WOW. That is all I can say about how blown away I was at the participation of this month’s The Session. THANK YOU to everyone who wrote something in response to my question about taste, underrated beers, overrated beers, and going against the grain (any grain, really). I enjoyed reading everyone’s perspective on this subject, especially those of you who admitted to the beers you love that aren’t a crowd favorite. And many of you brought up points and ideas I hadn’t even considered in this topic before. Thank you for your consideration, passion, and words.
I was a little overwhelmed when it came to doing a roundup post, so please please pardon me for not being able to write more about each of your posts. I would love to sit down with all of you (all at once! One big blogger party!) to talk about this, because I’m pretty sure we could talk (and enjoy a few pints) for hours about this. Thank you again, and I can’t wait to see you all again at next month’s Session hosted by Oliver from Literature and Libation!
Jon at The Brew Site reassures us that our opinion and taste is enough and that “I make no apologies for the beers I drink, especially if they raise eyebrows—and if other people like beers that just don’t do it for me, more power to them.” More power to him for this stance. I love this.
“How easily is our ship steered” by Dan from Community Beer Works gives us so many great articles to read and nudged me into an article wormhole. I loved reading about what he found regarding the influence of price, expectation, and marketing. I’m pretty sure I could pick his brain for a long time on this subject.
Glen acts like a true friend at Beer is Your Friend by also agreeing that we should stand up for what our taste buds tell us. It would be silly to spend years trying to enjoy a beer that we don’t actually like just because we’re “supposed to,” or avoiding a beer because we aren’t supposed to like it.
Over at Baltimore Bistros & Beer Doug expressed a similar thought to mine when it comes to ratings and reviews. His tendency is to be reserved in letting others experiences sway his expectations, and when reading beer reviews usually skips the actual rating part simply to read the description of a beer. I’m with you there, I’m not discounting ratings, but it’s hard to know what a “92” tastes like.
The Beer Nut finally found the type of beer I’ve been looking for as a lightweight...2.8% ABV...but was it good? I think the Beer Nut put it very well when he said that “there's lots of very useful information in the middle ground and I believe it is possible to determine the relative value of a middle-range beer from what value the raters and advocates have collectively assigned to it.” I know we could talk until the end of the earth about the value and merits of ratings, and I’m perpetually stuck in the middle.
Steve gave a resound “Yes” to a question of whether some beers are overrated. At Beers I’ve Known Steve introduced me to a list that I hadn’t even considered before: the top 10 beers from England on Ratebeer. This is one of the things I love about beer bloggers. I have no exposure to craft beer in the UK, but through other beer bloggers we can compare and contrast notes about similar trends in ratings, reviews, underrated beers, and overrated beers across cultures.
David. Oh David. You applied a concept in economics to beer. YES. Just, yes. Even if you don’t like economics, you should go read his post at Beer Tinted Spectacles for The Session. He says “proper lagered beer will soon have its day again.” Beer & economics: always my favorite.
I’m infatuated with the concept of home, and Bryan won me over with a post about which beer tastes like home for him at This Is Why I’m Drunk with “Bias and a taste of home.” Underrated by many, the Ithaca Apricot Wheat is always a welcome pour for him.
Eric from Sheppy’s Blog gave us his two cents on two beers that are raved about by the beer community, but that just didn’t “wow” him in the same way. And made a good point that, as craft beer drinkers, aren’t we all going against the grain in the beer world?
“If you hate a beer, why can’t I drink it?” Exactly. Nate at Booze Beats Bites makes the point that a beer being a classic beer makes it good, but also that a best selling beer can be enjoyed as well.
Another UK post from the Ale is Good, and how you can find out why the French call the British “the roast beefs.”
Congrats and welcome to Vin at Bier Battered for his first Session post! I was happy to read about another sour lover and someone who prefers to be able to have a beer ready to drink. Seems like we both like bourbon barrel aged beers, but some of them can be a little too hot and boozy upfront. Hope to see you next month too!
What about taste deflation? Sean gave me something new to think about at Beer Search Party. Being relatively new to the craft beer party, I haven’t seen as many styles come and go like amber ales. Sean also reminds us that there is value in going against the grain as well, that we aren’t doing it just for the sake of being different. “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.”
Reuben from The Tale of the Ale gave me two new beers to check out that I’d never heard of! Two of his underrated beers are Barney’s Brew from Hilden and Porterhose TSB, which goes to show that even underrated beers according to ratings can be well loved.
Has the beer community started to create the unattainable? Has all the hype created an expectation that a beer can’t meet? Are we looking for the white whale? Oliver looks at taste and how it varies similar to a fingerprint from person to person. Does that mean we’ll never be on the same page about objective taste? See what he has to say about this over at Literature and Libation.
