So regular readers (if I have such a thing) may have noticed a decrease in my posting frequency. With the opening of Golding’s I’ve had a noted lack of time and will-power to write anything. Speaking of which Garage Project Major Goldings was a smash hit with the 30 litres lasting about an hour. The beer turned out kind of like a hoppy-wheat-ESB; quite drinkable and a little odd.
Anywho, posts are about to get even less frequent, as I’m off on an short beer-research trip to San Fran, taking in GABS on the way back. This’ll probably be my last post for a few weeks, so I thought I’d better make it a good’um.
Those active on the more beer-y section of the Twittersphere may have noticed this conversation going down (click for a larger version):
Take a moment to read that, it’s quite the rant. It’s something I’ve encountered before too. Every now and again you meet a customer that insists that:
A) Pilsners are not lagers (they are), and
B) Beer Geeks are a some sort of breed of lager-hating fascist-nazis.
I experienced this several times at Hashigo, records of which exist here, here and here. The usual complaint was that either the staff at Hashigo wouldn’t serve lagers, which was odd, because there’s always one on tap and several in bottles, or that we would mock anyone who dared order one. Again this is odd because why would we serve something if we didn’t want people to order it? Indeed the idea we would mock every person that ordered a lager is pretty ludicrous, because tap pils was our biggest seller. More to the point if I’d taken the time to mock every lager drinker, I’d never have had the time to get anything done in the day.
Anyway, back to the issue at hand. My personal experience of this was much similar: a chap came up to the bar one busy weekend at Hashigo and ordered a lager. We had some sort of pils on tap, and I recommended it to him. “I don’t want a pilsner, I want a lager,” he said.
“Pilsners are lagers,” I said.
“No they’re not,” said he.
“Actually they are, you see it’s a matter of yeast…” and I launched into an explanation of yeast varieties and the taxonomy of lagers. Hell, I’d have pulled out map and shown him Pilsen if he wanted to see it.
However, it wasn’t to be. I noticed very quickly not only his attention but also the will to live sliding off his face. Sometimes when you need to temper your enthusiasm when talking to non-Beer Geeks. So I gave him the short version: “Take it from me mate, pilsners are a type of pale-lager that originated from Czech town of Pilsen.”
“Alright, I’ll take one of those then.” And all was good again.
Or so I thought, until I went to go clear some glasses and walked past his group. I watched him take a swig off his beer and grimace. “Fucking bartender. He tried to tell me pilsners are lagers. They’re so full of shit here.”
Listen buddy, my anatomy is not equipped with middle-fingers big enough for the likes of you. I was seriously pissed of at that guy, but I didn’t tell him that. In fact I let it all slide. Looking back on it, it wasn’t that he didn’t know about beer styles or didn’t share my passion and geekery. In the end, I resented him because he insulted my professionalism as a beertender. Beer is my passion, and I bartend to share that passion with other people. I’m good at bartending, and if each day I can help a customer derive the same pleasure from beer as I do, then I consider that a good day.
Back on track now and to my original point: pilsners are lagers and anyone who tries to say otherwise is speaking out the wrong orifice. But what about Beer-Geeks hating lagers? Well, for starters it’s not true; I’ve spent the last three years serving lagers to the beer community of Wellington. Secondly, most craft breweries make a lager and frequently it’s their biggest seller. So this assertion that geeks just don’t like lager is utterly false.
That said, there is another issue lurking in the background like a bad smell: accusations of snobbery. Certainly I’m no stranger to being called a snob. I’ve even occasionally worn the badge proudly. But it’s never a nice thing to be called and I also think it’s quite unfounded in most cases and especially with Roland and Brother’s Beer.
You see I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon in over the years working in a beer bar: if someone comes into a bar and asks for something you don’t have, they frequently can take it as a personal insult. This happens most often with the big branded green-bottle lager drinkers and can be quite vehement at times.1 On more than one occasion I’ve had said to a customer “Sorry we don’t have [Heineken/Stella/Steinlager/whatever]” and had people react as if I’ve told them to go fornicate with their own mother. In most cases I try to recommend a nice alternative, but frequently the battle is lost. They either splutter “what’d ya mean you don’t have [beer XYZ], you’re a beer bar, what kind of beer bar doesn’t have [beer XYZ]?” or occasionally, they just walk out.
And then they send angry tweets. Or post bad reviews online, calling you and your establishment snobs and wankers. And what are you supposed to do in that situation? You really can’t win. What you should try to do is be polite and find them a beer they’ll enjoy. Educate, don’t exclude. And I think Brother’s made a fairly good effort to do just that (at least until the end, but hey, they’re only human) and I hope I do in that situation too. But if they’ve already walked out, or like Monsieur Roland, won’t engage with the bar-staff, there’s nothing you can do. They’ve excluded themselves.2
Now I’ve been thinking about this, specifically why this happens. Why is it that some people take a bar not stocking a particular beer as badly as they’d take take an insult to their own mother? I think the answer is a lack of understanding. You see they just don’t understand a Beer Geek’s passion for flavourful, independant beers, and why they rail against bland corporate beer. Not serving Heineken is to us a logical expression of our passion. But to Roland’s ilk, it makes us mad, pretentious, snobs. He just doesn’t get it and probably never will.
And you know what? We’re all guilty of this on some level. For example, take the British Cornish Pasty Association. They’re passionate about pasties. Ok, I can understand that. But why do they declare carrots to be sacrilege in their official recipe? That I don’t get. To me that makes them mad, pretentious, carrot-hating pasty-snobs. I just don’t get it and probably never will.
How about an example closer to home? How about CAMRA then? I will never understand what those guys have against carbon dioxide. C’mon guys, some beers are better fizzy and cold. Deal with it. Frankly I think CAMRA (or at least elements of it) are a bunch of gas-and-lager-hating, elitist snobs.3 Is this starting to sound familiar? I like real-ale as much as the next Beer Geek, but a slavish devotion to only cask-conditioned ales is to me frankly ludicrous. I just don’t get it and probably never will.
So perhaps we’re all as guilty as Roland of not understanding each other’s passions. Ok I take that back, we’re not because we don’t go making dicks of ourselves on Twitter. And that I think, brings me sideways to the point I’m trying to make. People have some odd passions and we all need a little patience and understanding with them. Whether we be the expert Beer-Geek trying to explain why we don’t sell Heinie or the bewildered everyman who’s just trying to get a beer with a label he recognises.
Alright I gotta stop here, before I go full-hippie. Peace and Love, ya’ll.
Also, pilsners ARE lagers, FFS!
- Although it can also happen with craft drinkers. Not dyed-in-the-wool Beer Geeks obviously, but if I had a dollar for everytime I’ve heard an outraged “What’d ya mean you don’t have [Epic/Moa/Emerson’s/Renaissance/Green Man Tequila Beer]?” Usually because it’s the only craft label they know and are comfortable with. And no, I’m not joking when I say Tequila Beer.
- Although I did hear a rumour that this mysterious Roland allegedly works for a major liquor brand, which would put an entirely different spin on the whole thing. I’m in no position to confirm or deny that though.
- Admittedly, my impression of CAMRA is probably poorly coloured by reading the comments sections on the Zythophile Blog and by small handful of members that have come into Hashigo and been utterly fucking rude, insulting, sanctimonious, knob-heads. A large section of SOBA members are CAMRA members and good people.