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A few cultural words

Stan Hieronymus, in his contribution to the latest Session, pondered on the meaning of Beer Culture. I had wondered about that myself about a year ago, when when discussing tastings.

I was going to write a long rant on the matter, but I realised I'd be repeating myself as I've discussed the topic before (more than once, actually), but there are still a couple of things that I think are worth mentioning (assuming there are any sort of things worth mentioning to begin with).

“Drinking socially” while sitting alone in front of a computer, smart phone or tablet, doing all the online routine of photo-social site-rating/review is to beer culture what cybersex is to shagging. I can be fun, I'm sure, but you still finish alone, washing yourself in the bathroom with no one to cuddle.

(On a side note, doing the cyberbeer routine while being with people, or taking tasting notes at a festival or a pub is even worse. That's like watching internet porn when the woman/man of your dreams is waiting for you in your bed, naked.)

Meanwhile, guided tastings are, by the most part, to beer culture what an umbrella following guided tour is to travelling. If you are lucky, your guide might be someone who knows their shit (as opposed to someone who knows shit, which isn't rare) and, if you pay attention and don't get bored, you might get some interesting information. But even then, you won't experience anything, not only because that information will likely not be all that different than what you could find in a good book, but you'll be shown only the surface, without even scratching it. The guide will move you from landmark A, to landmark B and so on, you won't interact or form a relationship with almost anything or anyone. You won't know anything about the real place, for that, you would need to take your own path and meet the people who actually live and work in that place.

It's the same with beer culture. In fact, I'd argue that a bloke who goes to a good pub to meet his friends for a few pints of whatever it is they are tapping there has more beer culture than the usual dwellers of either of the paradigms above. They might have more beer knowledge than our friends in the pub, but, though related, knowledge isn't the same as culture; as having one isn't a prerequisite to having the other.

Some would argue that both cyberbeering and guided tastings are manifestations of beer culture, after all, each involve codes are rituals. To me, thought, they are at best a subculture that, in a way, subverts the nature of beer, as they make the drinking and/or tasting of beer almost as an end in itself, instead of part of, or at most, an excuse for, a greater where and when. Those who don't understand that, don't understand beer.

Na Zdraví!


  1. I think the tasting of and writing notes about beer is the end for many young geeks. I may have done those things myself in the past, but there was a greater purpose: research for my website. Now that I don't bother about collecting information for my web pages I've pretty much abandoned all forms of note-taking as it can easily ruin the fun of beer drinking.

    I was greatly amused by a geek who couldn't understand why I didn't get bored drinking 5 or 6 pints of the same beer in a row. I think that sums up the gulf between me and geeks pretty well.

  2. I was prepared to sign onto the thesis based on the title' but I have to dissent. It's all culture. It may not look like the kind of culture you enjoy (which, though he won't cop to it, is Ding's problem). The weird amalgam of social media/judging/rating/fanboyism that makes up much of beer geekery is a feature of culture. It probably won't endure, but then, what does?

    1. I must confess to trying to provoke here a little. As i say in the last paragraph, it's a sort of subculture, but one, that in my opinion, doesn't benefit brewers in the long run (but then again, I'm not a brewery myself, so it's not my problem).


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