It looks like Jon and Bryan may have something to agree about, because Jon takes this at a different angle by bringing up the topic of comfort beers at 10th Day Brewing. It may not even matter if a beer is overrated or underrated. What may be more important is what that beer means to us, where it fits in our memories, and what it reminds us of. I’m particularly fond of this approach, as it fits in pretty well with how I approach writing about beer. “What memories do the flavors in that glass in front of you bring to the party?”
It’s all come “Full Circle” for Derrick at Beer Runner, who goes against the craft beer grain (which is going against the beer grain) by diving back into the simple pleasure of a macro brew.
The Epic Beer Girl talks about one of the most important things in craft beer (in my opinion): being open to trying something again. We could very easily not try a beer the first time we have it, but then warm to it the second time around. We could miss out on something great by setting something aside after just one try.
Stan from Appellation Beer described what sounds like a delicious wheat beer that Boulevard used to produce - the Two Jokers Double Wit. I can’t even imagine the frustration when a brewery stops brewing a beer that you love, and then the relief when they start brewing it again. The good news is Two Jokers will be back this summer, so those of us in Missouri will have another great beer to ease our humid summer nights.
Alan at Growler Fills made me laugh out loud in his very first sentence, pointing out how smart I was to wear a helmet when jumping off a light post. Once I stopped laughing, I was able to read what Alan had to say about dictating (basically, we shouldn’t) what someone’s experience should be with beer.
I want to raise this post up and say “me too!” Jim from the Drinking Class shares the same desire I have to get to the heart of what you think. He wants to know how and why you came to a certain conclusion, well, I’ll let him explain: “I do care why and how you have come to the conclusions you have come to. I care very deeply about those things. And I argue to get you to clarify your stance and to help me articulate my own. I argue to get you to be more accepting of people who have arrived elsewhere than you have and to build that understanding in me.”
For those who love to have their own beer discoveries instead of the build up of expectations, read about Ruth’s adventure with beer in 2013 over at the Beer Faerie Blog.
Alan from A Good Beer Blog had just three things to do, but I’m glad they all manifested into his post about the subjectivity of beer writing (it’s only really through reading about beer that we discover what beers are popular), and proposal that maybe there’s a different way we should be writing about beer. “... no one can describe to you exactly what that taste does in your mouth. The moment is different, the memories evoked are different, your financial circumstances are different and you are different. Now, they can get close. They can be self-aware and understand the massive existential division between each person's autonomous insular subjectivity and their autonomous insular subjectivity... but they never do, do they. Or at least seldom do.”
Part of the great thing about this session is seeing shared perspectives on beer reviews such as Jay’s at Brookston Beer Bulletin (home to The Session). Another contributor to the Session this month wonders about the current state of “beer reviews” and the interesting direction they may be heading here soon. This will be a great Session to read as you gear up for next month’s topic: a challenge to do very untraditional beer “review.”
Well Miguel...I’m going to have to enlist an interpreter to read your post as unfortunately I chose to study French instead of Spanish. If any of you would like to volunteer, please go check out Amante De La Buena Cerveza for The Session!
Jessica & Ray from Boak and Bailey’s Beer Blog let us know about a few beers from Arbor Ales that they’ll say “no thanks” to next time, but that now actually makes me pretty curious about tasting them just to try. I wonder if maybe reviews of beers we don’t like actually make others curious to try them too...Reverse beer-psychology, you think?
I think you should go read The Session at vonSchlapper’s Adventures with Beer if only because he came up with my new favorite beer name: lambic pentameter. Sounds like a great excuse to drink a beer in English class to me.
Bill! Every time I see a Bill this plays in my head. I’ll tell you I know more about shaving than I did before reading the Pittsburgh Beer Snob’s post, and now can say I do know someone who doesn’t love love love the-hoppier-the-better-IPAs. But who also recognizes that taste really is subjective, and while IPAs may not be his standard go-to, it could be an absolute delight to the rest of us.
Then Simon brings up some good points about a perceived status quo in beer. Sometimes we like the stories and experiences behind and surrounding the beer much more than we may like the beer all on its own. And Simon sums up what I think most of the points everyone has been making in this Session… “That there is no “best” beer does not mean that rating sites are useless, not that their ratings are useless. We’re perfectly capable of understanding what types of beer get high ratings and adjusting our expectations accordingly.”
And last but not least, we have A Tempest in a Tankard with “Drinking lager in an age of extreme taste,” wondering if our palettes focused on intensity may be confusing extremity with quality. Franz also starts hinting that we might possibly be seeing a return of lagers (hallelujah in my opinion!).
THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH. I loved hosting January’s Session and I am so grateful that you all put so much time, energy, and passion into this topic. We’ll see you in February!