Stick to sports: The great SB Nation beer roundtable/bloodbath

Matthias Kern

Smart people wouldn't do a whole roundtable about an article on beer, but here we are.

Stick to Sports is our category for topics we at SB Nation feel very strongly about, but that do not exactly fall under the category of sports. Beer is not a sport, but it is certainly a neighbor to sports, or at least a close relative visited by sports enthusiasts frequently. As a group, we don't like beer. We love beer, for better or worse, and consume a lot of it, often during--and because of--the sports we watch.*

*Especially those of us who are Redskins fans with reasons to drink.

So when a Slate.com writer, doing what Slate.com writers do, writes a contrarian article about how craft beer enthusiasts and their obsession with hops are ruining craft beer, there were opinions, and some discussion, to be sure. But smart people with things to do wouldn't let this go too far. They wouldn't go on and on about how dumb this was, or how beer crammed with hops is little more than a bizarre status symbol, and tastes like licking a car hood coated with pollen. Smart people would not waste their time on that.

Note: we are not smart, and did a whole round table about it.

Martin Rickman, CFB writer (Twitter: @martinrickman): " I spend most of my time listening to 90s music and eating Nutri-Grain bars."

I didn't always love beer the way I do now. I would drink it, sure, but it was whatever was around, so I had a lot of PBR and Beast and Natty up until I was about halfway through college. I was more inclined to drink Everclear because I was typically trying to black out as much as possible and just hopefully wake up in my own bed although there were some nights where I didn't care about that either, but that's for my therapist to know not you jerks. Beer didn't really do that quickly enough for me.

Now, I'm a big fan of just about anything. I'll drink Blatz at an Indians game or I'll drink a Dogfish that supposedly has chai tea in it just because I like trying stuff. I'm obviously not going to drink craft beer every day, but I just want it to taste okay and it to be made with some semblance of care. I used to not like IPAs and now I like IPAS. I used to drink a ton of stouts, and now I'll drink some pilsners even though those still aren't my favorite.

My hot take on beer is that you should just give stuff a chance and if you don't like something that is okay because you will like something else. People are different and people are allowed to be different and I am not a person in a position to judge anyone else considering I spend most of my time listening to 90s music and eating Nutri-Grain bars.

Alfie Crow, NFL writer, Jags fan (Twitter: @AlfieBCC): "If you don't like hops we can't be friends."

I think this article has really opened my eyes and made me realize that I, in fact, do have an addiction to hops that is blinding me. When I go to the bar I immediately look at what the ABV and IBU of a beer is before I order them, just make sure they have enough hops and bitterness for my addiction. From Bell's Two Hearted, to Terrapin Hop Karma and Hopsecutioner, all the way to Great Divide's Hercules double IPA I just can't get enough hops.

It's unfortunate that I no longer have the power to choose to drink hops anymore, but rather they are forced upon me and just feeding my addiction.

By the way, if you don't like hops we can't be friends.

Jason Kirk, college football editor (Twitter: @JasonKirkSBN): "...like licking a car hood in April."

You are not smart enough to understand what's so great about hops. You should read a book about them. You should attend a seminar about them. You should make new friends who know things about hops. You should take a hops tour. You should take a hops class. You should get a hops tattoo. You should plant a hops garden. No amount of hops-maximization will ever be enough. Shut the fuck up. More hops. You're having a great time.

IPAs taste like dandelions, and I don't really like them. I like almost anything else, but will also drink most IPAs, provided nothing else is available or I'm (happily!) splitting a sixer with a noted IPA fan.

Hops are important. They're part of beer. So is water, and the only company advancing the water arms race with the same fervor as that which the craft beer industry devotes to onehopsmanship is Coors. Any interest I've ever had in developing my taste for hops has been more than squashed by the hops-industrial complex's damn-near bourbon-cult evangelism.

I don't care. Beer is beer, and beer is good. If sort of tasting like a car hood in April is important, then okay. I'd rather avoid that, but we can drink whatever you think is best.

Cheers to the craft beer industry's greatest innovation: coming up with a way to allow people to both get drunk and feel smarter at the same time.

Jon Bois, SB Nation contributor and beer pantheist (Twitter: @jon_bois): "They're collectable and social."

Pretty much every beer you've ever had was pretty good for what it was supposed to be. Expressing your distaste for Bud Light is like reiterating that you'd never try to paddle a canoe with a pair of pencils, ever, EVER, GROSS.

Craft beers are baseball cards you can drink. They're collectible and social. Sometimes you want to drink a 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey, Jr., and other times you want to drink Tim Flannery holding a surfboard. Unfortunately, a bunch of jerks have gone and turned "beer snob" into a euphemism. People out there acting like every opinion you prop up has to cast a shadow.

Whenever people ask me which beer-church I belong to, I think on Daniel Plainview's mad pursuit of complete ambivalence: "I enjoy all faiths, I don't belong to one church in particular. I like them all. I like everything."

