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When I first started writing about beer – long before the craft brewing industry had gained the foothold it has today – I often referred to myself as a beer snob. And then I met some real beer snobs – ridiculously pompous twits who viewed those who did not share their level of beer expertise as lesser human beings. After meeting a few honest-to-god beer snobs, I decided never again to use the word snob for my own beer enthusiasm.
I always wondered what turns a person into a snob. What makes someone climb atop a high horse because they are convinced they know more than anyone else on a subject?
I saw this happen to a guy I’ve known for several years. He recently discovered homebrewing, after he had been fanatical about making his own wine for a short time. Now he appears to do nothing but brew beer, think about brewing beer or, to most everyone’s dismay, pontificate about beer.
In a very short time he has gone from not the slightest clue about beer and brewing to someone who is willing to give a beer lecture to anyone who will listen. Yes, a lecture. He doesn’t converse about beer, he delivers monologues.
I ran across him recently, and by the time he got to lecturing me about Berliner Weiss, I had to stop him and say, “You do now I know all this stuff, don’t you?”
I’m afraid he has become the worst kind of beer snob, which is one who thinks he knows it all but, in reality, does not.
I missed this particular exchange, but a mutual friend was with the beer snob at a beer bar when he ordered a McEwan’s Scotch Ale, which is a Scottish beer. It is, in fact, the first Scottish ale.
But the beer snob had never heard of it. He only knew of some of the more heavy-handed American craft brewed Scotch ales. The McEwan’s, he said, did not deserve to be called a Scotch ale. He refused to finish the beer.
Well, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but to dismiss the original Scotch ale as inferior to American versions of the style is blind snobbery.
Just to make sure that I was not making a mistake about McEwan’s, I tried one myself. Yup, a delicious, slightly sweet 8 percent Scotch ale, just as I remembered it from the days I first came across it while living in England.
But why just rely on my own sense of taste? I contacted the brewers of McEwan’s Scotch Ale, Wells & Young’s Brewery in Bedford, England (I knew their beers well, having lived just down the street from the brewery for a time).
Guy Shreeves, the brewery’s head of international marketing, responded.
“Wells and Young’s have acquired the McEwan’s beers and recently launched McEwan’s Scotch Ale back into the market after a two-year lapse from the previous owner,” Shreeves said. “The beer has been brewed to the original recipe and we took great care and attention to the point of speaking to a number of key followers who had contacted us and got them to taste some of the trial brews. Feedback thus far has been extremely positive, and a following is growing for the beer on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/#!/McEwansScotchAle). By Wells and Young’s buying the McEwan’s Beers, we have been in a position to save these beers and bring them back to market, something Heineken (previous owners) were very unlikely to do.”
So, to beer snobs everywhere I say, lighten up. You may be missing the point.