As a believer in better beer, it happens to me a lot. I go to the office happy hour (or wedding reception, or college reunion, or baptism…) and while many of my friends/coworkers/clergy order a “______ Light” I ask the friendly bartender: “What do you have on draft?” I emerge from the bar with something dark or frothy or downright funky-smelling to quizzical looks from my em-bottled compatriots.
“What’ya drinkin?” one asks, and my response is about two or three minutes longer than is appropriate and includes adjectives that are generally used to describe internal anatomy or landscaping design. Knowing glances are exchanged around the group and someone submits: “so it sounds like you’re really into beer.” Realizing I’ve done it again, I laugh, take a sip, and brush it off with something like “I’ve been known to imbibe a few from time to time.”
And that’s when it happens.
“So… what’s your favorite beer?”
I’m not going to lie. I hate this question. Maybe it’s the Myers-Briggs “Perceiver” in me, but the question is just too singular, too final. It lacks nuance. I don’t have kids, but* I have to imagine that it’s like asking someone with multiple children which is his/her favorite? First off, you just don’t do it. Secondly, if someone does ask, you dare not answer it directly.
The issue for me is that what I find most interesting – I’m talking about beer again – is not how much I love one beer versus another but what it is that I love about a particular beer. I know people mean well by asking the question,** so I usually approach a few different ways:
1) “It depends on what I’m in the mood for, what the time of year is, or where I’m at.” This gives me a chance to wax poetic about how diverse beer is, how different beers traditionally are brewed with the seasons. I wouldn’t eat the same food every day, so why always drink the same beer?
2) “I haven’t had it yet.” This is the pithy answer, usually delivered with a smug look. I usually follow it up by talking about how I love to try new and exciting beers. Feel free to try this one at the singles bar.***
3) “I could never pick just one, but some of my favorites are…” I’ll then give a litany of examples that reflect the different ways I love beer. The local standby: Moerlein OTR. The never-fail: Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale. The sentimental first beer: Harp. The rare find: 1997 Thomas Hardy (bottled when I was in 8th grade). The arrogant choice: whatever I just brewed at home.
I’m sure plenty of folks out there get this question a lot. How do you regularly answer it? And if you had to name one (or two, or three…), what are your favorites?
*Ever notice how no one who says this stops here – but probably should?
**I take any interest anyone shows in good beer as an opportunity to educate, advocate, and probably embarrass myself.
***To my wife: I swear I’ve never used this one on anybody but you!!!