RALEIGH, August 22, 2012 - If you’re not familiar with the name Garrett Oliver, you’re probably familiar with his product. Many grocery and craft beer stores along the East Coast and parts of the Midwest assist their shelf stock with a distinctive black and green labeled bottle adorned with a cursive “B.”
Oliver is the high-profile brew master of Brooklyn Brewery in New York City, and noted editor-in-chief of the Oxford Companion to Beer. He is often referred to as a sage of beer brewing, and his image is frequently visible at tastings, festivals, and everything in between.
Oliver recently posted a brief article in Food & Wine about the beer transgressions committed by restaurants, the media, and everyday people. The points are succinctly stated, but Oliver basically creates an aggregate of common issues that are often discussed in the beer world.
1. “An Almost Complete Lack of Knowledge”
Oliver is pointing his finger at restaurants in relation to this statement. Though many restaurants come armed with wine lists and waiters/waitresses who can spout out anything and everything with vine after and vine, this same adeptness fails to exist pertaining to beer. He uses the example of asking what kind of beer there is at the bar, with the response being “every kind.” Yes, that is extremely doubtful. Why are restaurants slow to catch on?
I am confident that “beer incidents” with the server (maybe even the bartender) have happened to all of you; the awkward exchange where it is clear that they have no idea what their own resources are.
2. “Bad Glassware”
He doesn’t mean dirty glasses (that comes later). “Bad” glassware is the wrong type of glass for the right type of beer. I will completely agree with Oliver in that most restaurants tend to only carry pint glasses. IPA’s? No big deal, unless it was an imperial, in which case a tulip or a snifter would be necessary. If I were served a Belgian style beer such as a dubbel or saison in a pint glass, I really don’t know how I would react. This has yet to happen however, and I’d be totally all right if it never did.
What might be worse - and this has happened to me - is getting beer in plastic cups.
3. “Dirty Glassware”
Of all the five points Oliver makes in his article, I would say that the dirty glass would be most at attention for any consumer, craft geek or not. I have certainly had my share of less-than-stellar appearing glassware in places I would least likely expect of ever crossing such a line. It wasn’t until reading Oliver’s article that I learned residue will break down foam.
No excuses though. People pay good money for one serving of beer, so please restaurant owners: I don’t care if I have to wait a few extra minutes. Keep it clean.
Sorry Mr. Oliver, I used to be notorious for this, even with craft beers. What he says about the taste of beer that’s too cold could be pointed out by anyone who gives it a chance – it really just tastes like nothing.
Many tend to want their beer to be ice cold, which to me stems not from their personal tastes, but how many macro beer commercials market serving suggestions – think “when the mountains on the label turn blue” - all of that nonsense. I cringe just writing about it.
5. “Lack of Press”
Oliver certainly made this this last point he made since as a brew master, his feelings towards the lack of education of beer are very strong. I have many friends who regularly ask me questions about beer – styles, suggestions, anything – and like Oliver says, there just aren’t enough resources for interested folks to learn. It’s not that you have to be an expert to enjoy craft. However, no one seems to get held back from visiting vineyards and wine tastings, even if they don’t know a thing about wine.
Unfortunately, the macro titans remain in control and make up the influence in the top-of-mind awareness in consumers, and those “fancy beers” (pet-peeve term of mine) are just too inaccessible. With continuous craft breweries popping up in city after city, and gradual collective discovery of the option, I do think a better part of population will take note. The path is long, but certainly going in the right direction.
In time, Mr. Oliver. In time.
Michael Lamardo is a contributor on the craft beer culture and industry for the Washington Times Communities. Based out Raleigh, NC, he also contributes aricles on recent technologies, food and travel dish satellite TV channels, environment and others. He loves meeting fellow beer geeks, so share your thoughts on this article.
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