A casual relationship with craft beer is dynamic. Life priorities, work, other hobbies, and how much money you can budget for beer all factor into how big of a part craft beer can be in a life at any given moment. Despite the ebb and flow of drinking craft, I’ve noticed four definite phases of craft beer nerdery.
Phase 1: Finding What You Like
“I only drink IPAs” or “I prefer dark beer” is what you’ll hear these folks saying at the local taproom. That’s fine. I was a strict hophead during my first four years of legal beer drinking (seven years of hopheadedness if you count illegitimate forays—you can take the hophead out of the IPA aisle at BevMo, but you can’t take our resin-destroyed taste buds!). In phase one, you purchase the occasional six-pack of craft beer, probably Sierra Nevada or Deschutes, probably from Safeway, and you finally discover the breweries that have existed in your town for years. Oh, to be young again.
Phase 2: Claiming to Be a Beer Snob
Phase two is the end of the road for most people, as it is quite a lengthy phase. You’ve found what you like, and you go hard at it. This is also the phase when a craft beer drinker spends most of his or her money. Phase twoers discover beer mail, thus rendering all monthly income zero. Phase twoers also discover the local bottle shop (“they have Delirium Tremens!”), and now have “favorite” taprooms or breweries. It’s not uncommon for craft beer drinkers to lose friends during phase two, especially if those “friends” don’t take beer seriously enough (e.g., “Jessica brought Grapefruit Sculpin to my barbeque last weekend, so I might forget to invite her next time”).
Phase 3: I’m Thinking About Becoming a Cicerone
Here’s where a craft commitment can get tricky. Phase three is the existentialist phase of a craft beer drinker’s life. There are SO many questions:
–What am I doing with this empty bottle collection? It’s just more destruction in an earthquake. And my insurance couldn’t understand its value if something happens.
–I should join a gym, since not drinking beer isn’t an option anymore, and I’m starting to feel it in my gut.
–I need to redo my budget so I can buy two $24 4-packs a week. I thought brewing beer would save me money, but I keep buying new gadgets for maximum attenuation!
–Should I try to turn this problem hobby into a problem job? Can you get paid to drink beer? Maybe I should start a blog.
–Why don’t I just become a Cicerone?
At this point, all your friends and family know you as the beer person. If they have any questions about beer (or, more likely, if they want to send someone a picture of the Lagunitas kettle sour that they liked even though they don’t like sours), you’re always front-of-mind. So when you finally get the courage to mention you’re working on becoming a Cicerone, your mom thinks that’s a great idea!
Phase 4: It’s Still Just a Hobby
Now, in between working your day job, trying to get enough exercise, reading about alpha acids and Reinheitsgebot, and writing the occasional unrelatable article that basically translates to “10 Beers I’ll Describe Because You’ll Only See Them In Your Dreams,” you realize: Wow, a well-made Marzen is a really nice beer. Which is craft beer nerd for, “What the fuck have I been doing this whole time?” I’ve made this into a competition when everyday people are enjoying beer just to enjoy it. And then you Google “certified cicerone annual income,” which is silly because it’s not a job, it’s a certification, but you do it anyway. And it all makes sense: drinking craft beer is neither a personality trait nor a career. It’s a goddamn hobby—until it’s part of your job, which is where Phase 5 begins.