Thursday, 29 September 2016

Opinion: Poor Taste?

I've learned a great deal from homebrewing.

I've learned I'm not very good at it for starters, but I've also learned patience, timing, extremes of cleanliness - and that I really, really need to use less Sorachi Ace when I brew.

But I've learned another valuable thing too, that beer tasting and therefore opinion-voicing for me is more than just subjective, it's deeply, deeply flawed.

In short your palate can't be trusted.

Or maybe it's just me...

But consider any batch of homebrew ... treated equally, bottled separately and usually consumed over a relatively short period. Although the general flavours - or serious defects - remain the same there can be a huge gap in your opinion from bottle to bottle. This can depend on what you have eaten, what you drank before, what humour your in, where you are drinking, and who you are drinking with, to name just a few tastebud-disrupters ... and it's not just those tastebuds you need to blame it's your general mood and that of those around you.

Sometimes you hate it, sometimes you love it and sometimes its just ... okay.

If this is true for homebrew then it surely must be the same for all beers? Therefore all this notetaking, tweeting and rating is all rubbish, as we could taste the same beer in an hour, a day, a week or next year and have a completely different opinion ... perhaps not on certain obvious flavour notes but certainly on whether we liked it or not, and how much we liked or hated it. Especially if tasted blind...

That taste can even be affected by a comment someone makes:

   'It's not as good as it used to be.'

   'They have a new brewer.'

   'They're owned by a macro now.'

   'It's coming from the east coast now you know?.'

   'Do you smell cabbage?'

I'm prepared to concede that there are a very small minority who have some kind of cyborg-like tastebuds and brains, which are not affected by a thousand different distractions, but those people are very, very, very rare...

The rest of us are deeply flawed in how we even mentally rate beers, especially after only one glass, pint or bottle...

So burn your notebooks, delete your blogs and remove your apps, it's all pointless! Just drink the beer, enjoy it or don't...

But try it again next week...




The Beer Nut said...

While I completely agree with your analysis I think you've been approaching reading reviews the wrong way. Of course they're always going to be subjective; anyone who says otherwise is deluded. Certainly when I write I'm aware that all I can do is give my impression of that beer at that time. And that's even true when judging in competitions designed to give a semblance of objectivity - they're not, they can't be.

The drinker and the beer, in one place at one time, is all that's really true. Any attempts to convey, record or otherwise externalise this will always be flawed. Once that's acknowleged, opinions become useful again.

Liam said...

Thanks for the reply.

I rarely rate(!) the ratings and opinions of others, although I do pick up on the descriptors they use and occasionally use at is a basis as to whether I might try a beer.

I guess the piece is a little bit tongue-in-cheek and perhaps more aimed at those who think any beer guru's opinion is gospel, and that a beer is going to taste the same every time - or those that post ludicrous, unclarified opinions on a beer in social media.

I'd hoped the piece would make the 'deluded' ones think about the flaws in the whole process ... as it's that acknowledgement you mention that is perhaps missing - or simply forgotten - at times.

Perhaps even by me...

It certainly wasn't meant to be a dig at any of the varied beer writers I admire, respect and enjoy.