There's a common misconception that for one to enjoy craft beer, they must possess an encyclopedic knowledge of beer styles, their countries of origin, yeast strains, hop flavor profiles and custom glassware. Take it from someone who knows way too much about all of these things that this couldn't be further from the truth. The joy extracted from beer comes from the simple act of consumption.
So why do so many craft beer drinkers become craft beer enthusiasts or, in many cases, "beer nerds?" Well, because beer is interesting. Once people discover there's more to the medium than straw yellow, nondescript-tasting macro lagers--roasty stouts, flowery Belgians, bracingly acidic gueuzes--it's as if a curtain has been drawn to an exciting new world of delights. For foodies, it's like a first trip to a well-stocked cheese shop (you mean, there's more to life than cheddar, jack and mozzarella?).
A local entrepreneur who's working to manufacture such a-ha moments is Eric Barajas. Unlike most business folk operating on the fringe of the beer industry, Barajas is not a self-proclaimed beer expert. He enjoys many a brew on weekends and has a firm grasp of the dozens of breweries that make up San Diego's rich brewing scene. But he's still learning and wants to help others do the same in a fun environment. Enter BeerNerdz, his vehicle for doing just that.
Working in tandem with local breweries, the Best Damn Beer Shop (located inside downtown's Super Jr. Market) and the San Diego Beer Company brewpub (602 Braodway, Gaslamp), Barajas sets up unique tastings featuring eight different brews -- all in unlabeled bottles. Attendees are handed cards that list the vital stats (style, alcohol by volume, taste profile, etc.) and are invited to use their palates to help them match each beer with its description. At the end of the evening, the individuals with the most matches walk away with BeerNerdz swag and bragging rights.
This is harder than it sounds. Even true beer nerds and self-proclaimed "experts" have ranked low. But it's not all about victory --it' s about the simple pleasure of drinking beer. Barajas' events offer that opportunity in spades and are pleasantly geared toward getting beery beginners' feet wet. The next BeerNerdz tasting is scheduled for Saturday, September 17 from 4 to 7 p.m. and will feature ales from Alpine, Green Flash, Hess, Iron Fist, Manzanita and Stone. For more information, go online or call the San Diego Beer Company at (619) 398-0707.
About the Author: A native San Diegan, Brandon Hernández has been wading in a sea of local craft beer for 14 years. In addition to his work for San Diego Magazine, Hernández serves as the San Diego correspondent for Celebrator Beer News (the US' longest tenured craft beer publication), is a regular contributor to Wine Enthusiast and The Beer Connoisseur and has been a consultant for Food Network. Keep up on his articles about ales, lagers, food, restaurants, chefs and the culinary arts on Twitter at @offdutyfoodie.