So you want to be a beer geek? Great, we all do. It’s not as easy as it looks, though. You see these cool dudes and hip ladies bellied-up at your city’s hottest beer bars and wish you could be like them. But right now you’re nothing more than a guy or girl just starting to like “good beer.” And that’s simply not enough in this day and age.
How does one even make the massive leap to full-on beer geekitude? Surprisingly, the actual beers you drink are often secondary. Instead, follow these ten lifestyle tips, and soon you’ll go from being Average Joe Sixpack to finally gaining entry into the inner sanctum with those grizzly guys sporting the Toppling Goliath hoodies.
Improve your language!
First, you’re gonna have to learn to talk differently. Quit being a rube who claims to like “dark beer.” That’s not a thing. And quit proudly describing yourself as a “beer snob.” The orange-rimmed Blue Moon glass says otherwise. Instead, use pretentious buzzwords and industry jargon your typical barfly has never heard of. Sprinkle your conversations with obnoxious terminology like “sessionable,” “horse blanket,” “’loons,” and the phrase “what’s on cask?” This will quickly signal to anyone in the immediate vicinity that you are deplorable. I mean…a beer geek.
Improve your facial hair!
It’s downright trite to assume every beer geek has a beard. In fact, I’ve found most female beer geeks don’t. But, yes, if you’re an aspiring male beer geek, you’re gonna have to start growing out the whiskers. Razor money could be better spent on saisons anyhow. And another thing: Don’t you dare manicure or try to tame your facial hair. Let it grow wild. Nicely coiffed beards, waxed mustaches, and other follicular follies are strictly the domain of the mixology community.
Improve your body!
A respectable beer geek comes in all shapes and sizes, but mostly large and larger. And to obtain that body, you’re going to have to drink. A lot. Sure, you thought you drank heavily before, but now that you’re an aspiring beer geek, you’ll quickly realize you were nothing more than an amateur. If you live in any sort of decent beer city, there should be an event every single night and you need to attend most of them. Tap takeovers, limited-bottle releases, beer festivals…you should also subsist on a exercise regimen of casual sitting and a steady diet of bar food just to add more girth to your ballooning frame. A beer geek without a belly demands no respect. (There’s a minor subset of skinny “beer runners” out there, but let’s ignore those weirdos.)
Improve your excuses!
What with all this rampant drinking, people are going to assume you’re now an alcoholic. Clearly you are not—you’re a beer geek! Tell them that. Ask them if an alcoholic would drink vintage gueuze on the regular. Tell these naysayers that you don’t have a problem because you don’t need beer. You just like trying a lot of different beers. It’s why you get wasted on several bombers of beer per night by yourself. If necessary, pull out the big guns and tell these doubters, “I would drink craft beer even if it was non-alcoholic.” Pray no craft brewers ever calls you on that bluff.
Improve your dress!
Most people build their wardrobe through years of weekend shopping excursions. You’ll build your wardrobe on the weekend as well, only without ever having to get off a barstool or visit a dreaded shopping mall. Instead, every time you go to a drinking establishment, simply point above the bar to the logoed Gildan t-shirt tacked to the wall and ask, “Got any XLs?” Now wear those beer shirts proudly, wherever you go, until the logo is peeling off—or until the brewery’s beers have become passé and you would be totally humiliated if someone actually thought you still drank that shitty swill.
Improve your ordering!
If you’re just getting into the game, negotiating a craft beer menu can be a daunting task. Watch as the weak-willed sheepishly ask the bartender for a tiny sample of a few beers they’re trying to decide between, like they’re at some ice-cream shop debating between rum raisin and mint chocolate chip. A real beer geek doesn’t waste time on samples. To a beer geek, a whole beer is the sample. Before you arrive at an establishment, you should have already made a long mental list of all the beers you will sample that evening. Sure, most will inevitably suck, but if most beer didn’t suck, you wouldn’t have anything to be snobby about in order to prove you know more about beer than the non-geeks.
Improve your beer buying!
A normal person goes to the supermarket or corner store to buy a six-pack or a case. He or she then drinks that beer and only that beer until it is gone, before returning to the same store and often buying that exact same beer. A real beer geek knows that good beer is not bought at supermarkets or in bulk, and often it is not even for drinking. For purchasing, it’s preferable if you’ve never tasted the beer before, best if it’s rare, even better if the socially-awkward “beer guy” you pretend to have rapport with had to go to the back room to get you a special bottle since you’ve become such a valued customer as you now visit the beer store more than you visit your own office.
Improve your beer storage!
Your refrigerator is now only to be used for mass-market beers you serve handymen and guests you don’t particularly like. A beer geek keeps his real beer in some place more special. Afford a portion of your house or apartment to the beers you are stockpiling. Call this your “cellar” even if it’s just the floor of a jammed coat closet your wife begrudgingly set aside for your new hobby. Proudly show this “cellar” off when important company comes over. Never dare drink any of these beers. Eventually read on online beer forums that some of Firestone Walker Anniversary beers or Bourbon County variants currently residing in your cellar have “gone south” or are “past (their) prime.” Trade those beers away to a less-savvy beer geek for other special beers you’ll also never drink. (Photo: inkybeer.com)
Improve your condescension!
Someone who likes good beer only cares about what he or she is drinking. A beer geek must care about what the whole world is drinking, conspicuously listening in to others’ uninformed beer conversations as he sits on his barstool all alone, always trying to find a good chance to butt in. Snicker at that happy-hour hero’s mispronunciation of gose (“Actually, it’s goes-uh.”), guffaw when a kriek makes some punter’s face pucker up in a painful wince (“Thought it was going to be sweet, huh?”), and always be sure to give highly-acclaimed beers that others love a mere three stars on Untappd (“Totally over-hyped.”). That’s what us beer geeks fondly call “advocating.”
Improve how you get drunk!
Most importantly, you’re going to have to improve how you get drunk. You used to drink beer because it made you feel good. Because it acted as a good addition to watching the game, hanging with friends, or romancing a potential bedfellow. Beer geeks don’t need any of those dumb things to go along with their drinking. In fact, many of those things just get in the way of contemplating the beer. Avoid hanging out with people you actually like—those people almost always have bad cellars and don’t enjoy talking about barrel-aging programs. Instead, cultivate quid pro quo “friendships” with a crew of chubby, bearded guys in Prairie Artisan Ales t-shirts. You don’t have to actually like these people—in fact, many will repulse you. You are simply trying to get access to their own rare bottles in exchange for access to yours. Do so by arranging what are called “bottle shares” in seedy back rooms. Drink tiny pours of these rare beers since 40 different geeks have to drink from that one rare 750mL bottle. Talk about these rare beers. Never talk about anything else in the entire goddamn world. Realize later on that you don’t actually know anything about your new beer geek friends—except that Jimmy has that Double Barrel Hunahpu’s you really want to try, and Michelle’s collection of Cantillons is top notch. You’re gonna fit in quite nicely as a freshly minted beer geek.
Aaron Goldfarb (@aarongoldfarb) is the author of the upcoming The Guide for a Single Man and The Guide for a Single Woman.