The 14 Phases of Every Beer Nerd's Life
We're all obsessed with something. And whether we're coffee freaks, true Beliebers, Bronies, or foodies, our obsessions don't come fully formed: they're established over years and phases. When you're a hardcore beer nerd, you go through a metamorphosis not unlike Kafka or Christian Bale, taking on new opinions and (increasingly doughy) shapes along the way. These are the 14 stages in a beer lover's life, from first sip to total Zen.
Phase 1: You have your first sip of beer
On your 21st birthday (not a day sooner), you have your first sip of beer, and your mind is blown. You don't know what it is, mainly because it is in a Solo cup, but it triggers a heretofore unknown passion in you as you simultaneously discover you’re really, really good at beer pong.
Phase 2: You try something "premium"
One day, you drop an extra $1 on the variation of your go-to brand with the word(s) "premium," "private selection," or "blue" on the label. The slight difference in flavor expands your mind.
Phase 3: You taste your first craft beer
The lack of nose-tickling fizz is foreign to you, but your taste buds are suddenly alight. Thus begins a voyage of discovery. At first, you base your purchases solely on buying six-packs that cost a couple more bucks than your usual go-to "dirty 30." Eventually, you gauge strictly by ABV. Then you start sampling other styles. Quick trips to the convenience story suddenly become hour-long explorations of reading packaging before just going with the beer with the highest ABV.
Phase 4: "Mouthfeel" enters your lexicon
Late one night, you overhear a man with a scraggly beard and a paunch use the word "mouthfeel." You nod and smile, then look it up online. It's like the Rosetta Stone. Within a month, you're talking about mouthfeel and cask-conditioning and gravity like a regular old cicerone, which is another word you learned on that fateful night.
Phase 5: You become a brewery groupie
Every time you see a brewery, you rush toward it like a teenage girl in the ‘60s who heard The Beatles’ plane had just landed. You name-drop the brewers -- by first name, actually -- at any given opportunity. Release dates are like holidays and your wardrobe is suddenly comprised of nothing but brewery swag. Your newly acquired mini-fridge is now covered in more stickers than a hobo’s suitcase, and your social media feeds are populated by endless selfies of you posing with rare bottles -- often with the cap still on the beer.
Phase 6: Homebrew failure
After dropping serious cash on the best homebrewing equipment, you hang your head in shame when you realize your first attempt at a pale ale with hints of burnt orange and persimmon tastes more like prison wine. That does not, however, prevent you from bringing it to parties and giving it to friends as a gift.
Phase 7: Your reading material is suddenly all beer-related
Every day, you rush to the mailbox to see if the newest edition DRAFT or BeerAdvocate has arrived. Your bathroom magazine rack is overflowing with back issues. You’ve written at least one letter to the editor, and when they published it, you taped it up on your mini-fridge for all to see.
Phase 8: First homebrew success
Your pale ale is delicate, with hints of burnt orange and persimmon, thanks to a recipe you found in Brew Your Own magazine. You do not bring it to parties or give it as a gift to friends. You’ve at least once referred to your stash as “the Precious.”
Phase 9: Ratebeer.com becomes your home page
You become completely unresponsive to other people at your favorite brewery because you’re too busy talking about the subtle nuances of whatever you’re drinking. You also keep a beer journal, and collect bottle caps to make a tabletop mosaic that you will never actually complete.
Phase 10: You establish your own beer cellar
Oh, sure, it’s just a corner of your shed, but it’s full of delicious, rare beers that you will probably never actually drink.
Phase 11: You declare yourself a snob
"Beer snob" becomes a badge of honor that you proudly label yourself, except when online lifestyle sites make fun of you. You now exclusively bring personal 22oz bottles to parties so you A) can talk about them, and B) don’t have to drink what your mouth-breathing friends brought. You declare the first craft brewery you fell in love with to be “sellouts” because they started shipping bottles to the suburbs.
Phase 12: You begin making beer pilgrimages
First to places like Portland and Asheville, just to check out your favorite breweries (the ones that haven’t sold out... yet!). Then to Belgium and Germany. Eventually, you find yourself referring to fries as “frites” and demanding all beers be served in certain glassware.
Phase 13: Loneliness
Party invites dry up because you’ve become slightly insufferable. The editor of DRAFT has un-followed you on Twitter. Your bank account has dried up because you’ve spent far too much purchasing various rare beers that you simply stash in your cellar. Your beer journal begins to look like an emo kid's diary.
Phase 14: Rediscovery and peace
One day, you rediscover the first craft beer you fell in love with. The wave of nostalgia floods over you. Soon after, you accept an offered Solo cup containing an unknown, fizzy beer at a Super Bowl party somebody accidentally invited you to. You discover it’s… it’s pretty good. You go home and stare in the mirror for several hours, mouthing “who am I?”
After several years of constantly changing attitudes and tastes, you realize that the best beer to drink is the one that you like. You maintain your cellar, but actually start drinking the beers in it. At sporting events, you actually enjoy yourself rather than scowling into a 20oz Styrofoam cup of disappointment. You begin sharing your favorite beers with your friends, and accepting what they share with you, and only check RateBeer twice a day. Newsweek finds its way into the bathroom. You have found peace, and continue to find it wherever you find hops.
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Andy Kryza is a senior editor at Thrillist. He achieved catharsis the minute he had his first beer on his 21st birthday and has never looked back. Follow him to persimmon-tinged Zen @apkryza.