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Beer has gotten awfully fancy. Bluejacket, the brewery and restaurant in a former industrial building in Navy Yard, makes a pale ale with “soft yet supple aromas of grapefruit, grass, and fresh-cut flowers.” At Dacha Beer Garden in Shaw, a saison is “rustic with hints of ginger and coriander.”
It’s gotten serious, too. When a friend tells me he heard about the beer he’s drinking on the website BeerAdvocate, I nod politely. The website rated it a 4.5 out of 5, he says. OK, 4.5, got it. Should I be writing this down?
Beer is supposed to be the drink of the people, so it’s tempting to roll my eyes when I watch a bartender fill a beer glass, pour it out, fill it up, pour it out, and, after a while, serve the beer, once it’s been poured just right. Nobody wants to drink a pint of foam, but can’t beer be consumed without having just enough head to tickle one’s palate or please the aesthetes?
To each their own, I guess. As for me, I don’t like the taste of beer. I don’t like how damn much of it you have to drink in one serving. That puts me in an awkward position when friends or colleagues drag me to one of the many beer-worshipping establishments in the District.
Bracing myself, I’ll tell the bartender, “I’d like the house red,” if they offer such a thing.
“Wine,” a friend will inevitably observe. “Fancy!”
Or maybe he’ll just needle me with a grinning, wordless “Oooh!”
It’s mind-boggling that ordering the cheapest, most generic wine makes me snooty. Meanwhile at Meridian Pint in Columbia Heights, you can order a 12-ounce bottle of beer for $30—and you get to do it next to a mural of two working-class Joes raising pints of beer and a third fellow hoisting an American flag. How the drinkers of chichi beer see themselves reflected in this image, I do not understand. Ordinarily, you need a few drinks in your system to become this delusional.
Isn’t it odd, the way fancy beer drinkers feign shock at someone drinking wine, and the way they surround themselves with proletariat iconography? Maybe it’s the cognitive dissonance that comes when their humble beer features notes of caramel and costs as much as a cocktail made by a self-titled mixologist.
Beer snobs can’t seem to accept that their preference is just that, a preference. If you don’t like beer, they want to shame you or change you. I’m glad they found something they love, but why can’t they leave the heretics alone? Worse still is the moral superiority bon vivants claim in acting like their fussy beer is as unpretentious as a Bud Light.
Craft beer snobs remind me a little of Donald Trump. Both have a taste for the luxurious, but they’ve managed to con vast numbers of Americans into believing that they’re just like the common folk. Beer may have deserved its down-to-earth reputation in the past. But as craft beer has gone mainstream, our cultural notions need to catch up with reality. These brews shouldn’t get to inherit the mantle of anti-elitism, not when the beer’s “aromas” are this “supple.”
Click here for more stories from the 2016 Beer Issue.