Beer Industry Reacts to ‘The New Yorker’ Cover
Cicerone Certification Program, Chicago
I agree with your sentiment that there’s never been a better time to be a beer drinker in America. Certainly if you are interested in flavor and variety.
As for snobbishness, it is often the refuge of those whose knowledge only scratches the surface of a subject. This is certainly true in beer where many enthusiastic but relatively inexperienced consumers cling to the small territory that they think is cool and look down their noses at other spheres of beerdom. (Yeah, I’m talking about you, Mr. I-only-drink-double-IPAs.)
A love of variety in beer and specifically in beer flavors is what created this industry. It has been a defining element of the industry ever since. “Flavor and variety” was the mantra I used to define craft beer as an industry spokesperson before there was an official BA definition.
As for our role in this, I have said from the beginning: “Beer is a simple pleasure.” The consumer has the right to enjoy great looking, great tasting beer regardless of what they order. They shouldn’t have to know about or worry about proper beer service: they should just get a great beer.
Our Beer Drinker’s Bill of Rights—put out several years ago at [the Great American Beer Festival] and on our website since—tells servers what they need to deliver and confirms the consumer’s right not to have to worry about any of those details while at the same time expecting them to be fulfilled. Link: http://cicerone.org/content/beer-service
Unfortunately for those who sell and serve beer, getting it right isn’t simple. That’s why we educate people in the business about what should be done. And it is also why we focus our efforts on those who are in the beer business rather than going out and teaching this stuff to consumers. But because we are in the age of fanatic interest in food and beverage, regular consumers are becoming more and more knowledgeable about all aspects of gastronomy and beer is one of those things.
Ultimately, ordering a beer should be no more complicated that ordering a croissant. Everyone who sells and serves beer has a responsibility to help the consumer enjoy beer as simply as they wish to. If I come in, read the menu and know exactly what I want, then that beer (or croissant) should be delivered both looking great and tasting great. If I have questions before ordering, then those questions should be answered just as clearly and knowledgeably as if I asked whether the chocolate croissant was made with milk or dark chocolate. And should I arrive at your table (bar) having never tasted rhubarb (or Flanders Red), then you’ll face the challenge of describing the flavor of it before I can order a pastry filled with that delight.
Beer is no different than many other foods: It is varied on many dimensions of flavor and comes from many different traditions and cultures. Exploring that is fun; mastering it can take many years. Knowing about it is cool but being arrogant about it sucks and is stupid. No one—not me, not our Master Cicerones, not any great brewer—knows everything about beer. If you embrace what YOU DON’T KNOW and enjoy learning then you can enjoy learning about beer your entire life. If you act like you know it all then you won’t learning anything more and you’ll soon become bored with what you do know. A pity for you!