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CURRENT COLUMN Crafty About Beer (A Beer Manifesto)


For a long time now, I've held wine conneiss – wine conniseurr – wine snobs in contempt. They go on and on about teeny variations in the taste of Chardonnays and Merlots, using descriptive adjectives like "woody," "spicy," even "skunky" when describing some Cambodian Syrah they dug up in some obscure wine shop. Puh-LEEze! The vast majority of common folk who'd drink wine for some fancy dinner would be  perfectly happy to know that certain reds are sweet, others are dry, and the whites are pretty much the same, but, uh, whiter.

Now I do like wine – what's not to like about alcoholic grape juice? But in the last decade or so, I hesitate to admit… oh hell, I'll come clean.

I'm a beer geek.

Yes! One of those holier-than-Anheuser-Busch types who makes the sign of the cross when confronted with a bar filled with Coors/Miller/Bud (the Unholy Trinity). One of those skulking figures hanging around "beer bars" with their Doppelbocks  and French Farmhouse Ales. Give me a Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (13 percent alcohol; matured in bourbon barrels) over a Heineken any day! I salivate at the thought of a Smuttynose Brewing beer event! (calm down, John… OK).
Well, with THAT out of the way, how can I justify my beer snobbery when I think wine snobs are such posers? Hmmm… I guess it's the sheer variety of beer styles and flavors that are popping up nationwide in the new "Craft Beer" era. (By The Way, don't be fooled by the Blue Moon Wheat Beer and Michelob ads that stick the term "craft" in their slogans. The real "craft" brewers don't have mega-breweries and massive distribution, and they don't use cheap crap like rice to "mellow out" their brews). Red, white and pink wines are OK, but beer runs the gamut from light hefeweizens, lagers and pilseners through pale ales and amber bocks to fruit-flavored lambics to dark roasty brews like brown ales, porters and stouts. Don't forget the super-hoppy IPAs and the sweet Belgian Tripels and Scotch ales. American regional and local brewers are leading the world in experimenting with new grains and flavorings. And the world is taking notice; England, home of bland and warm (to Americans) Bitters and Ales is starting to see new brewers copying the extreme styles of American pioneers like Dogfish Head in Delaware and Stone in California. Brooklyn Brewery's legendary head brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, has collaborated with famous European brewers on special beers. He also has published the seminal work on matching beers with food. Beer – it's not just for Frat parties anymore!

I do realize that there are times when I am perfectly happy guzzling an Amstel Light or Stella Artois (the Budweiser of Belgium), usually at some alumni party or gallery opening where they think this is "fancy European" beer, but  there is a beer bar culture growing that's beyond the sports bar camaraderie and singles bar posturing. I can sit down at a beer bar and within five minutes I'm chatting with my stoolmates about what I'm drinking, what they're drinking, what we should try next, etc. If I run into a beer novice, well, I become Michael Jackson (the dead King of Beer Writers, not the dead King of Pop), and walk the newbie through the Wonderful World of Craft Brewing! Like iced coffee? Try a coffee stout. More of a lager lover? Sample real German lager or some variation like Blue Point Toasted Lager. And if you're a real "hop head," there are double IPAs and Barleywines (high-alcohol ales) that'll curl your tongue up! I gave a female friend who hates beer a Flemish Sour Ale (tastes like a vinegary apple cider, but no fruit in it), and she was amazed (and she drank it all)!
My doctor isn't real thrilled with this "hobby" from a dietary standpoint, but hey, I could be a Chocoholic. Though, actually, have you tried that 85 percent dark chocolate Lindt candy bar? Ahem… I digress… Being a beer geek means I tend to pick hotels on my trips that are nearby local brewpubs and beer bars. It means I pick up "brewspapers" like the Ale Street News, Beer Advocate and Yankee Brew News. It does not mean I want to brew beer myself! Waaay too much trouble (plus you need a real clean workspace, which all my friends know is not to be found in MY apartment!).

My name is John, and I am a beer geek ("Hi, Johhhnnnn!"). But my 12-step program involves 12 pints of the best, most interesting malted beverages the world has ever brewed. Crafty of me, huh?

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Uncle Johnny's Corner features occasonal random thoughts (approximately whenever the spirit moves Uncle Johnny to write omething new)

Uncle Johnny's "day job" is as an audio engineer and producer/writer. He lives and works in New York City.

John and David used to be partners in a syndicated radio production firm.
They remain close friends.