When Did Craft Beer Become a Hipster Beverage?

Something shocking happened right under my nose….craft beer is now a hipster beverage.

I’ve noticed signs for about the past year. It’s usually an overheard remark at a bar or a reference to hipsters in an article about craft beer. Here’s a perfect example from a CNN post called “Why I Drink Good Beer”. Notice the commenter automatically assumes the author must be a hipster:

cnn-comment

And from another news article:

I love reading the comments in articles about craft beer, and the anti-hipster comments from trolls have become much more frequent. I normally shrug it off.

“Strange”, I think. “What are they talking about? They’re getting their stereotypes confused. Craft beer isn’t a hipster thing.”

Well the other day a viral video made it perfectly clear that according to popular culture, craft beer is a hipster drink!



I do think the video is hilarious, but that’s a sidenote. My main reaction is one of confusion. When the hell did this happen? Two points:

Point 1: I thought PBR was the beer of hipsters!?! What happened to this?

Hey hipster dude, you don’t get two beers.

Point 2: We know people from all walks of life drink craft beer. Women drink it, minorities drink it, athletes drink it, nerds drink it. But OK, if I were to stereotype the average craft beer drinker it wouldn’t be a hipster. What would it be? An older white guy. Yep, an older white guy with a 67% chance of having a beer belly.

This conflicts with the media portrayal of the craft beer drinker, but that’s been my real-life experience. Granted I come from the homebrewing world so my experience may be skewed. But what’s this?

Fox Business News: Boomers, Hipsters Brew Up New Hobby

Damn you hipsters! Apparently they are taking over homebrewing too!

If I think back to the National Homebrewers Conference, OWGs outnumbered hipsters by 100 to 1. Here, I’ll show you what I’m talking about. This is a picture from the 2013 NHC:

nhc-clu

I didn’t cherry pick that one. Have a look. If you think homebrewing is a hipster thing, you’re waaaay off. I’d like to invite you to a beer judging event as well.

So how did this happen?

I ask you now, where is the hipster & craft beer association coming from? Is it…

  • Based on actual evidence that craft beer is now the preferred drink of hipsters?
  • The media knowing how much people like to hipster-bash and blowing the craft beer connection out of proportion?
  • The fact that a younger demographic is getting turned on to craft beer and a young person + a taste for finer things = hipster? (this association drives me crazy)

Let me know what you think in the comments. Is craft beer’s good name in danger of being tarnished by hipsters?

About Billy Broas


He is the founder of The Homebrew Academy, a BJCP beer judge, and the homebrewing expert on the Rocky Mountain PBS television show Colorado Brews. He lives in the fine beer town of Denver, Colorado.

Comments

  1. Your last bullet point there is bang on. It drives me crazy too

  2. I don’t know what to say.

    I spend a fair amount of time at Brewery tasting rooms and home-brew shops. Not to mention GABF. Don’t remember ever seeing anyone that made me think “hipster”. Ever. Maybe they are disguised as old fat white men?

  3. Actually … I notice a lot more families with kids in brewery tasting rooms that I go to. Maybe the hipsters are disguised as young children.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Sneaky hipsters disguising themselves as old fat white men and children….

      • I know … right? I thought part of the point of being a hipster was that you let the whole world know that is what you are.

        Of course, I am one of those old fat white men. I am someone who from time to time drags my wife and kids into a brewery.

        Maybe I’m a hipster without even knowing it? Maybe my kids are … and no one told me?

        I’m so confused. Think I’m going to go home, have a home-brew, and contemplate the whole thing.

  4. Beermonster says:

    Old white guys are hipsters? Quick! Someone let all those good looking women know….

  5. Denise Dochnahl says:

    Maybe what’s really happening here is that the OWGs are the new hipsters… :-)

    Humor aside, I have been hearing a lot of that lately, too. I’m not an OWG and don’t have a beer belly… yet; I am probably the absolute furthest thing from a hipster that you could possible find, and yet I get that a lot. My experience is that if the subject of craft (or “good”) beer comes up, or God forbid, someone mention that I home brew… I am automatically labeled a beer snob and a loathsome hipster. I don’t even try to defend it anymore, I just shrug and put them on my mental list of people NOT to share my next batch with. I have no idea how we got there though… and it does make me wonder every time it happens. Do you think there is an assumption about craft beer lovers and home brewers, because so many hipsters (the ones I know, anyway) are so into their wine?

