Someone once told me that you can't convert every beer drinker into a craft beer drinker. The more I've thought about that statement, the more I've come to realize it's one of those dangerous half-truths. Can I convert every beer drinker into a craft beer hobbyist? Absolutely not. But saying that beer drinkers, for some reason, are unwilling to choose good beer over Bud, Miller or Coors (we'll just call this kind of beer BMC) is preposterous.
In my experience, people aren't choosing to drink mass-produced beer because they think it's better, but because they either don't know what else is out there or don't know where to start. No one needs to "convince" friends or family to enjoy something inherently better; they just need to know how to properly go about introducing quality into others' lives. Over time, I've learned there are simple ways to get people to put down their Bud Lights and pick up something better without an intervention.
Don't be a beer snob
If I had a nickel for every time I saw a beer nut scoff when someone picked up a case of Bud Light or PBR I'd be rich. (Think a beery version of those record store geeks in High Fidelity.) Pretentiously turning your nose up at people who don't know good craft beer will turn them away fast. Save the lofty debates for the beer dinners and bottle parties and just relax and remember that you catch more flies with honey.
Keep your fridge stocked with BMC alternatives
During football season, my roommate and I enjoy having people over for Panthers games (despite how painful they can be to watch sometimes), and I always make sure to have a well-stocked fridge of BMC alternatives. You don't need to go nuts and have 22 oz. bombers no one's ever heard of, but pick up some Flying Dog, Sierra Nevada or Fat Tire and forego the stuff they're probably used to. You'll be surprised at how many people take a liking to these alternatives and branch out from there. Is it unfair to deny your friends their familiar brands? Nah, beggars can't be choosers.
Suggest craft beer-friendly restaurants
Just about everyone enjoys going out for a good meal. People are generally more willing to try new beer when they are sitting down eating than when they are already out and drinking. Of course, it helps to be at a place that actually has something good on tap. Living in South End, I find myself frequently suggesting The Liberty when family or friends come in from out of town. Dandelion Market is also a regular recommendation. JJ's Red Hots is a new craft beer-friendly restaurant in Dilworth, and Duckworth's on Park Road is one of my favorite Thursday night spots. When in NoDa, I take people to Growler's or Revolution Pizza.
Suggest stopping by a brewery
I've had my best luck getting people to a brewery when I suggest it for happy hour or afternoons on the weekend. From NoDa Brewing's NoDable Release series on Tuesdays to Birdsong's Thirsty Thursdays and now even Olde Meck's Unfiltered Fridays, there are few bad days to head to a brewery on weekdays after work. And there's the novelty value of drinking in the place where your beer was just made.
Invite people over for homebrew
I find myself brewing on Sundays and that's always a great excuse to invite people over to have a few beers (it's even easier during football season). It's not every day that people see someone making beer, and nearly everybody is at least a little curious about how the process works. It'll get them thinking about beer in a different way and it's a good opportunity to have them try some of your own brew. Who's going to turn down a free beer that their buddy has made? If it's good, hopefully they'll come back for more and you can slowly introduce them to other homebrewed and craft beers.
Mark Iafrate is the founder of Charlotte Beer Blog and has a passion not only for craft beer, but the social community it creates. Read more at www.charlottebeerblog.com.