I believe them. (There are people who are just there for bottles to leverage in trades and at auction; that's a different story.) But I also believe that their fandom is inadvertently shaping the community/culture/blah blah blah into an exclusive club.
In other words, I admire their passion, but I don’t agree with -- wait for it -- what they stand for. (Ha! Like, in the line... but also in principle... do you get it? Hello?)
Waiting in line for beer is a divisive force in our community. It rarifies craft beer. It stratifies us into drinking castes. It values the scarcity of a beer over the enjoyment derived from it. Craft culture is separating into two classes, and one of them will only drink beer that's sufficiently scarce and properly cellared.
On one hand, this is good news for the non-fixated majority of craft beer drinkers, who are satisfied with vast, regularly available retail selections, and don’t hunt whales. More great beer (and more easily gotten) for us!
But consider this: though it's growing at a fantastic rate these days, the entire craft community is still an enormous minority (just 11%!) in America's beer scene at large. That means more people than ever are poised to form their very first impression of our hoppy little world who don't know what you & I know. Namely, that there are a bajillion spectacular beers to try, so instead of scheming for a Pliny, they should go forth and enjoy a dozen very good, non-fetishized IPAs first.
There's a good chance that they’ll take one look at the lines (or one listen to the people who stand in 'em) and go somewhere else; into the inviting clutches of corporate "crafty" beers, or even back to the pale-yellow embrace of an adjunct lager. Beer-line mentality isn't just stupid, then -- it's intimidating, and maybe even toxic, to the continued diversity of the craft market.
The brewers! Don't forget about them. Talk to any craft brewer and they'll invariably tell you that their only goal is to make really good beer. (Craft brewers tend to be earnest to a fault.) Most of them do just that. But when craft beer's small, vocal, thought-leading minority spends all its time lining up for the next hyped-up limited release, it creates the perception throughout the marketplace that those beers are "better." This isn't necessarily true, of course, but it doesn't matter. Newcomers learn to venerate a handful of chosen breweries and ignore the rest. That sucks for them, and for the brewers. It sucks for all of us.
In the '80s, craft beer made its name by being bold, brave, and entirely different from the mass-produced, mass-marketed swill on the shelves. It was then, and it still is. But it’s a fine balance being an attainable luxury for the drinking public, and an inaccessible luxury good servicing the vanity of the middle class. (Kind of like wine. Ew.) If you line up for a super-rare beer release, you're complicit in making it the latter.
So where do you go from here? Simple. Drink what you want; drink what your friends & bartenders recommend. Hell, drink a crafty beer, if that's what you like. Just, for God's sake, if you see a long-ass line, please don't get in it with the assumption that the beer at the end is any better than the one you've already got in your fridge.
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Dave Infante is Thrillist's senior Snapchat editor and a writer-at-large. Follow @dinfontay on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and of course, add DINFONTAY and THRILLIST on Snapchat!