You Guys Are Overthinking It
Conan O’Brien recently did a segment at Sam Adams’ little test brewery in Boston, and it turned out to be a remarkable document. I encourage everyone to watch it and study its lessons—and yes, there are lessons aplenty here. I doubt Conan went in thinking he’d make an incredibly sharp satire of the beer world’s insularity, but that’s exactly what this is.l
Let’s touch on a few points for emphasis. The segment starts with a set-up for a canned joke about an Abe Lincoln vape pen, but then finds its groove when Conan notices he’s way ahead of Jim and steals some of his beer. (“Can you top me off here, pal?”) This becomes the theme of the segment: Conan just trying to get a beer—any beer—but having to endure Koch’s boring and irrelevant expository. The next bit involves Koch droning on about brewing history (it bores even me). When he finally wraps that up, Koch gestures to the brewery behind them, leading to this exchange:
Koch: “Do you want me to show you what’s going on here?”
Conan: “I really don’t. If you told me what was going on here, I think I would take my own life.”
There’s a funny bit where Conan steals hops after learning they’re related to cannabis, followed by his observation that Koch “looks like a pervert” when he rubs hops and inhales the aroma. The funniest and most telling stretch of the segment comes next, however, when Conan realizes all the brewers have beards.
“I’m sorry,” Conan says, gazing at a brewer’s beard. “What is with the beards here? Check it out—look at this!” Conan turns to four other bearded brewers and starts laughing like a hyena. “This is insane. It’s an adult version of Santa’s workshop.”
Finally, they retire to the taproom, as you do following a brewery tour. There are 28 beers, and Conan vows to try them all. The first one is a “brut lager,” followed by “a brut lager with noble hops.”* Conan makes a noble hop joke but it’s clear (to everyone) that tasting all these overly fussy beers is bad TV, so Conan does the classic 9-year-old move by combing all remaining 26 in a pitcher. “That, gentleman, is a beer!” At the end, he concludes, to swelling music, that “the common man wants 26 beers mixed together. You guys are overthinking it. This is amazing!”
Of course, no one wants that blended beer. But the overthinking it part—that’s a solid observation. I have to remind myself constantly that most people drink beer because it’s fun, full stop. They don’t know what a brut lager is and they don’t want to. It’s just beer, and the point is fun. As a serial overexplainer, I’ll try to remember this the next time I inject Gobekli Tepe or thiols into conversation with casual beer fans.
*The brut lagers beg for their own exegesis, but let’s not get off into the weeds.