Session # 83

by Sean on January 3, 2014


The Session #83 – Against the Grain from the Bake and Brew

Well I want to hear what you think about the following:

How much is our taste or opinion of a craft beer affected by what friends and the craft beer community at large thinks? What beer do you love that no one else seems to get? Or what beer do you say “no thanks” to that everyone can’t get enough of?

I can find myself wondering sometimes when I’ve had an extremely popular beer, but haven’t been all that “wowed”…is it me? Am I missing something here? Was there too much hype? Could there be such a thing as taste inflation? If we really want to dive further into this, is it really only “good” if a large portion of the craft beer community says it is or is our own opinion and taste enough?

I do not hesitate to voice my opinion on a beer.  And it doesn’t matter if the rest of the crowd is absolutely digging the beer. But as much as I try to enjoy a beer with a truly open mind and palate, there are times when the expectations (real or imagined) weigh me down.  And it unleashes my inner curmudgeon both for and against.

On the benefit of the doubt side, pilsners and lagers because they are ignored or slandered get a much higher regard when I review them for RateBeer or on my blog.  Part of this is due to seeing 500 too many stupidly low reviews of the style while a so-so IPA or Imperial Stout gets a pass (or bonus points).  It’s a flawed reaction on my part but I feel pressure to right the wrong or balance the books as it were.  My justification of standing up for the little guy puts my heart in the right place but I fear that too much of my action is caused just to be contradictory.  (A trait that I have in many other aspects of my life as well.)

On the hype side is my reaction to Pliny the Younger from Russian River.  I have had a small amount of one year’s version and it was good but being in the presence of a large and cooing crowd did color my reaction.  And again it was to the contrary.  For the amount of time that I waited, for the crowd that I had to wade through, it was not the Hosanna that I had expected.  Though everyone else around didn’t seem to care.

Of the two poles, “taste inflation” is bad but I think will eventually course correct due to the fact that today’s hot topic is tomorrow’s old news.  The arrival of Citra from Kern River Brewing did tamp down the ardor for PtY as did the new hip IPA, Heady Topper from the Alchemist.  And the lack of supply also puts the beer out of the spotlight for extended periods.  Not to mention that Russian River has a stable of great IPA’s.

“Taste Deflation” is more pernicious.  And there seems to be no way to reverse the deflation.  Amber ales were all the rage as micro-brews swept the nation but now you don’t see too many on tap.  Unless they are hopped up or imperialized.  And poor pils gets lumped in with “Industrial” beers.  Even the venerable Firestone Walker promotes it’s Pivo Pils by talking more about the hops. In an effort to not be seen as “the enemies beer style”.

But this is where anyone with a cantankerous streak and a love for all beer styles can come in handy.  They can pierce the bubble of the latest epic IPA by simply asking how is this better than the thousand other IPA’s out there?  They can promote Vienna lagers or Gratzers or other “invisible” styles to anyone who will listen. It isn’t about winning debates.  It is about bringing more than one opinion to the table.  Because that will bring more than one style of beer to the table.

The craft beer industry needs people who are more black sheep style and won’t run with the herd after every last craze.  This will keep the industry honest and will eventually make ratings more in line with where they should be and where they will be most helpful.  As opposed to now where some breweries and beer styles seem to have protected nation status when it comes to reviews.

So all those who are contrary, cranky, sarcastic or snarky.  Keep on going against the grain.




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