Pete Brown wrote an interesting post about his experience holding a house party. The basic summary is that the vast majority of people do not choose their drink based on taste but on what they perceive as being an intelligent choice. Beer, for many, is not a choice they would make over wine. They may know nothing about wine either and are not interested in knowing. These people would also not care about quality beer. It's just beer. If they don't get what we love about beer then we should not worry about it.
Now appreciation of anything extraordinary can be something of a personal thing. I like mountains for instance. I like climbing them when I get a chance. Many people don't get the answer to the question "why?" which of course, all mountain climbers know, is simply "Because it is there"
I dislike football. I dislike it quite a lot if the truth be known. I don't begrudge anybody else their passion for the game, but I find the playing and watching of the sport completely pointless.
I do appreciate, in a casual sort of way, objet d'art, ancient monuments, architecture, theatre, poetry, literature, a wide range of music and other such pointless subjects. I would not expect the vast majority of the population to share my appreciation of the same things. However, sometimes it can happen that you enthuse about something to somebody and the next thing you find they have become a greater fan than you could ever imagine.
Beer can be the same. Sure, there is the argument that beer should be treated with the irreverence it deserves, after all it is a social drink first and a connoisseurs drink second. But there are people who are interested in exploring the hidden depths of the beer world, not many, and we should be careful not to get too excited, too flamboyant and become complete bores; it's working out who might be receptive that is the key.
I wish to illustrate this with my own story:
Yesterday we had a visit from a nice couple who are seriously thinking of holding their wedding here. We discussed many things like timings and the menu, flowers and accommodation. Eventually we got onto the subject of drinks on the table during the meal. We discussed the price verses quality issues of wine, carefully explaining that our wine list might not be the cheapest, but that for the price they could be sure they were getting quality for their money. I apologised that we didn't hold a large stock of champagne so they would have to confirm in advance the amount we needed to order. "We don't really care for champagne" came the reply "We're actually more interested in your beers"
Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. How could I be so stupid not to have mentioned beer up to this point? So proceeded a tasting session which concluded with a Chimay Blue and a Mort Subite Gueuze. I even, sin of sins, got them to taste them in wine glasses. They declared the beers to be very nice indeed, especially the gueuze. They seemed impressed by the idea of tasting small amounts of lots of different beers in small glasses. They then went on to suggest a beer tasting session as part of their happy day. They thought it would be great fun in lieu of wine on the table. Of course, there would be a plentiful supply of cask beers available too.
This sort of experience with customers is not unique. I feel that it is happening with increasing frequency. The reason for this might be due to my improved awareness, or an improvement in the number of people coming to my pub because they have heard I have interesting beers, but I don't think that is all of it. I believe there is a growing market, if still very small, for specalist beer and that market still has an opportunity to grow still further.
So yes, there is a danger of becoming too evangelical about beer. Most people just want to go down to the pub and have a pint with their mates, the actual beer is not as relevant as some of us would like to think. But we also need to just keep an eye on the opportunities and grab them when they arise.
Since I first wrote this I've gone back and read the increasing number of comments on Pete's blog, including his own comment which balances out the original post. And that's the point isn't it? Balance.
1I'm sure somebody once wrote that they wanted beer to be treated with the irreverence it deserves. My dictionary says irreverence means "Lack of due respect or veneration, disrespect" and I've always had trouble with that. I would like to think, in the context I've seen it written with respect to beer, it is meant to be an opposite to "over-reverence"