Like I said, simple, but a trip every craft beer drinker has taken in one form or another. Some are taking different ways to get there, but understanding that the path to enjoying life and indeed, your beer is never ending and being open to that kind of growth and change will make it an enjoyable one for all of us.
In the beginning, there were lagers and ales. Perhaps we stole a sip from our father's bottle or a relative gave us a drink and laughed when we made a face at the bitter, sharp flavour we were unaccustomed to. For so many of us, our very first experience with beer isn't something we even remember and we move to those teenage years where intoxication is the only goal, flavour a far off consideration compared to the thrill of scoring a case and getting drunk at a bush party or in someone's basement.
My own first experiences with beer were as a side to the whisky I chose for its "cool" factor and ability to get me hammered quick. Beer was what we drank once we were good and liquored up. This changed as I started to get older and beer transformed into a more social drink, still trying to get drunk, but finding hard liquor not as much fun once I hit my 20's.
All through this, craft beer wasn't really on the radar, but as the scene was shifting and as local and imported choices of different styles made their way to the liquor store, we would deny ever wanting such weird stuff, touting the "Real men drink real beer" mantra and shutting down any conversation of trying a fruity, dark or any other beer that wasn't straight up beer.
There comes a time for almost every craft beer drinker when you feel the pull of a need to share your love. You post pictures online, perhaps write about what you taste and then share that with the world. You bring a mixed dozen of your favourite craft beers to a party because you cant drink that 'macro swill'. You start to talk about your friends beer choices and deride them if they still drink Blue or Coors or any other non craft beer. You rail against Big Beer buying your favourite craft brewery and swear you will never buy any of their beer again because they sold out. You engage in lengthy debates about government policy and grants to help the industry grow and dream of cracking a higher percentage of the market. You check dates on your cans obsessively and post rants about pseudo craft and forget about one fundamental fact that helped drive you into craft beer in the first place...fun.
You wanted beer to be fun and it has become a zero sum game of getting that latest, hard to get release and mocking what your friends and family drink. You start to feel like you've lost something on this particular Road to Damascus and begin to come down from your mountain top, enlightened and educated but also with a vision of the future and taking a new path, one of being a true lover of beer and of those times we have to enjoy each other.
The final stage, the one hardest to reach for many Craft beer lovers, is this one. Learning to accept and let people drink what they like can be a difficult path to find, grown over with the sure knowledge that we know a better way and should shout it from the roof tops. Becoming an advocate and an acolyte are two very different things and as I've moved through these stages, it became easy to tap that righteous anger and superior feeling you get when you first fall in love to try to push the needle and force others to see the world as you do. It is easy to slam a fist on the table and openly mock people and their beer choices, forgetting that at one time, we too held fast to our macro lagers, not knowing what the future held.
We started to drink better beer because it was fun to do. We went to events, visited breweries and met interesting people who had the same interest because we found it ourselves. Sure, we followed others who came before us, but the decision was ours. We sometimes forget that this journey started with one sip of one beer that made you stop and wonder what was happening. We lost sight of the joy felt at finding a new flavour or style that helped shape who we are now. We seek to recapture that moment so many times, we forget that everything was supposed to be about enjoying life, not judging others or chasing things to posses them.
Be an advocate, an ambassador and a voice of passion. But approach every moment with joy and not scorn. Let light in where there is darkness when asked but be not the scowl of judgement on what other people drink. Give suggestions, share and be open to new things yourself. Be honest and let stand your opinion, with the knowledge that all of our palates are different and no one responds to mockery with acceptance.
The end game is always to enjoy our beer without being an asshole about it. Pour, sip and ponder life while spending time with people you love. Respect the choices of others and always make room in your fridge for different things. Life is too short and often too hard to let that kind of stress in when it comes to beer.
Have fun and be cool.