I need to preface this a bit…
…I’m a dork.
No, it’s ok. You can say it too, if you’ve met me—it’s not as if my dorkiness is something that’s buried deep. I hold Union cards in the orders of the Beer Geeks, the Comic Book Geeks, the TV Geeks, Movie Geeks, Video Game Geeks, Guitar Player Geeks and definitely the Car Geeks.
So I’ve spent a fair amount of time the past couple of weekends playing Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. Yes, I am one of those guys: The faithful long-suffering GT game fans who will give the crew at Polyphony a few more months after waiting five goddamn years for a new game if it means the new SLS AMG will sound a little more life-like or that kickass ’05 Subie WRX rally car hits its apexes just a little more like the real deal. As if I’d know the difference.
I think my love for Gran Turismo has its roots in my childhood when I didn’t seem to want anything for my adult life but to operate something that went obscenely fast. I had cardboard tubes filled with posters and glossy defense contractor pinups of all the latest and greatest military aircraft. NASA stuff? Man, I got a copy of Alan Shepard’s book handed to me autographed! How hot is that? Then there was the car porn: The framed pic of a C4 Corvette that hung on my wall for years; the model kits of Bill Elliott’s Coors-sponsored Ford and the 80′s Ferrari Testarossa; the little red diecast 250 GTO that sat atop my bookshelf into my 20′s; the bigass ’67 Camaro poster that looked so much like the one my folks used to drive. As a child of the 80′s I’d watch the Space Shuttle launch and dream of being an astronaut. Growing up near DC and Andrews Air Force Base I’d go to the air show with my dad and spend the next weeks daydreaming of piloting A-10′s, A-4′s, F-15′s, 16′s—and the SR71 Blackbird. Don’t ever get me started on the Blackbird: That thing is the sex even now. Back then, to the 5-6-7-year-old Beermonger that plane was a crack rock rolled in pure sugar dipped in chocolate wrapped in bacon and then deep fried.
But it always came back to cars for me. That ’67 Camaro I mentioned before was the first ‘family car’ I can remember. As a 4 year old boy, not a lot could beat hauling ass out in the country with no soundtrack but the roar of the old Chevy’s dual exhausts, or running errands with my folks around town in the baddest machine I’d ever touched in my young life. I’m an only child and I invested a lot of emotion in that car without ever realizing it: I didn’t feel right after my dad plastered a deer with it and the Camaro had to go into the shop for a while. I remember my dad calling the house my folks used to drop me at (there was a neighbor of my Grandmother’s who watched kids for everyone in the ‘hood) and telling me he had a surprise for me. My thoughts went to toys, sweets—maybe even a trip to that ice cream place with the tabletop Frogger machine! Instead, he pulled up in the fresh-out-of-the-shop Camaro. I couldn’t have hugged that car more if it was my brother; it legitimately made me happier to see that car than any of those other things would have.
That car was the Good Days. Soon enough my folks would split up and I’d end up living with my Mom who was driving the by-now breaking and in need of an engine Camaro. Rather than replace the engine, she traded it in for a silver Subaru wagon with gray interior. Things changed; it’s hard to say for the better or worse but everything worked out in the end. Letting go of that car, though, ended that carefree part of my childhood. The lesson was “Things fall apart. There’s no fixing what you love”.
You get older and you live and learn but damn if some things just never let you go. I still want that car. Not the Camaro, mind you; I mean that car that lets you let loose every once in a while and feel something. That car that makes you feel the ‘simple’ act of driving for the wonder and marvel that it really is. I’ve come to realize that I’ve measured my whole existence by how close I could be to driving a car I truly loved. As of now I can barely afford to keep my beat up Ford Ranger breathing, so when I have a spare hour or so I fire up the PS3 and play GT5 Prologue, because it’s as close to driving any of those cars as I’ll ever get in this life. It’s the only place I’ll punish a Z4 the way I’d want to in real life.
In Prologue you extremely accurate virtual recreations of real cars through various racing challenges earning credits that you get to spend on cars for your ‘garage’. The game is smartly designed so that you start small, hone your driving skills so that by the time you can afford to drive some of the big boys you might have half a thimble’s worth of an idea of what you’re doing. I’m at the point now where my garage is starting to look like a Sheik’s.
