Why would anyone pour a perfectly good craft beer down the drain?

Would your pour out this beer?
Would your pour out this beer?
Published September 4 2014
Updated September 4 2014

A question was recently posed to an online beer group that I follow: What percentage of beers that you drink end up as drain pours?

A drain pour, if you're wondering, is as simple as it sounds: you open a beer, have a sip or two, decide it's not your thing, and pour the rest down the drain.

To a small group of folks — typically found on online beer forums — drain pours are a form of street cred; the more prestigious and well-regarded the beer, the more cool you are for pouring it out. If you can dump a beer that others can only hope to try some day, then you must be awash in truly elite beer, indeed.

A friend of mine recently poured out a bottle of Founders Bolt Cutter — a fairly sought-after barleywine — without even tasting it, just to be funny (it wasn't). That this beer is one many people would love to get their hand on of course gave him an even greater kick from gratuitously wasting it.

While I wouldn't consider this friend to be a member of the "reputation by drain pour" set, I found the e ntire thing pretty off-putting. See, I belong to the opposite extreme of the drain pour philosophy, where drain pours are practically non-existent. There are sober children in China, after all!

Most folks in this recent discussion fell somewhere in the middle. They don't like pouring out beers, but they also don't see merit in forcing themselves to finish a beer that they legitimately don't like, or that they consider lackluster. To most of them, life is too short to drink substandard beer, and drain pours are an unfortunate part of enjoying beer on a serious level.

It's tough to argue with this when there are so many quality brews out there to try. Why drink something average when a world-class alternative is a bottle shop or beer bar away? I understand this rationale, yet I still can't bring myself to join the ranks of the casual drain-pourers.

I started drinking craft beer about a decade before the current craft beer boom. Back then, beers that many would now consider drain pours were literally the best you could find.

As beer styles and variety have broadened and arguably improved over the years, I find that I still appreciate the old-school brews as much as I did back then, even as my preference has shifted in different directions. But to a generation of beer drinkers who started out at bars with 50 beers on tap and bottle shops stocking literally thousands of beers, I can only imagine how one's taste would evolve.

Furthermore, as a homebrewer, I can appreciate the work that went into a beer. It's an admittedly flimsy excuse for consuming something you don't truly enjoy, but I think any homebrewer will tell you about a lousy batch that they dutifully choked down at one point or another. On the other hand, professional brewers will also tell you about large batches that they dumped straight down the drain, rather than tarnish their reputation with a botched batch.

So who's right? The process of actually pouring out a perfectly good beer almost reflexively causes me to cringe. But from a rational perspective, I have a hard time justifying this. Am I really doing myself any favors by finishing a beer that I'm not that into, just because it's there?

I honestly don't think I'll ever be able to take a few sips of a beer and banish the rest to the sink. I just haven't found any beers that I've considered that undrinkable. Maybe that means I'm just not critical enough, or that my palate lacks nuance, or maybe I'm so in love with beer that I can't bear to see even the not-so-great stuff go to waste.

I'm sure there's a truly nasty beer out there somewhere that will force me to make a tough decision, but for now, I'm just glad that I haven't found it.

— jg@saintbeat.com

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