The modern craft movement has ridden a wave of IPAs to its current status as growth industry of the moment. As the movement continues a lot of new people are hopping on board with just enough information to make themselves more confused than necessary.
Quick story. Currently on tap at Craft is Lookout Brewing’s Black Mountain IPA on tap. You may have read a review of it. A customer comes up to the bar talking to his friend and is trying to describe a black IPA. He proceeds to order the black IPA on tap. I look at him confused and say, “There isn’t a black IPA on tap.”
“Yes, there is, the one from Lookout Brewing.”
He wasn’t from North Carolina so he had never heard of Black Mountain, he saw Black and IPA in proximity and just thought it was the beer style he heard so much about.
That brings up another point, most good craft beer bars will have the names of the beers written above the taps so you can read the information yourself. This is a participatory endeavor by the way.
Yet I digress.
There are so many styles that people hear about and read about that it can be confusing. How does someone who is just getting into craft beer navigate all the information and how does someone who has been in the craft world for a while help newbies without being condescending?
If you want a good overview of beer styles, go the craftbeer.com and click on the Beer Styles section. This will give you nice surveys of almost all beer styles and also give you commercially available examples of each style.
If you want to get even more in depth go the Beer Judge Certification Program page and click on Style Guidelines. This will give you a listing of every beer style that is judged in competition. It goes deep into the style including acceptable characteristics (including stats such as AVB and color range) as well as the history of each style.
Another way is to ask your bartender questions. If it is a good bar, they will know enough information to get you started at the very least. I love answering questions about beer and talking about beer. Also I would rather you ask me what DIPA stands for, then have you order a double IPA, start drinking it, and complain that it is really hoppy and has lots of alcohol in it.
That leads to the next point, which is that we who know about beer cannot be condescending jerks to people who don’t know about beer. If you go to a bar and ask questions and the bartender is a jerk, don’t go back.
The internet can create the illusion that knowledge in a specific area is common to everyone. On the web, it is easy for all of us to participate in communities, like craft beer, where that is true. That is huge fantasy. Not everyone knows what a DIPA is or what the difference is between a dopplebock and an altbier. As people who have lots of knowledge about craft beer we should seek to spread that knowledge to others while not coming off as a snotty know it all.