For all the progress in the brewing community, a large portion of the population still doesn’t “get” craft beer yet.
We all have family and friends who prefer to stay with the same brands they’ve always had, with little interest in something more complex.
Where’s the fun in that? We know they’re missing out on exceptional flavors — but what’s the best way to help them see it?
For starters, by avoiding these three common “craft beer conversion” mistakes …
Mistake #1: Overselling craft beer
Craft beer can be complex, layered and multifaceted. But let’s face it, it’s still beer. Leave the white gloves and pH tests at home.
Many people compare the craft beer (r)evolution to that of wine. This is easy to understand, given all the talk of aromas, bouquets and mouth feel. And while advancing appreciation of taste is a logical path for an experienced craft beer drinker, it’s not always the best way to win over a novice craft drinker.
One reason people avoid trying craft beer is how it’s introduced to them. As with wine, if that intro phase seems pretentious, that can turn people off. So, follow the old “KISS” (Keep it Simple, Stupid) rule, and you should be fine. In other words, don’t make things complicated or act like a total beer snob.
Save the beer lingo for a later conversation, after you’ve successfully recruited them, and when they want to learn more.
Note that lingo is also appropriate for those rare few souls who will insult you for liking good beer. Then all bets are off.
(I’ve found that telling these fools, “Your mom has a great sculpin” gets great results.)
Mistake #2: Starting with only one type of craft beer
Let me get out my Texas Instruments graphing calculator for a second. Yep, I thought so: 99.93% of people hesitant to try craft beer feel that way because they don’t like severely bitter or uber-hoppy brews.
Since IPAs are far and away the most popular craft beer style in the nation, many people feel (or fear) that all craft beers taste like IPAs.
People who don’t know better, that is. It’s your job to rectify this, not hammer home one or two styles simply because they’re what you prefer.
Now, this step in the education process is crucial: Expose your friends to beer styles that aren’t too hop-heavy.
Share your favorite smooth porters, crisp lagers, bold stouts and summery wheat beers. These styles represent a major portion of the growing craft beer marketplace, and for many people, they provide an easier transition from bland, big-beer lagers than diving straight into IPAs.
Mistake #3: Being too preachy
Much like vegans and Scientologists, craft beer fanatics are so passionate about our corner of the universe, we sometimes overdo it. Before long, listeners are mercilessly drilled with facts, stats and minutiae, actually turning them off to trying different beers.
But to someone who drinks (and presumably enjoys) domestic lagers, moving to something richer is intimidating. That’s why you need to treat this as an inviting adventure, rather than a stern lesson in flavor. People want to feel comfortable trying new things, and your attitude toward them is key to making this happen.
So if you’re preaching the gospel of craft beer, try taking it down a notch.
This means avoiding terms like:
- “Carpet juice”
- “Your mom has a great sculpin.”
Too often, craft beer enthusiasts treat their hobby as an exclusionary activity, rather than broadening and nurturing the growing community. It’s okay to be different, but not if we prevent others from joining in the fun. Remember, they can always make more beer — and if more people buy it, they certainly will.
Hipsters suck. Beer enthusiasts rule. Be a beer enthusiast, and before long, more friends and family will join the craft beer party.
Then you get to use that nifty beer lingo to your heart’s content.
How’s your craft beer conversion rate? Any other tips or tactics? Share your strategies in The Hop Nation Facebook Group.