Beers with a Stoic: Your luxury beer “list” reeks, so stop pretending it doesn’t


Consider the following a composite.

One thing I’ve always tried to do is advocate for my segment.

It means nothing negative to me if an everyday tavern in the middle of the Great Plains carries only mass-market beer. That’s because there are no expectations, on my part or theirs.

But it’s different for the new generation of curated, collated and chic restaurants and bars. There’ll never come a time when I’m not triggered by the hushed availability of hand-tugged free-range goat’s milk for a mixed drink, while the beer list is comprised of AB-InBev mockrobrews, Coors Banquet, and various seltzers listed under the “local beer” column.

Pretentiousness about certain other genres of alcoholic beverages, when inflicted on me at the expense of beer (my own specialty) by the peak influencers of our day, just plain gripes my cookies.

Yes, pretentiousness is a word that might well have described me during selected moments in the past, and if so, these lapses probably stemmed from an intense frustration that Scotch, Bordeaux, Wagyu or Truffle enthusiasts gush all heavenly and rhapsodic about their passion, then order a Miller Lite or PBR to wash it/them down, subsequently babbling nonsensically about beers they evidently don’t understand by saying things like, “sometimes you just NEED a Mich Ultra.”

No you don’t, unless it’s time to shampoo your dog. As the Brits might say, “you dozy pillock.”

Admittedly there was a time when I’d think to myself that “two can play this barmy game,” and retaliate with my own exceedingly high standard of pretentiousness, to which I excel when challenged, although later in life I thought better of it and decided that if the latest, greatest cocktail crafter or champagne snob wishes to be that way, then I quite consciously won’t.

My plan may even have worked on occasion.

A few months ago a new bar opened in my general vicinity, and we were subjected to the usual media hyperbole about the unalloyed genius of the proprietor. Wheels were set to be reinvented and hitherto unknown vintage drinks conjured by means of a séance in the mysterious cellar speakeasy, or some other patented nonsense.

There’d be vast and suitably pricey selections of all known distillates, wines and bubbly, mixology, theology, pee-ology and whatever other bits of gibberish that “newspaper” reporters never bother questioning these days as they accept every last portion of bilge they’re shoveled.

The primary sources of information about the new bar didn’t mention beer, and eventually  I found a menu on-line.

Yes, beer is available.

No, it’s not particularly interesting; nothing a 22-year-old bar manager couldn’t order blindfolded.

It drives me crazy knowing that if I were to ask exactly how such a mediocre collection of beer for the newest greatest bar in the city came to be selected, the same answer as always would come bouncing back at me:

“We have a rigorous panel of certified Cicerones who comb the finest craft and imported beers, carefully taste them, and blah blah blah blah,” when we all know the way it actually worked was the rep came in, quoted a three-case deal on abominable High Life, and said yeah, we can discount a keg of Rhinewurst on top of that and scatter some swag.

Give me a fucking break, will you?

I’m aware of your stellar employment record and previous achievements, and I know quite well you’re just as good as they say on the liquor, wine and cocktail side of things. I wouldn’t think of denying you these skills, or trying to take anything away from you. In fact, I hope your new bar succeeds, because it’s good for everyone else if it does.

But just one thing: I’ve been in the beer business for 42 years. I know what I’m doing, too, and when you throw back this crap about how hard you’re working on the beer list, it merely insults my intelligence and makes me cranky to see the predictable underachievement.

Don’t kid a kidder, bonzo.

In return for me displaying my characteristically remarkable equanimity, perhaps you resolve to respect my know-how, too, and refrain from showing me a dozen beers like these, which are purely average, while insisting they match your oft-touted lofty standards and Mezcal and Amontillado.

Because your beers don’t match up to your booze; they’re not even close, and wishing isn’t likely to make it so. If you don’t know anything about beer, which I suspect is the case, then the very last thing you should do is ask a beer wholesaler.

Do you seriously think any of them know squat about beer?

It’s easy. Admit you know nothing about beer, and find someone to help you.

Maybe even a Cicerone