    • Billy Broas says:

      Maybe it varies by region. I live near a rather hipster area in Denver and they are pretty much through and through PBR drinkers. Sure a bunch drink craft beer, but that’s because it’s Denver and most people drink craft beer. Another theory of mine is that because Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the epicenter of hipster culture, and apparently Williamsburgers love craft beer, that means that all hipsters do. So maybe we have the Brooklyn Brewery to blame?

  6. There is a chance that they’re confusing the tattooed, bespectacled, bearded brewers for hipsters? I’m a scruffy 40-something beer journalist and hang out in a lot of these bars. Sure, there are hipsters there. But the majority of beer geeks I know are about as far from hipster as anyone I’ve seen.

    • Billy Broas says:

      That’s a really good point about the beards. Maybe in people’s compulsive desire to label others they’ve become lazy. “Bearded guy with tattoos? Must be a hipster.” I also think that shop at Whole Foods, buy local, enjoy artisan food, drink fine whiskey, or compost get lumped in with hipsters. So basically the term doesn’t mean anything anymore.

  7. I’m a 20 something student and may even be a hipster myself. A few years ago to just this last summer, PBR was the hipster drink. Huge ads were pasted over the metro buses. I don’t see those ads much lately. And I don’t see PBR being drunk much lately either. There has been a large beer/wine/liquor store near campus that sold craft beers for many years, but just recently some micro-craft beer stores have been popping up.

    I do indeed think that craft beer is the new hipster drink of choice. But that’s probably just a consequence of who hipsters are (they need an authentic drink – something hip, you know, that not everyone has heard of) and the fact that craft beers are generally tasty and are becoming more ubiquitous because of that.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Thanks for the comment. Interesting observation about the PBR ads. I think you’re last sentence hits the nail on the head that the main reason for the switch is that craft beers are just tastier.

  8. A. Whiteman says:

    Sometimes I find myself wondering if anyone really knows what a “hipster” is. I think that if you surveyed people you might get a different response from almost every one of them. It seems to me like there’s no true definition, and that it’s more of a subjective thing for people that has become associated with almost anything “cool”, craft, different, or new, and anyone associated with even one of these things can be deemed a “hipster”.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Agreed – I don’t think anyone has a clear definition. It’s also evolved a lot over the years and as I said to Kevin it’s become to broad that it doesn’t really mean anything anymore.

  9. In my mind a hipster is somebody who partakes in something (craft beer, artisan spirits, buying organic, even the poker phase a couple years back) solely because it is popular or trendy. But lets not overlook that it does act as a gateway for some…That hipster is going to be an old white guy with kids in twenty years. Sure he still thinks he’s going to be the “cool” dad and hasn’t been formally introduced to reality, but some of those hipsters end up staying and being middle-aged beer geeks. Not defending hipsters, can’t stand them…but eventually most of them come to terms with life’s realities and do what THEY like, not what others tell them they should be liking.

  10. The difference between a hipster and a craft beer enthusiast is that the latter can sit down with you and articulate why they like what they like…the former can’t. And the self-aware craft beer fan knows that sitting down with anyone else and talking about preferences can be rude enough without careful consideration. “Oh, you like Budweiser? Psshh.” That attitude is more dangerous than some kid (or 30-something) desperate for kudos.

    Something I’ve sensed for quite a while is that craft beer enthusiasts are rightfully proud of their hobby, its intricacies, and the positive culture it in theory promotes…But there is this fear that the ‘wrong’ people are catching on to something that is evidently special. Special, but far from new. I think this is a dangerous trend.

    The only positive and productive way forward for craft beer enthusiasts is to be cognizant of the opportunities they have to shape the conversation of craft beer and homebrewing. A hipster is usually someone who wants so bad to be unidentifiable- yet can’t see how easily defined they’ve made themselves by disingenuously associating themselves with products, music, attire, etc. Craft brew fans need to simply stay on-point with why they (and they alone as individuals) enjoy what they enjoy. If you for example discuss why you like English IPAs more than American IPAs, then you’ve already moved the conversation. If you understand something like attenuation, don’t use it as a mechanism to scare people away. That guy is the real douche out of everybody, and I see it too often.

    This all sounds silly…but if this is a worthy topic, then I believe it starts with craft beer fans taking responsibility for the perception the rest of the public has of the culture, and simply demonstrating what’s good about the hobby- and nothing more. And that can only happen one passive conversation at a time.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Well said Justin. The fear that the wrong people are getting into our hobby is a dangerous attitude. I think this speaks to the larger culture of beer snobbery that is evolving. It’s not just from hipsters either. In fact, the vast majority of beer snobs that I’ve met have been old white guys!