Ryan Hudson, SB Nation social media soldier and craft beer triathlete (Twitter: @ry_hudson): "No one ever said craft beer is always bitter."

The tl;dr version of the Slate article: "My buddy from Tennessee doesn't like IPAs, which means all of craft brewing has a big problem: Us beer snobs are talking about hops too much!" It ends with a proposed "new word": "Craft beer isn’t always bitter."

The problem is, no one ever said craft beer is always bitter. It's not. That's one of the best things about craft beer -- the variety. There's even variety within the so-called bitter beers: IPAs and black IPAs and English IPAs and Double IPAs (which may be enjoyed by those who don't like regular IPAs, ironically enough -- the added malts help to balance the bitterness; what a world!).

Don't like the bitterness of some hoppy beers? That's okay! I love IPAs -- it's probably my favorite style -- but even I can only handle a few before they wreck my palate (Green Flash's Palate Wrecker was not named by accident). Fortunately, the world of beer is vast, and welcoming to all. Schlafly Pumpkin Ale's is perfect on a crisp fall night; the complexity and spiciness of a Saison can be the perfect accompaniment to a pizza; Stone's Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean remains one of the best beers I've ever had; heck, even Hell Or High Watermelon Wheat Beer is a welcomed refreshment on a hot summer day.

There aren't too many IPAs, or too many hops, or too much bitterness. There are too few craft beer enthusiasts who simply just love beer.

Chris Mottram, SB Nation longform editor and actual amateur brewmaster (Twitter: @ChrisMottram): "The blame for more people not being into craft beer shouldn't be directed at hops, it should be directed at you."

I'm still searching for the point of the article, but I think it was that the author's perceived overuse of hops in craft beer is serving as a barrier to keep would-be craft beer fans drinking Bud Light. And there is actually an accurate point in there somewhere -- giving someone who drinks nothing but Bud Light an IPA is not the way to introduce them to craft beer. That's what witbier and hefeweizens are for (which is not meant as an insult to those styles). The problem with the point that I think the author was trying to make is that there are still TONS of non-hoppy beers with which we ease people into craft beer. Every single brewery makes at least one, and usually multiple, beers in the 25 IBU or less range.

The blame for more people not being into craft beer shouldn't be directed at hops, it should be directed at you, Craft Beer Nerd, for not properly introducing your friends and loved ones to the beauty of real brewing. Instead of just saying "ah dern, beers are too hoppy for you, here's a Bud Light," try taking them to a brewery. Sample the red or the wheat or the saison or, shit, even the stout (I've found that a surprising amount of non-craft people love stouts once they realize the color doesn't mean it's "stronger"). Find what tastes they like and go from there. This is how I introduced my wife the craft beer. She still doesn't care for most IPAs, but luckily there's plenty of other styles still being produced for her to enjoy.

Steven Godfrey, IPA-hater (Twitter: @38Godfrey): "...a race to boast knowledge and ownership of the rarest possible hooch in the most pretentious manner possible."

I enjoy many different kinds of beers but I will never talk about them again in a public forum ever. Nor should you. I propose that alcohol, as a conversation topic, be assigned to the cautionary threat level ascribed to religion or politics: I probably hate yours and am at odds with mine, so let's talk about sports because that's why we're here.

On Thursday I inadvertently birthed the initial SB Nation IPA debate because I honestly dislike the flavor of IPA and super-IPA beers. It's a bizarre but unarguably popular trend - breweries engaged in an arms race of hops to create beverages that finish with a Saharan-dry bouquet of copier paper and concrete mix. They're gross, and I'm quietly judging you for drinking them because I'm petty.

I've learned that any indictment against a particular subset of alcohol is an assault on individuality, something I don't disagree with in principle, but do chuckle at. People are passionate about booze. Really, stupidly passionate. People self-identify with their alcohol. It defines them. Along with whiskey, I've watch microbrewing become less about a Renaissance of the drinker's palate and more about a race to boast knowledge and ownership of the rarest possible hooch in the most pretentious manner possible.

But it's also pretty gauche to be that guy who discredits any and all beers outside of [insert mass-produced domestic light pilsner]. He's usually the type who discredits your affinity for IPAs or porters or stouts with a homophobic slur and makes you wonder why you even showed up for your high school reunion. There's inherent patriotic glory in canned Budweiser on warm days, but the concept of a 1970s beer store with only four similarly flavored choices seems distinctly un-American.

Enjoy your beer preferences and respect others', or just choose to make disparaging comments in small circles of like-minded people like any self-respecting, mannered bigot. Don't do it on Twitter.

Spencer Hall, editorial director (Twitter: @edsbs): "One should not talk about anything on the internet, ever."

One should not ever talk about anything on the internet, ever. No, really. You're horrible, and so is beer.

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