Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Beer Guru: Enlightenment Can be Yours

This is kind of a counterpoint to Gene's "Beer Geek" which was itself a counterpoint to my "Beer Snob." I offer up for your consumption a new archetype: The "Beer Guru." A guru is typically somebody who has great wisdom and knowledge but uses it to teach others. You sometimes find them on mountaintops with yetis and goats, but more often you can find them in your local beer club or homebrew store. Before getting to our final score sheet (since lots of you seem to like grading yourselves) let's see what makes this Guru unlike Gene's Geek and my Snob.

This is not the idea at all.
Geek vs. Guru

A beer guru believes that all beer should be sampled, in agreement with Gene's Geek. However, a beer guru also believes that the person producing the beer is very important. I brought this up before but it deserves to be repeated. Every time you buy something you're essentially voting with your dollar. The ramifications of buying a 6-Pack from a non-micro is that your money goes to support the lobbyists who are primarily trying to put micro-brew out of business (by creating legislation which only the big brewers can conform to.)

In other industries this usually makes people angry because it hits some hot-button topic. Chick-fil-A recently got into a lot of trouble for giving food to an anti-gay marriage group and boycotts were called. Going back a little further Domino's Pizza was linked to anti-women's rights group funding and boycotts were called. Unfortunately the group defending micro-brew is relatively small and quiet. If you really care about the movement you'll boycott big cheap beer whenever possible (but not because you hate the taste.)

Being a guru is about seeing all the ramifications of your beer drinking decisions, rather than just swilling mindlessly. That said, the Geek is still a valid personality type, just less socially minded (in my opinion.)

Snob vs. Guru

My previous article on beer snobs wasn't exactly on point with some of your expectations. Some of you went along with what I was saying about the term "snob" now just meaning "expert," but some of you thought I meant real honest to god snobs. There are true snobs out there and I didn't really discuss them. Let's examine a literal beer snob and see how they compare to the guru.

Snobs and gurus share the same knowledge, but a snob has no feeling of social or moral obligations. A snob has sought out this information so that they can lord it over others while a beer guru has discovered that their love of beer has lead them to enlightenment. Snobs will grudgingly answer questions and try to keep others beneath them in a perverse game of "king of the hill."

A beer guru wants to bring people into the fold and has no problem with those people attaining even greater knowledge than themselves. I'll be the first person to admit that Gene knows more about brewing and beer than I do, but I'll also be the first person to congratulate him for it. It's that type of attitude that separates a snob from a guru in any topic. There are car snobs (BMW?), horse snobs, wine snobs, sports snobs, movie snobs, etc. The list goes on forever.

Here's some proper guru-type qualifications for you would-be mystics to gnaw on:

1. You fell into your knowledge without seeking it out
2. Your greatest pleasure is sharing a great new beer with friends
3. You believe all beer, even low quality can teach you something about yourself.
4. You never put others down for their choice of what to drink (unless it contains clam juice)
5. You'll patiently answer any question about brewing or beer in general, no matter how simple it may seem
BONUS - 6. You'll never put somebody down who doesn't share your opinions about what great beer is

As always I welcome your comments. Let me know if you agree or disagree with me below! Are you a guru or did one help you on your way?


  1. Nice article Nick. If the big distinction between "Geek" and "Guru" is being socially minded, I guess I'm a geek. That said, I know exactly what I'm doing when I buy Miller Lite. I know I'm supporting the MillerCoors, but I also know that if a smaller company made a better tasting beer that also had 3.2 carbs per 12 oz, I'd buy that instead.

    I'm voting with my dollar for what I want, and sometimes that's a light beer with very few carbs which also still has alcohol in it. As Gene pointed out, sometimes a lighter beer is just what the doctor ordered, and even a Hefe or pilsner is too heavy. I've tried many light beers, including Yuengling (not great) and Sam Adams (same), and have yet to find one that captures what I'm looking for sometimes: Light, low carb, enough alcohol. I'll change my vote when a better candidate comes along. That said, I'm open to any suggestions you may have in this area.

  2. It's not possible to brew industrial products that have been highly processed, so you're out of luck on that one. You can't make your own diet coke and this is pretty much the same kind of thing. I'd honestly hesitate to call a low carb beer "beer," in the same way McDonalds isn't a "hamburger."

    I'm not sure if there's a non-industrial equivalent but let me know if you find one.