Bringing It: The Pitfalls and Perils of Bringing Your Own Beer

A party hosted by a gluten hater.  A BBQ at a macro-chugging friend's place.  A wine pairing dinner.  A visit to the in-laws' house.

What do all of these (and more) have in common?  They're all venues where you, as a craft beer drinker, might want to bring something of your own to drink.

I understand the impulse.  Heck, it's even polite: it's a long Super Bowl, and I want to make sure I contribute to the beer pile since I'll be here for a few hours.  But bringing beer with you can be a risky proposition, and should be approached with care, lest you insult your hosts and/or engage in alehole-ish behavior.  

What's the Big Deal?

Lots of you are thinking "what's the big deal?" - what's funny is that you're not even all in the same group of people.

One camp is thinking, "what's the big deal?" because they're omnivores who will be content drinking anything, whether it's Bud or Sierra or Sonoma or Dasani.  They might bring something as a gift, but otherwise they're fine with whatever ends up in their glass.

Another camp is thinking, "what's the big deal?" because they can't see how it could possibly be rude to bring something to drink to a party. 

I'm not saying it's rational, but follow me on this one: there's a way to see it as an implicit (and, depending on how you explain what you've done, explicit) criticism of your host.  Think of it this way: you plan a party, set a menu, stock the fridge and coolers, and then a guest arrives waving a six-pack of Deschutes and asking where he/she can put the other five (having just popped open the first and demanded "appropriate glassware").

Bit of a slap in the face, no?

Guard Rails

This week at Beer Simple we're simply going to discuss some good rules of thumb to make sure you're not accidentally being aleholes.  Your circumstances may vary, of course, and I'd love to see discussion of these, but I think this will give us a good starting point.

1. Always distinguish between "brought this for you" and "brought this for us" and "brought this for me."  Tell the hosts whether you intend them to save this for a special occasion, open it right then to share, or add to the beer stockpile of the event for anyone to grab.  "Brought this for me" should never be the option selected.  Only a boor would show up and say, "hey, make sure no one drinks these - they're mine!"  I wouldn't even mention it...except that I've seen it happen.  More than once.  But do distinguish between a bottle of barleywine or mead that isn't necessarily a fit for a pool party so that your host (who may not know) isn't pondering whether you expect him to break out the snifters.

2. Work the cooler/fridge; don't invade it.  If there's nowhere to cold store your beer, suck it up.  But what you can do, in almost every case, is pull-a-beer/add-a-beer.  When you remove a bottle of Shock Top (whether for you or someone else), add in one of yours in its place.  If questioned, you can point out that "a full fridge runs more efficiently."

3. Sell it as an option, not an alternative.  Maybe even before people ask, tell them that you brought a great beer that you couldn't wait for everyone to try if they feel like it.  Even if you're the only one that wants it or drinks it, you'll be making it clear that you aren't a highly-particular alcoholic who always travels with a preferred beverage, but instead you're someone who wants to share some good beer (without disparaging the host's beer).  

4. Mix it up.  Don't drink exclusively the stuff you brought.  Let people see you with a Michelob or a Shiraz in hand.  

5. Be content with any drinking vessel.  The contribution of "proper glassware" is real, but almost certainly negligible.  If you're choosing for yourself, fine - but don't ask, and certainly don't instruct.  

6. DON'T BE AN ALEHOLE.  Even if you think you're being funny, and even if the host or others make the joke in front of you, don't say that you brought it because what they've offered isn't what you drink.  The relative merits of Aspen Edge Low Carb beer (still the worst I've ever had) vs. your favorite local brewery aren't important if pointing it out at the expense of courtesy and manners.  

To a lot of people these are common sense.  If so, great - I still think they merit repeating now and again, though.

Go Native, Unless You're a Native

And here's a thought: maybe just show up and drink what's there.  One night of drinking light lager or Cabernet or Scotch or water won't kill you.  

The only time I routinely bring beer with me is when I'm visiting close friends of family.  In that case, "going native" isn't as important, because I am a native.  It may even be the case that the people you're visiting expect you to bring a few bottles of something or other because they look forward to what you choose.  If that's the case, then by all means, beer-ambassador away.

All I'm saying is that this kind of "beer particularism" needs to be exercised carefully.  If not, we again run the risk of being the people that the Bud Super Bowl commercials say we are.

Manners cost nothing.

Keep it simple.


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