In my last post, I introduced my flatmate Shelley to iStout. She adored it. She put the bottle on display in the kitchen (a very rare thing in our ridiculously tidy flat), so that she would remember what it looked like and buy it. I thought she was happy with her new-found taste in beer.
Then she greeted me on Sunday night with ‘You suck’. Apparently it was all my fault that she’d be craving iStout all weekend. She’d gone to the supermarket, but the only Stout they had was six dollars a bottle and she knew that I’d paid a fair bit more than that and figured it wasn’t a very good one. My general lack of beer stocks in the flat was also remarked upon.
This afternoon, I received a phone call from Shelley at the supermarket, asking whether she should get Cascade or Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Before I knew it, she was home, pouring us a bottle each the Young’s. ‘It’s nice enough,’ she decided, ‘but it’s not iStout.’
It appears I’ve made a convert – a slightly indecisive and fussy one, but a convert nonetheless.
In the midst of my self-congratulating, I began to think about new beer converts. We beer geeks spend a lot of time talking about gateway beers, but what happens when our newbies are through the gate and into Beerland? Here they must navigate supermarket aisles and liquor store fridges that seem to offer either an overwhelming amount of choice or very little at all. There’s a whole new nomenclature to learn and different brewers to discover. Then there are literally thousands of beers to taste and make decisions on.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the only way to explore Beerland is to jump right in and get tasting. But there’s small things we can do to help the beer grommet along. Be willing to share your beer and knowledge with them. Encourage them to join a SOBA or a regular beer group so they can learn from other people’s successes or mistakes. Have patience if the person in front of you at the taps takes a long while making their decision.
While I’m sure beer geeks will do their best to be welcoming, I do wish a bit more was being done in the retail and hospitality industries to help beer grommets on their way. In my local Pak’n’Save cheese section, there’s an excellent sign that briefly explains the different varieties of cheese. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have one in the beer aisle as well, looking at different styles? On my last visit to Liquorland Newmarket, the manager took the time to help me with my beer selection and answer my questions. Wouldn’t it be lovely if every liquor store had such a person on hand?
Beerland is an exciting place, but it can also be confusing with it variety and choice. Hopefully, with a few cheerful guides and helpful signposts we can make it a little more welcoming and encourage people to stay a little longer – or move in permanently!