“How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?”
That’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:
“It’s a really esoteric number; you’ve probably never heard of it.”
The joke illustrates Bernstein’s point about the nascent subculture within the burgeoning craft beer community. Bernstein calls it the “hipster craft beer movement” — a term he uses to describe those who spelunk craft beer’s extraordinary depths not to educate, but to alienate.
“The esoteric and the arcane are being overly-exalted,” Bernstein said.
He would know: the Golden State has garnered a reputation as a place to find rare and obscure beers — many of which aren’t even listed on the menu. So a lot of those “hipsters” he’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 doesn’t sell esoteric beers because they’re cool; Bernstein carries them because they taste great, and drinking them opens people’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 “annoying but necessary segment” of the craft beer-loving population. “They ensure brewers still push the envelope,” he said. “They drive innovation.”
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. “You probably won’t like it,” 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 they’ll like the winter seasonal Double Bastard. “It tastes more like a Barleywine,” Bernstein says. “That’s really what it is.”
But Bernstein needn’t worry about craft beer hipsters liking or disliking the Double Bastard; after a recent cameo on Showtime’s “Weeds,” Stone is much too mass-market for that ilk.