Take any topic—sports, cars, gardening, literally anything—and you can find a subculture that is obsessed with it to near-pathological levels. Mine, you may have guessed, is beer. People like me, self-described beer geeks, will wax poetic about hop varieties, talk your ear off about yeast strains, and debate fiercely about whether this year’s imperial stout had more coffee than last year. I struggle to see the world outside my bubble, where normal people see beer as just a basic part of life like sandwiches or shoes. We geeks easily forget that something like 80 percent of the beer sold in this country is not the delicious craft beer we’re preoccupied with.
If there’s one thing the internet and social media have given us, it’s a way for people with common interests to find each other, communicate and share their passions. Beer geeks are no exception—there are countless forums dedicated to brewing, rating, trading and simply discussing beer. Locally, we have several Facebook groups dedicated to it in some way. SixFour Growlers proprietor Bret Schaeffer launched one, the Reno Beer Enthusiast, about 16 months ago, and it has since grown to nearly 400 members.
Of course, beyond the online world where we can tell each other about new beers, share beer jokes, and ask for opinions, this forum also provides a way to organize real world events where we can drink real beer! And so I set out on a recent Friday night to join the RBE for their third bottle share. As the name implies, you bring a bottle or two—or more—of something you want to share with the group, and everyone gets to taste a bunch of different beers they might not otherwise have access to. Now I don’t know about your obsessions and their groups, but this could easily turn into a contest—who can bring the best, rarest, most hallowed beer and impress everyone the most. But it’s not about bragging rights, it’s about finally having an opportunity to pop the cork—yes, some beers come corked—with kindred spirits who will appreciate it. It’s like a Hot August Nights show-n-shine for beer.
I missed the first two get-togethers, but I’m told this turnout was the best yet. I suspect the tour of a new brewery-to-be, Revision Brewing, spiked interest this time. Probably 50 people from all walks of life gathered to freely share special bottles with strangers and friends. They brought home brew, vintage bottles they had socked away for years—yes, cellaring beer is a thing—rare Belgian sours, hoppy, stout and everything in between. Beer was discussed, tastings were logged, and a great time was had by all.
Other than the RBE, you’ll also find local home brew club, the High Desert Brewgade, sharing ideas on fermentation, ingredients and equipment, and organizing competitions. The Sons of Fermentation, by description a “brewers group,” in reality brings together the seedy underbelly of the Reno beer scene—salty humor and trash talk, tempered with a streak of camaraderie, charity and unbridled enthusiasm for drinking.
The world of the Reno beer geek, online and otherwise, is certainly comparable to other cities and people geeky about other things, from quilters to barbecuers to old car freaks. We’re all passionate about something and just need others to talk to about it.