Most of us would probably admit to loving beer: as Benjamin Franklin said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." (He never said that, by the way...sorry to rain on the parade of any Franklin-phile reading this, but the actual quote refers to wine, was written in French, and isn't phrased as succinctly. It's just easier to attribute the quote to him than to explain all of this, but, that's why you come to the Ramble, isn't it? To get the skinny on 200 year old misquotes? Of course that's why you're here...read on, read on, and all will be explained) For some of us, that love begins and ends at Miller Lite (or Coors Light, or Bud Light, or Yuengling Lager...you get the point). It was the first beer we ever tried, back when we were twelve or so, and we've stuck with it through good times, bad times, and everything in between. After all, it tastes great, and it's less filling, so what's not to like? Many of us, however, will eventually grow bored with that first love and begin to notice its flaws. ("It tastes watered down," "I have to drink a case of it to catch a buzz," "It's put on weight, and the sex has become routine," etc) At that point, many of us will choose to place that first love in session beer semi-retirement while we seek out new thrills in strange places, venturing out into "Gateway Beers" like Guinness, Sam Adams, and Blue Moon (An orange in a beer? How delightful!). These brews open up a new experience for the drinker, showcasing bold new flavors and opening up a new world of pleasures for the palate. Some of us become very interested at this point and begin to branch out even further, not only exploring the many different styles of beer, but taking the time to learn the vocabulary that comes along with any great beer. (The difference between an ale and a lager, between malty and hoppy, etc) Once the drinker has amassed some beer knowledge, a choice becomes apparent, if only on a subconscious level, and it will determine the attitude he or she carries toward beer for the rest of his or her life: am I a Beer Geek or a Beer Snob?
"But Tom," you might be thinking, "Aren't Beer Geeks and Beer Snobs the same thing?" At first glance, it may appear that way: both groups are passionate and knowledgeable about beer, considering themselves well-versed in how specific styles are supposed to look, smell, feel, and taste. They can probably tell you the difference between a Trappist beer and an Abbey Ale, and they almost certainly know when a beer is served in the wrong glass. Essentially, the difference comes down to this: Beer Geeks love beer, and Beer Snobs think that their love of beer somehow makes them better than anyone who doesn't know as much about beer as they do.
Should you find yourself sitting next to a Beer Geek and decide to strike up a conversation with him about what he is drinking, he will likely be happy to tell you everything about it (brewer, name, style, origin, ABV, and, lastly, his own opinion of it); hell, he may even pour some of it for you, if he thinks it is a quality beer and thinks you will enjoy it. He will be happy to answer any and all questions you have about it and will enjoy enlightening you. He loves beer, and he wants you to love it too: should you order a Miller Lite for your next round, he won't get angry or judge you for it, but will probably laugh and say something like, "Different strokes for different folks," or "It takes different strokes to move the world," or "What you talking about, Willis," provided that he is also the ghost of Gary Coleman.
Should you find yourself sitting next to a Beer Snob and decide to strike up a conversation with him about what he is drinking, he will likely be happy to tell you everything about it and may even let you try it; if, however, he notices that you are drinking a macro beer other than, say, PBR, he will consider you beneath him in all the ways that matter. To him, you are a lowly creature who has not achieved the proper level of sophistication necessary to drink with him, and he'd appreciate it if you would leave him alone to enjoy his beer in peace.
In short, Beer Geeks know a lot about beer, and Beer Snobs are assholes. Don't be a Beer Snob- after all, the world doesn't need any more assholes. Advantage, Beer Geek.