The past few years have seen the rise of the useful term “mansplaining;” meant to describe those instances in which a man describes something to a woman in a manner that is patronizing or condescending.
(And as is always the case when I explain this word, I feel like I should now apologize to female readers who already knew the term, because irony.)
I’d like to propose that there is a beer version, and I’d like to suggest we all make a concerted effort to stop “beersplaining.”
Much like mansplaining, beersplaining occurs when someone adopts a view that they are more knowledgeable about beer than the person they are speaking to and thus “discusses” beer with that person in a manner that is patronizing or condescending.
As beer nerds, we (presumably as a reader of my beer blog, you are at least moderately nerdy about beer, too) are likely all guilty of it from time to time. Beersplaining can range from the fairly innocuous and maybe even well-intentioned, e.g. “I ordered you a beer I think you’ll like,” to the downright obnoxious, e.g. “Let me tell you why you’re an idiot for drinking that.”
Essentially, any time you’re offering up beer advice unprompted, you’re beersplaining, and here’s why you should stop.
You’re assuming you know more than someone else, and that makes you kind of a dick.
In the 2008 essay “Men who explain things” from which the term mansplaining is thought to have arisen,
the author, Rebecca Solnit, recalls an instance where a man regales her with his knowledge of an important book about English photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Hilariously, the book the man was waxing to Solnit about was one that Solnit had just written.
I have actually witnessed the beer equivalent.
At a tasting event, I witnessed a beer expert who shall remain nameless correct another event-goer’s statement about the beer we were all trying. The beer expert was certain he knew the hops used to brew the beer. The person he was correcting, as it happened, was the guy who brewed the beer.
We all laughed when it happened, but the beer expert moved on and when he did, the brewer said, “That guy is such a dick.”
When you simply assume you know more about something than someone else, you’re basically calling them dumb. And that’s not cool. Maybe that dude you’re about to deride for his beer choice is a Cicerone, Prud’Homme, champion home brewer but just really wants a Coors Light today. You don’t know. Enjoy your beer, and let other people enjoy theirs.
You’re basically just showing off.
I mean really, when we wax philosophically on beer, that’s all we’re doing right? Offering up unprompted monologues on beer is essentially just another way of saying, “Everyone please listen to me! I know some shit!” And that’s also not cool. You know you’re a really smart beer person. Be satisfied with that.
You’re potentially turning people off craft beer.
When you pour on your craft beer evangelism, you’re really doing a disservice to all the merits of the good beer you purport to espouse. Are you launching into a diatribe about how everyone should drink craft beer? Raging against the foolishness of people who choose foreign-owned industrial lagers? Well guess what? You’re likely only further alienating your audience and confirming the snotty, overly-analytic stereotype they may have about the “pretentious” world of craft beer.
I won’t be so foolish as to suggest that the negative effects of beersplaining are as harmful as mansplaining, but much as Rebecca Solnit astutely recognized that men explaining down to women “crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world” so too is being condescending and patronizing about beer likely only to reinforce mainstream beer drinkers’ anxieties about the world of dickish hipsters preaching about yeast strains and bottle conditioning.
There is one time to offer someone advice or guidance on their choice of beer, and it is when they ask.
By all means, if someone says, “Hey, you know about beer. What do you think of this?” then feel free to get out that soapbox and your notebook of tasting notes.
But if they never ask, shut up and enjoy your limited-release bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout while your friend enjoys his Canadian.