Food & Drink

We Need to Put Our Damn Phones Away (When We Buy Beer)

There are big, life-changing decisions we all have to make at some point in our lives. Where should I live? Should I take that job? Is it worth dedicating the next 30 hours to watching that new HBO murder miniseries? All important questions. It's worth spending time researching those answers on the internet.

Selecting which beer to buy at the liquor store should not be one of those huge decisions. And yet, for many people, it is -- hell, I'm one of them. According to a new study, almost 60% of people have used their phones to research beer at the store before they buy it.

This is a bad idea. And here's why.

Let's stop drinking like accountants

Let's say you go to the store and plunk down your hard-earned cash for a six-pack of beer you know absolutely nothing about. You've never heard of the brewery, even! Holy crap, to not know something in the age of Google. Let me speak from experience here: I rarely do this! But I should! Because what's the worst thing that could happen?

You go home, you pop open a gose on the back porch, and you hate it. Goses just aren't for youses. Don't worry, there's a guy here at Thrillist who agrees with you. What a horrible waste of money, right? No. That's a fantastic use of money.

Whether you drink something you love or something you hate, you learn something. Every beer is a learning experience. I don't think you can truly appreciate and understand a beer style until you've had the sublime and the horrible.

Whenever I drink a garbage beer at home, I don't get mad anymore. I think, "Well, I guess I'll never drink this again." Then I have a different beer. For anyone who thinks that review sites like RateBeer and BeerAdvocate save you from buying bad beer -- I see your point. But do we want to drink like economists, worrying about maximizing each penny spent on every ounce of beer? Or do we want a drink because drinking beer is super fun?

When I know nothing about a beer before I drink it, I feel like a kid opening a box of Cracker Jack and being excited for what crazy toy might be inside. You can keep your extra money. I'll take the feeling of wonderment every damn time.

Drinking beer should be a fun experience

Part of the fun of craft beer is to drink things that challenge your palate -- the not knowing of whether the next sip to hit your tongue might either be your favorite drink of all time or the grossest thing that's crossed your lips in a while.

And when you research beer on your phone, the thrill is gone. That was a BB King reference, not one referring to this website. If I'm looking at bombers, and find one on the shelf that's a 99 on BeerAdvocate and has 4.75 bottlecaps on Untappd, that beer better damn well blow me away. My expectations are super high before I even crack it open, and I probably forked out some good money on it.

What about the other option? I could buy a beer I have zero expectations for. The beer doesn't even need to be that good for me to be happy with it! That's not just me, that's science. Lowered expectations might be the key to happiness.

craft beer store
Geoff Phillips/Thrillist

Take a cue from how you select a beer at the bar

When I'm going out for a beer with my bros, I don't take out my phone to look up beer. I just order a beer, and hope for the best. And yet, when I'm at the beer shop, it's the exact opposite. I'll spend 10-15 minutes buried in my phone searching for the next best thing to buy. So why do we act so differently when we're essentially doing the same thing?

I'm not sure. But if I had to guess, I think it's because most of us go beer shopping alone and generally drink at a bar with others. If you happen to order a beer you hate, subconsciously you know you can complain about it to someone. There's a shared experience, and just getting your feelings out there will make everything feel better.

If you spend $12.99 on a six-pack at home and it sucks, you have to sit there with your feelings all alone (or with your roommate/spouse). Maybe that's why there are so many people complaining about beer on the internet.

How you should select your next beer

Here's how I recommend you buy your next beer in a beer shop. And I fully admit that I need to take my own advice more often.

1) Select your next craft beer blindly, whether your choice is based on a style, a brewery, or just the fact that it's a beer you've never heard of.

2) Speak to one of the shop's employees to get pointed in a new direction. Talking to people is a good thing! Anything that keeps your nose out of your phone for 30 seconds.

3) Go home and enjoy the beer.

If it sucks? Should've checked your phone, bro. Just kidding.

This is a call for us all to have more fun buying beer, and drinking it later. Whether you select a beer blindly or get a recommendation from a beer store employee, at least you're not relying on the opinions of the internet's highly flawed beer recommendation echo chamber. Cheers to that.

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Lee Breslouer is a senior writer for Thrillist, and resolves not to check his phone the next time he buys beer. Follow him to freedom: @LeeBreslouer.