It all started with the Nissan GT-R. I’m a bit obsessed with the GT-R, and jumped to buy one the first chance I got. Tackling races with it, I enjoyed it thoroughly except I couldn’t seem to get the lap times I’d expected from it. Frustrated, I decided I needed to up the firepower and bought a Ferrari F430. The Italian Supercar would bring me to the promised land of the speed gods, right? Well, it took some getting used to and is an amazing car no doubt, but now I was out of control. I saved up damn near half a million credits for a Ferrari F40. The F40 was Ferrari’s early 90′s attempt at building a ‘street legal Formula 1 car’.
The F40 didn’t win me any races. The way the car handled, shifted and turned was unlike anything I’d driven so far. I gave the F40 lap after lap and gradually something started happening: I still wasn’t winning, but the way I drove the car became more natural, my racing instincts sharpened and I realized that this car was simply making me better. I hopped back in the F430 for the hell of it and drove the race of my life. Something was still lacking, though; so next time I fire up the game I hopped back in…the GT-R. I’d come full circle and found the right vehicle to take my imaginary joyrides in.
In a room full of Car Geeks I’d have one guy agreeing with me completely, one guy telling me what a fool I was not to stick with the F40, one guy scoffing at all of us with tales of just how much of our asses a Lamborghini Reventon would kick and one guy would prefer an SLR, but see where I was coming from.
Sound familiar? In my years of working retail, writing and generally being a Beer Geek I’ve had hundreds of conversations just like the one in that last paragraph. I’ve had customers I needed to keep away from other customers because of how inflexible their opinions were. I’ve had people coming to me for advice and suggestions scoff at my list of favorite beers, usually because most of them are readily available. I’ve had people make faces at labels, or styles, or places a beer was from. I’m not trying to write a “Beer Geeks are zealots who keep craft beer from expanding” sermon. I’m saying I understand and if you don’t, you need to.
I guess what I’m trying to come around to saying here is that there are styles of beer we don’t prefer, and some beers we just don’t like—which is fine; we all have different tastes and they’re all going to react differently. What I think we all need to do is keep more of an open mind to re-trying beers we previous may not have enjoyed. I couldn’t get into Belgian beers for a long time; every now and then I’d get a draft of Delirium Tremens at Dr. Dremo’s and know that it was good, but think it just wasn’t for me. One night, though, it just clicked. I got it. Same with Flemish Sours and Rauchbier.
I think the moral of the story is: Just like it was with my video game GTR, you gotta crawl before you walk, and walk before you run. If super-hoppy IPA’s turn you off, well, maybe you’re just not there yet. Don’t discount Stouts because someone handed you a Stone IRS once when all you knew of beer was Yeungling or Sam Adams. You never know when somethings going to be your thing.
So onto the real reason I’m writing this:
At the core of Geekdom is an intense interest and joy we find in that which we are a geek for. Notice I say the “core” and not the heart. The heart of a Geek of any type is a damaged thing that we constantly try to patch back together with one more beer we’ve tried, one more track driven, one more bird watched, one higher level in WOW (or in my wife and I’s case, Final Fantasy). Because it’s so personal to us, we lose perspective (that many of us never had to begin with) and alienate those just finding out about our interests. Deep down, we don’t want more members of the club. So we go online or meet up and talk shit about noobs, or kids with flames and rear spoilers on otherwise stock Honda Civics, or Bud drinkers. Too many of us do this, and far too many think it’s ok. But I understand.
It comes down to the mix of ‘sin’ and genuine love that makes us all human. As not to hurt or offend I’ll use myself as the example:
I want a GT-R. Not in the game—I want to step outside tomorrow morning and see a Godzilla in Gun Metallic in the parking lot. I want it with a craven greedy lust that shames me to think about. I want to look at people driving Ford Rangers and feel sorry for them because they’re not having the experience that I am in my GT-R. I also know that most of the reason I feel that way is that I equate a marvel of an automobile like this to regaining something I lost when I was 5 years old. Something I know isn’t coming back because things fall apart and there’s no fixing the things you love. But I’m grown up just enough now not to be bitter that I’ll never own a GT-R, or to lord my opinion over someone who happens to prefer an M6, or even an R8 (which I love almost as much as the GTR).
