Written by Steven Armstrong for thisisbrandx.com
“How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?â€
Thatâ€™s the question Jason Bernstein posed earlier this week when we sat down at the Golden State, the eatery-cum-craft-beer-bar he co-owns on Fairfax. I sipped my Stone Double Bastard Ale as he delivered the punchline:
â€œItâ€™s a really esoteric number; youâ€™ve probably never heard of it.â€
The joke illustrates Bernsteinâ€™s point about the nascent subculture within the burgeoning craft beer community. Bernstein calls it the â€œhipster craft beer movementâ€ — a term he uses to describe those who spelunk craft beerâ€™s extraordinary depths not to educate, but to alienate.
â€œThe esoteric and the arcane are being overly-exalted,â€ Bernstein said.
He would know: the Golden State has garnered a reputation as a place to find rare and obscure beers — many of which arenâ€™t even listed on the menu. So a lot of those â€œhipstersâ€ heâ€™s talking about are people who flutter to his counter on a nightly basis, like moths to the proverbial flame.
But Bernstein rejects the idea that obscurity automatically equals value.
He believes we should let our palates guide us. The Golden State doesnâ€™t sell esoteric beers because theyâ€™re cool; Bernstein carries them because they taste great, and drinking them opens peopleâ€™s eyes to the possibilities of craft beer.
Yet despite his apprehension around the so-called craft beer hipsters, Bernstein recognizes that bunch as an â€œannoying but necessary segmentâ€ of the craft beer-loving population. â€œThey ensure brewers still push the envelope,â€ he said. â€œThey drive innovation.â€
Escondido-based Stone Brewing Company has built a veritable empire around pushing the envelope, cultivating a not-so-tongue-in-cheek exclusionary attitude along the way. Their Double Bastard Ale is no exception. Both Bernstein and Stone discourage the unwitting customer from even trying it. â€œYou probably wonâ€™t like it,â€ is a statement Stone has made on its website, and Bernstein has echoed in his restaurant.
With a thick, creamy, boozy head — and a 10.5% ABV to match — this American Strong Ale is definitely not for everyone. Bernstein tells his customers that just because they like the year-round Arrogant Bastard does not mean theyâ€™ll like the winter seasonal Double Bastard. â€œIt tastes more like a Barleywine,â€ Bernstein says. â€œThatâ€™s really what it is.â€
But Bernstein neednâ€™t worry about craft beer hipsters liking or disliking the Double Bastard; after a recent cameo on Showtimeâ€™s “Weeds,” Stone is much too mass-market for that ilk.