Last weekend I was hired for the daunting task of taking a group of 22 Swedes out for beer. Nice gig, can't complain.
We went first to Pivovar U Tří Řůží, where I had arranged a tasting of all the six beers they had on tap that day. It worked out pretty well. I introduced each of the beers (which were all really, really good), answered the questions some of the people in the group asked about them, and about brewing in general, while the rest mostly talked about what they were tasting. Everyone was satisfied.
With the tasting behind us, we took the tram to Klášterní Pivovar Strahov, where we were to have dinner. We had two, long tables with benches (I love long tables with benches, they should be mandatory at every pub) in a room we would have to share with two other groups, bigger than ours—one of people in their fifties, the other, of students.
Fortunately, we were the first to arrive, and we could order the food and the first round before the other two groups showed up. (though it should be mentioned that the staff was great, even when they were serving more than 100 people). Unlike at the tasting, here the questions about the beers were few; the Swedes seemed to be more than satisfied with getting mugs full of the excellent stuff they make in Strahov. Everyone was in a good mood.
After the other two groups had arrived, an oompah music duo started playing. I dislike dechovka as much as the next non-retired urbanite, but I must admit that in a crowded beer hall that sort of music makes more sense than anything other. Soon everyone was swinging their mugs, banging the tables or clapping to the rhythm of the music. When the duo was not playing, each of the groups would sing their own songs, really loud, to the appreciation of the other two, and also of the staff. One of the Swedes even got the whole place to do a Mexican wave. Everyone laughed and sang, and had a riotous great time, with the exception perhaps of a couple of the kids in the youngest of the three groups, who felt too cool to be having so much fun. It was a terrificly fantastic evening, and I got paid for that!
For some reason, on the bus back home, that all got me thinking about the bit of a shitstorm Shock Top raised when their latest marketing campaign dared to suggest that craft beer is pretentious. Man! Didn't some people get their knickers on a twist!
It's all quite silly, of course. A beverage can't be pretentious. Would a bottle of, say, Heady Trooper or Dark Lord start making faces at me if I fancied mixing the beer with Fanta, or if I necked it while watching Dr. Who and eating frozen pizza? Some people would, certainly, and would likely try to convince me that I'm doing something wrong.
So, it's not the beer, but some of the people surrounding beer that often make things look so, with their serious faces, esoteric language, guided tastings, food pairings, elaborated tasting notes, right glasses and proper serving temperatures.
I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with any that, quite the contrary. Firstly, because in its worst manifestation, it's nothing but marketing dressed as a cultural thing. Secondly, because, marketing or not, there are people who truly enjoy all that. At the same time, we must not forget that there are many other people (more?) that see only pretentious, snobbish bollocks in all that premeditation and seriousness, and all the things one needs to get right to “properly” enjoy a beer; and if not that, they see it as something that sucks the fun out of their favourite tipple, and you can't blame them, just like you can't be surprised if a company uses it in their marketing.
But back to my story. As well as the tasting at Pivovar U Tří Řůží went, I don't think I need to tell you where it was that we had the most fun.
PS: Thanks Aaron and Taste Local Beer for the gig!