The beer scene and hype has grown exponentially over the last 5-10 years. According to the Brewers Association between 2006 and 2015 the number of microbreweries in the US has increased from 270 to 2,397, an increase of roughly 650%. During the same time period, the number of brewpubs went from 989 to 1650 and the number of regional breweries increased from 50-178. For those reasons, it should be no surprise that with so many inventive beers hitting the market that the number of craft beer fans have increased even faster. Many of these craft breweries are small and their popularity has quickly outpaced the production causing a large demand with a relatively small supply.
People routinely make pilgrimages hundreds of miles to get their hands on popular beer from these small breweries like Tree House, Tired Hands, Alchemist and many others. Some of the beers from these breweries have become so popular people have have resorted to waiting in line for hours and trading beer just to get their hands on the sweet nectar. Many refer to these people as the “beer snobs”. But are they really snobby, to they see themselves as beer elites? Are they making a community that was built on openness become exclusive?
The craft beer community seems to be split on waiting in lines, with some frowning upon those waiting in lines. They believe waiting in line for a rare beer is contradictory to the openness of the craft beer community. They argue that the beer can and should be transcendent among classes and all people. A statement I agree with fully. I also agree that from the outside the beer lines can seem toxic and exclusive. The lines are intimidating and can turn off new comers to the craft beer scene. From the outside it does seem to be craft beer into something exclusive. But is it?
I’ll be honest, I always thought waiting in these lines was crazy, until I drove up to Boston for a wedding and decided to stop at Tree House Brewing on the way. I knew Tree House was popular, but when we showed up just as they were opening for the day and there was already a line a 100 people deep I was surprised. My wonderful wife (thanks for waiting) and I had been already driving for 3+ hours and were sitting in traffic anyway, so we just decided to wait in the line and stretch our legs. 35 minutes and multiple conversations later, I had my beer and we were back on the road. While driving the remaining way to Boston, I thought to myself that it honestly wasn’t half bad and I had some interesting conversations, learning about some new breweries. I have since waited in a other beer lines, usually my local sought after brewery, Tired Hands, and while the waiting sucks, the conversations do not. People are always willing to share their knowledge on new and upcoming breweries, their opinions on beers they tried, where to find rare beers on tap and what they have in their cellar for trade. With my last visit to Tired Hands I was able to trade some of my Vanilla Milkshake and High Road for beers from breweries like Tree House, Aslin, RAR and Bissell Brothers. With those trades, I created some great connections that can help me get my hands on beer I wouldn’t usually be able to get without driving hours.
Are people like me and the others who wait in the lines and trade beers ruining beer culture? Betraying the community we love? The short answer is no. While, it may look inclusive, if you are willing spend the time in the line you will see the beer community who wait in the lines are just as inclusive as everyone else. They are just a little more fanatical. I am not saying you should nor need to wait in these lines, but I am saying it is alright if you do. If the community is really about inclusiveness shouldn’t we be accepting of the casual craft beer drinkers and the fanatical ones? At the end of the day it is all beer, so do what you want and drink what you want? Any opposing opinions are more than welcome in the comment section. Cheers!