Queenan Country: Where Beer Ignorance Frightens Cranky Old Man

Wow. Just, wow. Rarely have I seen such naked ignorance on display in print, and in the Wall Street Journal, no less. “Self professed negative styled humorist” Joe Queenan has written a piece for the Journal entitled Foaming at the Mouth About Craft Beer that packs in more idiotic commentary per column inch than I’ve seen in a long time.

Queenan begins by admitting that he knows nothing about craft beer and that everybody else seems to be talking about it, causing him great consternation. Then he drops this bomb.

It doesn’t help that I don’t drink. I used to drink a long time ago, but back then we didn’t talk about beer. We merely drank it. We might occasionally discuss wine—especially if we were in France—but beer wasn’t viewed as a suitable topic for conversation. Beer was simply an ingenious device one used to get hammered.

As a teetotaler, there’s little chance he’ll understand craft beer. It’s a bit like teaching a fish to ride a bicycle. Or as my friend and colleague, drinks writer Stephen Beaumont put it. “And what is a teetotaler doing writing about beer, anyway? [It’s] Like me writing about nuclear physics.”

On and on he goes, presumably trying to be funny but missing the mark by a country mile. And everywhere he goes, people are talking about craft beer. And he finds himself increasingly “frozen out of conversations because [he] literally know[s] nothing about craft beers.” Of course, he could pick up a book, use the internet or even ask a few questions of the throngs of craft beer drinkers he’s surrounded by. That appears to never occur to him. He could educate himself, but he voluntarily chooses ignorance instead. He’d rather be pissed off than join the conversation.

Of course, he also admits that talking about beverages is nothing new, when he notes that he and his friends used to “occasionally discuss wine — especially if we were in France — but beer wasn’t viewed as a suitable topic for conversation.” Hey Joe, guess what? That was then; this is now. You’re about to take Andy Rooney’s place, imagine this next sentence in Rooney’s voice. ‘You ever notice how people know more about beer now than when I was a kid?’ Times have changed, Joe, and apparently you’re not too thrilled that you’ve been left behind. People discussed wine in France for the simple fact that it was an engaging, interesting subject. When you came of age in the 1970s, American beer was almost all the same, so you can be excused for thinking beer wasn’t a “suitable topic for conversation.” At that time, it wasn’t. But that changed. A lot. And given that you’ve been a “media figure,” a commentator on public life and pop culture for many decades, there’s simply no excuse for not noticing that the status of American beer has been on the rise for quite some time. After all, it’s been in all the papers, even some of the ones you write for. To have missed what’s been going on would be to display monumental willful ignorance.

It’s especially odd when you write that “on a trip to Philadelphia, I happened upon a local magazine called Philly Beer Scene,” and you note it looked like Vanity Fair. But you failed to mention that you’re from Philadelphia, indeed grew up there and went to college at Saint Mary’s University. Ignorance about beer is one thing, but about your hometown? Is that a literary license? A plot device? Or has it really been that long since you’ve made the trek all the way from upstate New York to Philly? Surely you could not have failed to notice that Philadelphia has become one of the premiere beer cities in the nation. It should have been obvious in nearly any restaurant or bar you happened upon.

But okay, fine. You’re an idiot about beer, and apparently you like it that way. Nobody’s forcing you to keep up with the times, appreciate that beer is different now than when you were a child or do even a modicum of research on the subject. Ignorance is indeed bliss, and by your own admission you must be the most blissful man in America.

All well and good, but then you had to go and try to persuade others that your point of view has some legitimacy, merit or even a chance in hell of turning back the clock to the good old days when everybody was just as ignorant as you are about beer with these statements. “I want people to cut this out right away” and “I want the madness to stop.” I got bad news for you, Joe. Craft beer is here to stay. The madness will indeed continue. You might as well get used to it.