Saturday, May 11, 2013

Beer, Brie and Douchebaggery

I'm not a wine drinker. Not only do I dislike the taste of wine, I dislike the whole CULTURE that surrounds the stuff. The most miserable way to spend an evening? Sit around in a wine bar watching (and listening to) pretentious, country-clubbing yupsters prattle on about some over-priced, fermented grape juice. There they are in their ironed chinos and pastel golf shirts, showing off their spray-on tans and designer eyewear, and making me sick. “Oh, Muffy, this Sauvignon is sublime. Pass the brie, please.” Ack.

No, I'm a beer drinker. A craft beer drinker, to be precise. I like to stomp into a beer bar in my biker boots and get some fine craft beer into my stomach without any pretense or formality. The problem is, more and more of my beer drinking brethren seem to be adopting the persona of the prissy wine snob. “Oh, Muffy, this Imperial Porter is divine. Pass the brie, please.” Double ack.

Gratefully, this snooty affectation hasn't permeated the Portland beer scene to any great degree. Most taprooms in Stumptown are still patronized by scruffy, bearded gents and earthy, hairspray-less ladies. Folks who like to get together for a few delicious cold ones and share some raucous good times. However, during a recent trip to Southern California, I found a significant number of the aforementioned yupsters have infected the beer scene there.

I had a particularly terrible experience at one famous brewery in the San Diego area. The place touts it's taproom as some kind of international bistro. The atmosphere is supposed to be upscale, and I have to admit that the brewery and surrounding gardens are immaculate. Unfortunately, there's also a serious amount of douchebaggery afoot.

Things got off the a rocky start when I approached the little hostess at the “bistro”. She gave me a look-over and told me quite dismissively that if my family wanted “just beer and appetizers” we could sit in a cordoned-off area next to the bar. She motioned to the spot and scampered away. Jeez, it kind of reminded me of being relegated to the Loser Table in the high school cafeteria. I went back and told the young lady that we would be dining in the main room, with table service, thank you. I may look like a redneck piece of trailer trash, but I have a few dollars in my wallet.

Once inside the dining room, I was saddened to see the most expensive and oddly inappropriate list of appetizers and entrees that I've ever encountered anywhere. Not a French fry was to be had. Not a Buffalo wing in sight. They did have ceviche and quail knots, however, and the most expensive pretzels ever. The lunch items were just weird and pretentiously complicated. Of course, they also had quite a few of their brews on the taplist. Not a single one could be purchased for under eight bucks and they were all served in fancy-dancy stemware. They had a boatload of wine on the menu, too, and sissy cheese plates galore.

Frankly, you'll never see me genteelly sipping a beer, while wearing an ascot, with my pinky extended. Hey, if that's how you enjoy your beer, more power to ya, but really...ack. Beer is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated--the louder the laughter, the better the beer. Yes, there is a certain level of beer snobbery in Portland, but generally, the brewers and people involved in the beer community here are incredibly friendly and down-to-earth. They are usually more than happy to tell you ALL about their wares and freely educate anyone who asks about the wonders of brewing beer. 

Let me say this straight out: If you are a brewer who feels you need to somehow elevate the IMAGE of beer: F**K YOU. There, I said it. I'm not too impressed by image, but I can be put off by it. Cultivating an image of exclusivity may be a good marketing ploy, I guess, and perhaps you'll make a fortune doing just that—or you may lose the loyal customers who got you to the level of success you're enjoying now. But what do I know? I'm just a beer drinker. 

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