For all of you out there who love beer the way I do and those just discovering the vast wonderful world of breweries and styles, follow some rules. Dare I say it? Yeah, what the hell:
The Beer Geek’s Manifesto
1. It’s Not Boy Scouts
Rare beers arent merit badges and just because you’ve had them doesnt make you a better or even a more knowledgeable beer drinker. Don’t get in someone’s face about Westy 12 being the greatest thing on the planet unless you can rationally explain to them why. I’m glad you’ve had a chance to try it. I haven’t. I’m sure I will at some point and look forward to it. But when you run your trap about it being so amazing simply because it’s rare and you want to lord it over everyone that you’ve tried it, we know that’s why you’re doing it. And we all think you’re a dick who doesn’t know jack shit about beer because of it.
2. The More, the Merrier.
Don’t roll your eyes at people who don’t know what IPA stands for yet. All you’re doing is taking money out of the pockets of your favorite breweries, the farmers/suppliers/distributors they work with and the stores and bars you get your super-rare limited-production brews from. No one likes a snob, especially beer drinkers—so cut that shit out.
3. There Is No Such Thing As A Bad Style of Beer.
People have been giving me shit for years because I have the temerity to be a huge fan of Abita’s Strawberry Lager. Most of these people giving me aforementioned shit have never tried this beer, and likely never will because “fruit beers suck” or they “stick to real beer”. Let me tell you asshats something: It’s not a 5,000 IBU Bourbon Barrel aged brett monster with wild yeasts floating around the bottle like sea monkeys, but it’s not a goddamn smoothie either. It’s a well made, exceptionally drinkable and refreshing beer that doesn’t make me feel like I have a brick in my gut when I’ve had 6 or 7 while BBQing. It’s a pleasant thing to have around for the month or so it’s available every year.
What I’m trying to say is that if you don’t like, let’s say, Saisons; there are two and only two reasons why. You either A) Haven’t had the right Saison yet, or B) You’ve decided you’re not going to ever like Saison beers and they can all kick rocks. If the answer is B, you need to find another hobby because being into beer is all about trying new things and keeping an open mind. Oh, and you’re an asshole who just wants to be right all the time. BTW, before anyone says “MacroLager”, we all have one we roll with. Don’t act like you don’t. Mine is Tecate.
4. A Rising Tide Lift All Ships
Don’t get in someone’s business because they don’t like your favorite brewery. Don’t refuse to try something because it doesn’t have a specific label on it. The more we support craft beer the more we’ll see of it. When I go bowling, I get pitchers of Sam Adams. Why? Well, there’s two (or five) more pitchers of Bud or Miller that their not selling. If enough of us did that everywhere, we’d have more options. The Northern VA area is a prime example. We’re seeing four or five new craft beer featuring restaurants and bars opening up this year, if not more. Don’t get pissy ’cause your friends brought you to a bar with Miller Lite, Bud, Bud Light, Heineken and Guinness on tap. Drink the damn Guinness and ask a barback if they’ve ever thought to try something new. Maybe suggest a beer or two. We’re all in the boat together.
5. Never Forget…
Abita Strawberry Lager rules and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know a thing about limited production beer and needs to go back to their Party Ball of Coors Light with Cletus and the boys.
Just kidding: I actually wanted to see if I could encapsulate all of the things we do wrong into one sentence. I think that one works.
Actually, #5 is this: Every pint, bottle or can is not only a chance to spread the word about craft beer and all the good things that come along with it, but a chance to make a friend. What all of us geeks really need in our lives is friendship. It’s the only thing that really helps us salve whatever it was that made us how we are. We all need more friends, and more opportunities to be friendly. Take advantage.
I think we can all figure it out from here. Don’t be a snob, don’t assume others are snobs, keep opinions and tastes in perspective and have a good time. Don’t assume to know where someone’s coming from anymore than you’d have them assume about you. Let’s all have a glass or 10 and rejoice in the growing community of the Beer Geeks.
‘Til All Are One
PS: This is also being published on the 2nd Anniversary of this here Blog. I just want to say thanks to everyone out there who’s taken a moment to swing by and check it out, comment or follow me on Twitter. I am humbled everyday that anyone on the planet might give a damn what I think. So thank you.