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What is a Beer Connoisseur?

(Issue 23)


James “Nick” Nock (head brewer at Sweetwater Brewing Co.) – “Being a beer connoisseur means you are able to go out and drink 15 different beers, then get a 16th beer, find out that it sucks, and then quickly ask for a 17th beer.”

Joe Formanek (expert judge at

“For me, a beer connoisseur is someone who can appreciate the entire world of beer – and the differences, similarities and variations of the different styles found therein. A beer connoisseur has an understanding of the styles and what makes them different, and has the ability to articulate the differences. This isn’t saying that the connoisseur actually likes all of the styles. The connoisseur will undoubtedly have certain styles that he prefers over others, but at least there is that understanding to differentiate between styles.

A beer connoisseur is not judgmental regarding beers that others might prefer, and appreciates that peoples’ palates are different. This is in diametric opposition to a beer snob, who has a narrow appreciation of different beers and styles and tends to fervently make their opinions known regarding what they feel is “the best beer out there,” which is typically their favorite beer at that time. Snobs also have little appreciation of other peoples’ palates and preferences.”

Jon Wojtowicz (Beer Liberation Specialist at Short’s Brewing Co.) – “A beer connoisseur should be a welcoming ambassador to beer, happily taking those who know little about beer "under their wing" to be enthusiastically educated and shown the endless possibilities that exist in beer, literally making it the beverage for everyone. A beer connoisseur should be a passionate educator who never uses their knowledge for exclusion, but rather, they are always looking for the future craft beer drinkers of the world to share in the excitement of one of the most integral beverages responsible for shaping human civilization.”

​Nelson Crowle (expert judge at – A beer connoisseur has a very broad knowledge of many beer styles, appreciates quality, and is trained to pick up on all of the nuances that go into making a beer: the beer style, the malts used, the hops used, the yeasts used, the brewing technique, etc.

Now that we have the "formal" definition out of the way – Being a connoisseur means doing research (yep, that means drinking beer) as much as possible – always learning, always expanding your knowledge base. Be nerdy and take notes, or don't. Be open-minded. Try everything to find your favorite styles, and you'll determine what beer to order with different foods. Share your experiences – be an evangelist (but try to not be a beer snob) and help others by sharing your knowledge.

Don't expect everyone to have as much enthusiasm as you do. You'll encounter people who are perfectly content to drink near-tasteless fizzy yellow water. You can try to get them to sample other beers, but if they're happy, then don't worry about it; enjoy those tasteful, hoppy, malty, bitter, fruity, sour or spicy beers yourself! Your reputation as a connoisseur will grow and your friends will start coming to you for recommendations. Stay upbeat and excited about the beer – your enthusiasm will be contagious!

Beer connoisseurs can start at any level of knowledge – so if you're not one yet, start now!  Sample as many types and styles of beer as you can. Try homebrewing. It's amazing how much you can learn about beer by making it. When you go to a brewpub, get the flight instead of a pint. Talk with the brewer, get a tour of the brewery. Hobnob with fellow beer connoisseurs, learn, and share your knowledge and experience. It's a win-win for everyone!

Josh Weikert (expert judge at
“Certainly not being a beer snob (at least, it shouldn't be). It means that you make an effort to appreciate what you're drinking and not be a passive observer in your own drinking life. Beer doesn't exist to get you drunk; it's a culinary experience, and being a beer connoisseur simply means that you're aware of what you're tasting.”


As you can see, there are some differences of opinion on the matter. Most of the answers have been colored by whatever role the respondent has in the world of craft beer – be it judge, brewmaster, journalist or PR rep.

However, one common thread that spins through all of the responses is the ability and desire to discern quality in everything they do that’s beer-related. They are always searching for the newest, tastiest craft beer. They are always digging deeper, discovering that craft beer can be a viable hobby, career and lifelong pursuit. Most of all, they are all chasing their passion.

So keep on searching for the best beer you can. Go out to your nearest bottle shop, brewpub, brewery or bar and strike up a conversation. Chances are you’ll learn something – about beer, about the person you’re talking to, or even about yourself. The world of beer is vast, and sometimes all it takes is the will to explore.



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