Drinking In Stages

HADYN GREEN loves beer. And here he is to introduce Witchdoctor’s spanking new craft beer section, Crafty Beer.

 

Witchdoctor’s Crafty Beer columnist doing what comes naturally

We’re all on a drinking journey. I’ve been writing about beer for well over a decade. I’ve seen a lot of things in this industry, most of them good.

I went to the early Beervanas at the overseas terminal in Wellington. I remember when Pot Kettle Black was a ‘weird’ new beer. I sat in Garage Project’s garage when it was an empty space with a couch and a 50-litre kit. I’ve brewed a lot of beers with a lot of brewers and been drunk with many more.

I feel like Neo as I watch new drinkers enter the Matrix by sipping their first craft beer. I want to nudge them in certain directions, help them make the right decisions and steer clear of the worst ones. When you’ve been around as long as I have you begin to notice patterns, and there is a progression from new drinker to true enlightenment.

Speight’s Old Dark: a rite of passage

The Rookie

We’ve all been here. Beer is a cheap way to get drunk, right up until someone hands you something different. For many in my age group it was a Speight’s Old Dark. For some it was brews from Mac’s or Monteith’s.

Whatever it is, it has flavour and isn’t just fizzy sweet water with alcohol in it. Something sparks in the back of your brain and you’re hooked with the need to explore.

For a lot of people this is where their journey ends too. They tried it but really, “there’s nothing wrong with green bottle lager, and I can drink wine if I want to be fancy”.

The Rookie seeks out so many different types of beer, trying everything they can with enthusiastic abandon. Expect them to ask for sips of whatever you’re drinking.

The Expert wants to try anything and everything

The ‘Expert’

At a certain point the drinker gets an Untappd account and becomes the ‘Expert’. The quote marks are intentional. It’s like the annoying toddler stage for a beer drinker.

Experts will refuse anything that isn’t craft beer, and they will have strongly held opinions on exactly what that means. You might hear them say, ‘how can you drink that?’ to anyone holding a green bottle. If you ever see a man explaining a beer to a woman, they’re usually an ‘expert’.

Plain lagers are considered boring, and they seek out the weirdest and craziest beers they can. This can lead to a sub-stage, the Hophead.

The true ‘Hophead’ will only accept the bitterest beer

The Hophead

These beer drinkers seek out only the hoppiest, most bitter IPAs they can. If it doesn’t burn you with IBUs (international bitterness units) then it isn’t a real beer and the hophead will loudly inform you of it. To be fair, the whole industry thought this way at one point, and I am very glad we’ve broken away from that mould.

The DIY

At a certain point, the beer drinker will be asked if they’ve ever thought about making their own beer. This rather simple question is incredibly important because it can lead to ruin.

Most of us might dabble in some home brew or even head along to an establishment like the Occasional Brewer and crank out a recipe on a semi-pro kit. This is a bit of fun and can be a good way to get some cheap beers in the house.

But there are always those who take it too far. There was a time when everyone was opening their own brewery. Some of them obviously took off, but success is rare. You may also want to avoid DIYers so you don’t have to try their failed experiments.

Just enjoy it is the lesson

The Epiphany

It’s hard to pinpoint, but suddenly you come to the realisation that beer is just beer. There’s nothing to hate.

IPAs don’t have to be overly hopped. Stouts don’t need coffee added. There is a wonderful simplicity in drinking an ice-cold lager on a hot day, no matter who makes it. You can happily drink from the can or the bottle. And sometimes it’s nice to have a wedge of lime in there.

Oddly, you learn what not to drink. You understand the styles that don’t sit right with your palate and avoid them, without causing a fuss. You have become refined.

Of course, you still look for new and interesting beers, but you’ve become Zen should you miss out on a limited release. There’ll always be new beers to try.

 

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