Beer is a product that is surrounded by a huge amount of often impenetrable terminology. From dropping bright to sparging out, the wonderful old language associated with brewing maintains a link to history. I love, and use them all (assuming I know what they mean, which is rare). But there’s one term recently nudging it’s way into the mainstream that I really can’t stand. No, it’s not craft beer – we’ve covered that in the past. It’s beer geek.
There are many people I know who are proud to label themselves like this – and fair enough to them. How do you classify yourself a beer geek? Have you ever scanned Twitter for a local beer night in six months time and started to email everyone in your beer circle? Can you recite every hop in each Sierra Nevada seasonal? Is there a fancy bottle opener on your keychain? Do you have a BrewDog tattoo? If so, you may be a beer geek.
At least two of those questions I would have to answer in the affirmative – so to you, I may also be a beer geek. But to me, that term – even when used in a self-deprecating fashion – borders on the insulting. I know, how thin-skinned of me. But that skin bristles when I hear those two words, I just can’t help it. Even something as ‘hip’ as geek chic doesn’t sit well with me (using the word hip in inverted commas is probably the least ‘hip’ thing I’ve ever written).
The connotation here is that people who call themselves this know more about beer than others. Sure, this may be true – but then why is that knowledge wrapped up in a detrimental term? It’s like people being proud to be bad at maths. I’m terrible at maths, but that’s not the point – is there anything ‘trendy’ (I’m doing it again) about good beer? Or does calling yourself a beer geek mean you’re automatically outside the trends, and therefore setting your own agenda?
Back in the day, the original geeks and nerds were science majors on American TV – universally depicted as bespectacled, socially clueless outcasts. At the time, co-incidentally, your author was a short-sighted marine biology student with a love of Atari videogames. These parallels are coincidental, clearly. The fact that the meek have risen up and reclaimed the term is all well and good, but for me, being called a geek still stings a little (even now, having discovered contact lenses and deodorant).
So if you want to identify a person who has an interest in a slightly different, more unusual arm of the beer world, let’s call them a Beer Fan, or a Beer Lover, or something. Maybe even something not sickening or contrived. But not beer geek. Cast off your sellotaped eyewear. Stand up and be counted. Just be counted as something other than a crude pigeonhole. If style guidelines can be blurred, why not the profiles of those who drink the beer?