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Beer geeks, snobs say cheers to craft beer

Are you a beer snob? A beer geek? Or both? Say cheers to some proud craft beer drinkers

May Aungthet recently drove more than 200 miles for a beer.

The Boca Raton resident left at 5 a.m. to wait in line with other spirited fans for the 8 a.m. release of DOS Brunch Imperial Stout at Cycle Brewing in St. Petersburg.

"I purchased four bottles. It was definitely worth the drive and I would do it again for those bottles," said the 24-year-old who paid $140 for the bottles. She regularly posts photos of her craft beer adventures on Instagram. "Once you've had craft beer that you like, there's no going back."

As South Florida's craft beer culture explodes, a new breed of drinker is bubbling up that is not your father's beer guzzler.

These craft beer connoisseurs post photos of their bottles on social media with quickie reviews, using the tags #beergeeks, #beersnobs and #beerporn. They hop on Brew Bus tours of South Florida breweries and join breweries' membership clubs. They mark dates on their Google calendars for upcoming limited releases and trade info on what brews may be coming to the region.

And like Aungthet, they make out-of-the-way beer runs when needed.

"It's always about drinking the best the breweries have to offer whether it's an IPA or a stout," said Aungthet, whose favorite beers include Cycle Brewing Hazelnut because "it's a barrel aged Imperial stout with hazelnut," and Goose Island Proprietor's Bourbon County Brand Stout from 2014.

"Brewing beer is an art form just like cooking or painting. Beer is an expression of the brewer, they work hard and pay attention to details to produce a beer they're proud to put their name on," Aungthet added.

Tasting the drinks like wine, they consider the body, whether it's dry-hopped, malty-heavy, dry and tart, barrel-aged, etc. They look at the IBU (International Bittering Units) scale to see how bitter the beer is, and pour over reviews at

Monica Santiago, a Pembroke Pines administrative assistant, is known as Kitty Craft @mermaidontap on Facebook and Instagram where her tagline is "So many beers, so little time." Her hobby is posting photos of beers that she samples and reviews. "You are drinking it because it's a good flavor, it's a good taste, the texture, the way it bubbles into your mouth...It never gets boring. It's endless."

Aron Epstein of Miami Beach said he would also fall somewhere in the beer geekdom spectrum.

"I cringe when people pick up something like a Bud or Corona when there are more delicious complex crafty beers to choose from," said the general manager of Purdy Lounge in Miami Beach. "I'm a big fan of Lagunitas, especially their IPA. IPAs are my usual beer of choice. I'm not a beer snob per se, but I do know a good beer when I drink it."

Will Freyre shows his enthusiasm for craft beer on his Instagram account "Hopspost," which has a tagline: #bitterisbetter.

"I would definitely consider myself any of the above from beer geek to beer enthusiast. I might be over-the-top by some people's standards. I show up at a family party with my own special beers," said Freyre, 41. "People who know me have come to accept me."

His Instagram account has more than 700 posts that mostly feature a lone beer bottle on a bar counter or a beach, his hand wrapped around the drink.

One recent image: a bottle of Lemon Merengue Pie Blonde Ale resting on a blue and white striped beach towel.

"This light-bodied brew is all about the lemon tartness, rounded out by the subtle sweet vanilla notes over a non-conflictive clean blonde ale," he wrote of the drink from Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park.

"It gives me a relevant creative outlet...I don't get bored of taking pictures of beer because I don't get bored of trying them," said the vice president of digital innovation at Miami ad agency Republica.

There is a definite growing thirst, a buzz if you will, in the South Florida craft beer scene as people learn more about specialty drinks.

In 2011, there were about 50 craft breweries in Florida, according to the Brewers Association. Last year, there were about 150.

"The idea of craft has been coming along for a while, but we're seeing it come to fruition here because it's already caught on, and the demand is there," said Doug Fairall, brand marketing manager for Due South Brewing Company in Boynton Beach. "People can't want what they don't have...People are taking to craft because they have a more adventurous palate and are used to trying new things."

Mike Ewart, who runs the craft beer site and the Twitter handle floribrew, agreed.

"The brand loyalty of your traditional grandfather beer drinker isn't strong as it used to be because there is too much out there to try. They would drink the same beer seven days a week, 365 days a year. Those days are over," said Ewart, who considers himself an enthusiast but with some snobbery in him, too.

"If you go to a craft beer place, you might have five or six different styles and it's a lot of different flavors, a lot of variety," said Ewart, whose go-to beer is brown ale. "If I am going to be limited to having two beers, I want to get the one that seems most interesting."

Is there a difference between a beer geek and a snob? Some folks say the labels can overlap but represent different approaches toward craft beer.

Ed Roberts, a Coral Springs resident who heads up regional sales for Total Wine & More, described beer geeks as people "who will share their passion and try to bring other people into it and educate them and grow the awareness of the world of craft beer."

He described beer snobs as drinkers who generally "take it too seriously. They put the focus on trying to make it about themselves rather than making it about the beer...when you don't keep an open mind and you're not looking to educate or build craft beer in general," he added. "We are supposed to be inclusive and not excluding people."

Whatever the interest level is in craft beer, there are more places for the people to find one another, he said.

"You have a huge mix now. You've got snobs, you've got geeks but you have a lot more casual fans who don't necessarily care about how many IBUs are in a beer or how many hops...There are now more places that these groups can meet."

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