It’s been well-documented in this space that I have a problem with hipsters. There’s something about those people and their “fixie” bikes and their trucker hats and their ironic facial hair and their koi fish tattoo sleeves and they’re lumberjack shirts and their love of Pabst Blue Ribbon that makes me want to expose them for the posers they are. I feel the hipster look is a costume someone slips on when they’re simply not cool enough to be themselves. Being a hipster a false affectation, something to hide behind.
Then I met former Entourage star Adrian Grenier, and my thoughts about hipsters were forever changed. A little.
I was at the New York press launch for Churchkey, a craft Pilsner that comes in a flat top steel can and requires a “church key” can opener to get to the beer (hence the name). My editor at the Today Show Online had forwarded me the invitation, confident I wouldn’t want to slog it into the city to drink a fizzy yellow beer from a silly can with a former cable star. But I surprised her and said I was interested, because my brother Don had primed the pump.
Don had just written a piece here about Churchkey, and thought it was a nicely crafted Pilsner, so I knew the beer was worth tasting. Plus, we had a lot of hipster-bashing fun in the comments of Don’s post – I even called Grenier a hipster’s hipster. The chance to ask Grenier face-to-face about the whole “hipster beer” thing was enough for me to take a half day at work and grind my way down to a hipster bar in Chinatown, where the event was being held.
When I walked through the door, Grenier was behind the bar, looking at his phone. I walked up, and he offered me a beer. He was a mellow, gracious dude, and lacked anything approaching an “I’m a star, aren’t you lucky to meet me?” attitude. He was very disarming.
Grenier and Churchkey co-founder Justin Hawkins got up and gave a brief presentation about the beer. Through the whole thing, Grenier was so damn EARNEST about everything. He talked about how the flat steel top adds another tactile layer to the pleasure of having a beer, how he’s begun to seek out the local craft beer scene wherever he travels, how steel has environmental benefits over aluminum, how his angel investors from the tech industry bought into Churchkey because they longed to be involved with a real-world product that they could touch, on and on and on. It was all said with a sincerity and an excitement that was less of a sales pitch and more of a manifesto as to why the Churchkey Can Company is a worthwhile endeavor for Grenier. He might be a hipster’s hipster, but he seems very genuine about what drives him.
After the talk, I approached Grenier because I had to ask him about the “hipster beer” thing – it was why I went. So I brought up all the hipster-bashing Churchkey has been taking on the Internet (mentioning that we did our share here as well), and his answer surprised me. He embraced it. He told me that he was a total hipster, and is drawn to things that are authentic, old-fashioned and environmentally friendly. He said that today’s hipsters are simply a new version the hippies of years gone by, only they smell better.
As he said this, my hipster-hate briefly melted away because he was so genuine about being a hipster – it was heartfelt. He wasn’t trying to be the coolest guy in the room, he was just living his life in a way that fit his worldview, which just happens to wear the label of “hipster.” Grenier is a real hipster, the kind that others who long to be hipsters try to emulate.
I was right when I called him a hipster’s hipster on Don’s post, but now I think my heart was in the wrong place. It’s okay to be a hipster, but not a poser hipster. Unfortunately, just like the hippies 40+ years ago, there are probably a handful of genuine hipsters out there and legions of posers who are hiding behind the ethos as they try to figure out who they are. Which I guess is okay, too. As you can see, Grenier humanized hipsters for me, and once that happens, it’s hard to hate on anybody.
I’m not going to run out and buy a bunch of fitted vintage shirts, but if that’s your thing, go wild. Just try and stay away from those trying-too-hard-to-be-hip Buddy Holly glasses, because I’m afraid I’d want to slap them off of your face. I might be more accepting of hipsters now, but please don’t push your luck.