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What is a Beer Connoisseur?

(Issue 23)

 


Jim Dykstra (Editor of The Beer Connoisseur) – “A beer connoisseur is a sensory thrill seeker who understands that beer is a means to communion with others, or oneself. They are discerning yet non-judgmental of others’ choices, and hoard only to share with others when the time is right. They understand styles, etiquette and hierarchies but don’t get hung up on them, and know when it’s time to sip or guzzle. To ascend to true connoisseur-dom, one must seek out a three-ounce crystal snifter, to be stowed in a velvet pouch tucked safely under the belly, and must wield it with a reverence afforded to the holiest of artifacts.”


Jeffrey Stuffings (founder of Jester King Brewery) – “Someone who appreciates the history, techniques, philosophy and nuance behind beer, but ultimately realizes that it's just a conduit to great conversation and human interaction."


Jester King founder Jeffrey Stuffings stirs the mash (Photo Credit: Wes Morrison).


Nick Burgoyne (lead wood cellar brewer at Sweetwater Brewing Co.) – “A beer connoisseur is someone who goes to buy beer and gets two things: something they’ve never tried before and something they already know is good.”


Rick Franckhauser (expert judge at BeerConnoisseur.com) – “One who perceives and understands the differences between good beer and great beer and can explain why.”


Andy Parker (Chief “Barrel Herder” at Avery Brewing Co.) – "​When I think of a person that I consider a beer connoisseur, I don't think of someone who has rated 10,000 beers or tried a beer from every country in Africa or stands in line all night to get the newest $100​ bottle​ ​​​release. I think of people who put thought into what they're tasting, but​ ​don't necessarily need to use extravagant, flowery adjectives to describe it. Most of the best tasters I know can accurately describe a beer in 10 words or less. They can nail the flavors of a beer so well in those 10 words that I don't even need to try it​!​ I already understand what's going to happen if I put it in my flavor hole. Then I try it anyway, because beer is good for you.

A beer connoisseur is aware that there's no ‘Greatest Beer in the World.’ After a while, beer​ ​fits into three categories for experienced tasters: top-tier, decent and drainpour. Arguing over the best IPA or sour beer is just silly. There are dozens or even hundreds of IPAs in that top tier, and anyone declaring that a single beer is miles ahead of the rest is only telling you that they think very highly of their own opinion. I can be equally happy with a Westvleteren 12 for a food pairing or a Coors Original on a hot summer day. They're both impeccably well-made beers, so at the right time and place they're both top-tier.

A beer connoisseur spends time learning to appreciate a technically solid beer even if it might not be something​ ​they necessarily prefer. While some subjectivity is bound to seep in, a competitive beer judge does​ ​​their​​​ best to stay as objective as possible. A little training in technical off-flavors definitely helps, but isn't necessarily required as long as the potential beer connoisseur is aware of this simple fact – you're never going to know everything about tasting beer. There will always be flavors that your palate is simply unable to taste and there will always be flavors you prefer or try to avoid. No matter how highly you're trained, your palate will never be perfect every time. The best tasters are always ready to say that they could be wrong about a particular beer or that their opinion could change.”

Photo Credit: Avery Brewing Co.


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