Thursday, 22 April 2010

Beer Sects (1): The Hipster Douchebag

Now, you might think I spend all my time despising tickers, hoarders and traders. No. Oh no. They angry up my blood at one end of the craft beer spectrum, namely the spooge end. There's another odd sub-grouping who drink at the other end, and whose existence made me curious. There it would have remained but for an event a couple of years ago.

I'm talking about "Hipsters", almost always usually paired with the pejorative, "Douchebag". Learn more here. In New York, a large enclave can be found in the emerging neighbourhood of Williamsburg, in Brooklyn.

I recall visiting NYC in Spring 2005, when a topic of conversation was the rising popularity of old-time lite beers like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Schlitz(1). Turned out that the NYC hipsters had turned on to their dad's beers, decided they were "ironic" and "relevant", and consequently demand was through the roof. Amusing, but so long as good beer bars weren't being swamped by these weird kids stopping me from sampling the best of American Craft, a footnote.

Fast-forward to November the same year. I was heading back to the city after a trip to Southampton Publick House on Long Island. I had spooge to share with some mates, and we agreed to meet at Barcade, then a newish bar in Williamsburg notable for its banks of retro arcade games like Frogger and Galaxian. Ironic enough to be on the Friday night HD pub crawl. The place was empty when I got there, but soon started to fill with identikit lads, all with Morrissey specs, black Peter Pan haircuts, knitwear and black drainpipe jeans. The women they were squiring were straight out of the HD catalogue. All looked the same. All sounded the same, All drinking bloody PBR. I was fascinated.

My mates and I moved on to Spuyten Duyvil, an excellent watering-hole some 20 minutes away from Barcade. A few beers, some food and chat, and around about midnight, it was time to finish off. I turned from my seated position at the bar, to see Robert Smith from the Cure in deep conversation with some girl. I shook my mate Scott by the arm to check. It wasn't, but I swear, if Robert Smith had decided to sell insurance instead of crafting melancholy guitar-pop, this guy was him. I couldn't hold it in any more, and started to laugh. The Hipster Douchebags all eyed me up. Why is that fat English guy laughing? What's so funny? Doesn't he KNOW how shit life is?

And how do I know that's what they're thinking? Because in 2008, I had to spend some time with one. I didn't think I'd find one in Park Slope, an area of Brooklyn becoming very upscale with young professional couples and their spawn. My friend Pete had another mate called Mark Bello over to demonstrate pizza-making. Mark makes sublime pizza in the best city for pizza in the world. I got there quite late due to an attack of "Split Thy Brooklyn Skull IX"(2) and messed-up weekend subway. On arrival, there were some new faces, including this very weird kid. Half my age, dressed in drainpipe trews, a buttoned-up shirt, narrow tie and yellow cardigan. Think Andy Warhol in High School. Having declined with commendable ennui, an invitation to spin pizza dough around and look silly, he then gave forth with the view that, at 23, his life was over. I couldn't help it - I'd been drinking strong ale all day. I looked at him, snorted and laughed like a drain.

Anyway, ramble over. This trip down memory lane was sparked by the following, for which I thank Tri-State beer geek legend Loren Verkovod...
More mocking toons here.

Footnote (1): I'm currently reading "Ambitious Brew", Maureen Ogle's account of the rise of US brewing. A good read if you want the backstory to the growth of A-B, Pabst etc.
Footnote (2): If you're viewing the pics of Split Thy Skull, the old guy looking like Captain Birdseye is called Jimmy. He's reputed to sell PBR around the Five Boroughs, and he was the first New Yorker I spoke to about beer. That's a whole different story...


Cooking Lager said...

Don't knock it. I'm hoping the kids here in the UK get into cooking lager enthusiasm through retro pints of Skol.

Sid Boggle said...

And you will be their god, Cookie... ;-)

Barm said...

Skol? Fuck that shit! Kestrel!