      In the end I’m not too worried about snobs ruining craft beer though. It has too much mass appeal to remain a niche product. As I’ve written before on this blog, I look forward to the day when we no longer have to call it “craft beer”. It will just be “beer”, and good beer will be the norm.

      • Almost forgot- That pic of the homebrew club looked familiar because I live 8 miles from Williamsburg. Contemplated reaching out to join the club, but so far have enjoyed the journey on my own. I’m sure they’re good people, though.

        • Billy Broas says:

          Oh yea? I grew up in Williamsburg and go back there all the time. I didn’t realize they were from there until after I posted this and looked at it more closely.

  11. As the Guy in the far left back (and not an OWG lol) of the AHA Conference pic I can attest to the lack of hipster homebrewers. That conference was frankly the greatest concentration of cargo shorts, brewing shirts and beards in the northeast last year. BTW CASK Williamsburg, VA meets every third Thursday, 7:30 at Dog Street Pub. Next time you are back home come for a meeting! Pork pie hats are forbidden (no hipster attire) lol!

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Dan, that’s too funny that you’re in the picture I chose. I’ll have to come by for a meeting the next time I’m in town. I was at the Dog Street Pub shortly after it opened. Great beer selection!

  12. Sean Charles says:

    Hi Billy. I’m very impressed by all your beer action! Could you send me a picture of your fancy kettle you showed me? My roommate and I are trying to build the most bad-heinied brew setup around!
    On the hipster front, why worry about categorizing people, when we can all agree on a shared interest? Beer can unite us all! Kumbaya and stuff!!!!

  13. Hi,

    Equating love for craft beer to being a hipster is just a generalization. If we consider Urban Dictionary’s definition of the term hipster (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hipster), then the craft brew scene when compared to the mass market beers is actually hipster in itself. Craft beer is counter culture to the mass market brews and the previous blog post on Google trends is a good example.

    Over time the term hipster has become to some extent derogatory. Folks associate hipsters to douches and snobs, when in reality this is not the general rule. Hipsters will be attracted to craft brews, since they are not mass market. It gives them a chance to be part of something before it evolves into a version that appeals to the masses and in the process looses originality.

    Finally, consider the different craft beer names, the labels on the bottles and the whole marketing philosophy. Don’t you feel it is targeted towards a certain demographic that could be considered as hipsters?

  14. Douggo Says What? says:

    @PS:

    ” Folks associate hipsters to douches and snobs, when in reality this is not the general rule.”

    What are you talking about? There are a few possibilities of what is happening here. a) you are a hipster so you are trying to downplay it, b) you’ve never met a hipster and are just making guesses at what you think hipsters are all about, c ) you are drunk posting and have no idea really what you are talking about in any capacity.

    I know hipsters. I live in one of the biggest hipster cities in the US. They are everything you said they are not. They will sit and argue over things like rare obscure music nobody has heard of, they will offer random criticisms on things that has no place at all in the current conversation, they will avoid “cool” or “popular” things but while at home with nobody around participate in said activities. They will spend tons of effort securing something rare then bash it just for amusement. Have you ever been to a beer release at a brewery or a special tap release? Go to any of these and just listen to the conversation you hear. Just go, stand there and listen. The stuff you will hear will make your skin crawl if you yourself are not a hipster. I was at a special tapping once just minding my own business when a couple was talking next to me about how they hate Belgian beer and think IPAs are the best. I threw up in my mouth a little. This is what I’m talking about. Belgian beer is one of the oldest styles of beer and a true beer lover would respect it even if they don’t like it. A beer lover loves beer and appreciates all kinds of beer even though there are some styles they may not like. A hipster/beer snob will only drink a certain type of beer and then bash the others. Beer snobs/hipsters (they are the same thing) have completely ruined craft beer. I don’t even go to tappings anymore of rare beers. I’d rather stay at home and drink a Miller Lite than have to go to the bar and hear these awful awful humans talk in the background.

    Hipsters are literally THE definition for snobs and douches. The fact you’d even use urbandictionary as a reference point for anything is extremely amusing. I also find it amusing how you’d think that a unique beer name is targeting hipsters. I’m guessing you really have no idea how advertising in any capacity works.

  15. “We know people from all walks of life drink craft beer. Women drink it, minorities drink it, athletes drink it, nerds drink it. But OK, if I were to stereotype the average craft beer drinker it wouldn’t be a hipster. What would it be? An older white guy. Yep, an older white guy with a 67% chance of having a beer belly.”

    Yep, you nailed it. Us old fat white guys have been drinking craft beer since before hipsters was even a word (much less a thing)…..

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