Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Beer Reviews

Or, “How To Tell People Where To Go Without Really Having Been There Yourself”.

I’ve been reading a stack of beer reviews recently by way of researching articles for my blog. Yes, I do a small amount of preparation to get this site to such a high level of rabble. The reviews are generally well written and most of the spelling and punctuation is of a good standard but they all seem to be just short of the mark and I couldn’t quite nail what it was that was amiss.

Then I came across a telling and somewhat missing-jigsaw-puzzle-piece-putting-in thought in a book or on a site that I now cannot find or recall. So I am just going to rip it right off and send a shout out to the actual author and give him/her credit as due. Because it really summed up well the thing about which before I was talking. Of. Why reviews don’t quite cut the mustard. Or why they don’t quite ‘ferment the brew’ may be a better analogy.

Beer is not just malt, hops, yeast and water. It’s not all just bubbles and burps in a bottle. It isn’t just a thirst quenching beverage. It isn’t merely a way for multinational corporations to line the pockets of their directors, nor is it a charity designed to keep marketing men with more ideas than integrity off the streets. It is not just swill for the masses, though it can serve that purpose and it is not just a means of getting woofers to look more attractive though it does also serve that purpose. In fact it is all and none of these things. So how can a reviewer really tell you or me what is a nine out of ten beer and what is dishwater?

The simple answer is that, in reality, they can’t.

Because a beer, good or not good, is all about the occasion and it’s all about the place and the friends and the timing. A review can tell you wether or not a beer is light, dark or golden but it can’t convey the effect that the occasion had on the enjoyment of it. Can a beer, tried for the first time in the company of good mates, really taste the same – not better nor worse – than if you sip it at a desk with a review waiting? How do I tell you about the conversation that was being bandied about and the shit that was talked as a group of old mates downed some nicely poured, icy cold lagers over a four hour long catch up?

And so I am working on some ‘beer reviews’ of my own – I haven’t worked out what to call them other than beer reviews yet – which will hopefully convey the essence of the brew; colour, mouthfeel, bitterness and such, but with the emphasis on the ‘vibe’ of the beer. No star ratings or 5’s out of tens or anything so arbitrary or personally biased. Just the facts, m’aam.

Wish me luck.


Prof. Pilsner

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