because it contains adjuncts. While some brewers might still adhere to Reinheitsgetbot, ain't no laws in this country requiring that beer be made of only water, barley, yeast, and hops. Yes, fruit has its place in some beers. Drinking a fruit beer doesn't make you "girly" (Don't get us started on sexism in craft beer circles; that's a topic for a whole other post). And--gasp--other grains besides barley, such as corn, have their place in a beer depending on the style of the beer. Have you ever had a cream ale, such as New Glarus's Spotted Cow? Chances are that it was brewed with corn in the mash. And that doesn't make it any less of a beer.

IX. Thou shalt remember that beer is meant to promote good times and conversation. For some people, the drinking of craft beer has become a business venture. And there are some great businesses based on this purpose. But why do we love craft beer? Because it brings people together. Because it's a social lubricant. Because drinking beer means having a good time. We would all be well-served if we kept this in mind.

X. And finally, thou shalt remember that when all is said and done, it's just beer. Craft beer is not the end-all be-all. It's not going to cure cancer or poverty--though craft brewers are providing their communities with lots of jobs, which is something that we can all get behind. Craft beer is not going to bring together the President and Congress to solve the nation's lingering economic difficulties. And craft beer is not going to get the Israelis and Palestinians to get along.

In short, the thing we love is just good beer, and drinking it is just a pastime, and a fun one at that. So don't try to make craft beer more important than it really is. Just enjoy it. Life will not end if you didn't get a ticket to the Festival of Barrel-Aged Beers, the Great American Beer Festival, or Dark Lord Day.


  1. 7... I sin about commandment 7 all the time. Pray for me.


  2. Thinking on #4 and #8... I review all kinds of beer on Ratebeer, and while my tastes are definitely tipped toward craft brews, I'll give props to or recommend a mega-brewer's "boring" pale lager if it's clean-tasting and generally palatable. Just because it may have rice in the grain bill or be one-dimensional doesn't make it horrible...my lowest scores are reserved for any beer with noxious qualities or off-flavors. After all, brewing to style for a lager is no mean feat.