Craft Beer Self-Righteousness
“Churches are full of judgmental, self-righteous people.” As a pastor, it’s a charge I hear often enough, and most folks are surprised when I respond with a hearty, “Yes, they are.” Just as surprising might be my next response, “That’s no surprise really, since most of us walking around are pretty self-righteous about something.”
We are self-righteous about all sorts of things: how much we bike (compared to those car people), how much we recycle (compared to our neighbor who never puts her bin on the curb), how educated or informed we are (compared to those people who only read People magazine or only watch one cable news program). The truth is most of us spend a fair amount of time and energy being judgmental, we just often don’t recognize it or admit it.
Craft beer drinkers might, in fact, be more self-righteous than your average person. I know, I’ve been there (still am, if I’m being honest). We sneer at someone drinking “industrial swill” (aka something brewed by Anheuser-Busch). We sneer when someone says things we find silly like, “I don’t like hops” or “I only drink light beer.” And for the longest time, we’ve sneered whenever we saw someone drinking beer out of can.
Canned beer was often considered the stuff of lesser quality beer. It tasted metallic to many people (another spurious claim: the cans are coated, just like kegs), but mostly it just felt wrong. Good beer was put in kegs or bottles or growlers. Cheap beer was put into cans. Everyone knew that. It was often the first lesson you learned when your friends introduced you to good beer: avoid the cans. Head to your local beer retailer and you’ll see what I mean. The wall of beer is often clearly separated by canned beer (brewed by larger, “commercial” brewers), and bottled beer (brewed by craft brewers). The problem is, most of the negative perception around cans isn’t justified. It’s more about perception than reality.
Sierra Nevada is doing their best to change perception. Though even the purists will sneer that the Chico brewer is turning “commercial” (as opposed to craft brewers who aren’t interested in turning a profit?), it’s pretty tough to argue that Sierra Nevada brews poor quality beer. In fact, it might be the height of hypocrisy to avoid Sierra Nevada simply because they are boosting production. They don’t seem to care much about perception, because they are challenging it again by putting their flagship beer into cans. Do your best to withhold judgment, but I’ve been drinking beer from a can lately.
In preparation for our annual backyard Memorial Day BBQ, I went beer shopping. Perusing the aisles of the Nugget I noted that the 12 packs of cans for Sierra Nevada were on sale, and thinking shrewdly about how little space was left in my refrigerator (all that food!), I thought it would be a good idea to get the very stackable cans. I didn’t necessarily anticipate being berated by some of my party guests for drinking canned beer all afternoon. Yet I was. (Side note: the good news is that many of my friends drink great beer and thus, when invited over, take said great beer with them. The bad news is that they can then be snarky about other beer put into the communal cooler.)
The pale ale from Sierra Nevada is their most popular beer and is a staple for many craft beer drinkers. Often, if you want something on tap and the restaurant you are dining at only has a few choices, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is usually available. Now, you can enjoy a really good pale ale in more places than usual. The problem with bottles is the places they aren’t allowed: golf courses, pools, and many other outdoor events. Cans are allowed, but the craft beer choices in cans were limited, so many of us could be found drinking beer we weren’t that fond of simply because it was our only choice in those places. The benefits of cans don’t stop there, of course. Not only are they more portable, but they are environmentally friendly by being lighter than bottles which impacts shipping and storage. They are durable and won’t shatter in a million pieces when you drop one. Indeed, a dropped bottle is not only a hazard, but more importantly, a waste of good beer. And of course, the most important benefit of cans, they keep beer remarkably fresh.
But the pale ale from Sierra Nevada isn’t worth drinking simply because its one of the few good beers in a can. It’s just flat out worth drinking. A classic pale ale, it doesn’t overpower with any bitterness or hops, but is a smooth drinking ale that is a summer staple in my fridge. When its hot out and you want to drink something a refreshing ale that isn’t loaded with alcohol, a pale ale is a good choice and the pale from Sierra Nevada is classic.
I confess, I’m often self-righteous about all sorts of things, including the beer I drink and the beer I notice others drinking. Truth be told, I found myself being entirely self-righteous about my choice of canned beer on Memorial Day, especially in the face of “persecution” by other party goers. Thankfully I have people in my life who are willing to point out from time to time, and a church that allows and encourages me to admit, just how self-righteous I can be. I’d argue its healthy to recognize and admit our tendency to be self-righteous – it can be cathartic to do so. But admitting it is only step one. Changing your behavior is next. So if you are the sort of person people often refer to as a “beer snob,” head to your local beer retailer, grab some cans of Sierra Nevada, and sip a good beer out of a can. You might just find the whole experience liberating.