Sunday 24 January 2010

The Hop Press: Changing Expectations

I’m not here right now. This is set to auto post, as is the Hop Press post, so fingers are crossed that it all works out (if it doesn't then it won't get fixed until Monday). Currently, as this posts itself, I should be in Beer Ritz with Zak and a bunch of beer bloggers. This comes after a big one in Sheffield and before a big one in Leeds.

This week’s Hop Press blog is about a shift in expectation that comes after drinking good beer. You see, I want most beers to be a life changing experience (or at least for them to be very good) and that’s foolish. It should be more about the moment of the drinking and I’m sure we’ve all had crappy beers but enjoyed them (or at least remembered them) because of the moment. Not every beer will blow my mind so I shouldn’t expect it to. Not every pale ale will be pumped with tongue-tingling hops but it will have a subtle flavour to it that needs appreciating.

The thing is, if everything is levelled and it just comes down to the beer in the glass, I want it to be a good one and I’m not afraid to throw it away if it isn’t great – there’s so much good beer to be drunk!


  1. That's something that's been going round my mind for some time already.

    I think that many times, when we are tasting a new beer we judge it from a wrong perspective. There are beers that are great for sitting down and "taste" and there are other beers that are great for sitting down and "drink". Session beers, for instance, they will hardly ever blow your mind, and that's why they don't get very high rates in BA or RB. Others might be a bit boring when you are drinking them alone, but are really great when drinking them with food.

    Sometimes it's not easy for me to get that thing right when reviewing a beer. Most of the beers I review in my blog are samples that either readers or breweries have given or sent me, so I have only one go at them. Of course, I sit down and taste those beers and it's quite easy to get it wrong.

  2. I know what you mean but at the same time I have difficulty with the idea of getting a beer wrong. We can only do that if we consider drinking a beer a difficult task. Sometimes I wonder if we are alienating ourselves from our own beer (and our own experience of beer) with all this "tasting" and "pairing" - rather than drinking and eating.

    I contrast it to games. Some are simple and some are complex. Yet in the right circumstances and easy game of checkers is as right for the moment as a brain testing chess match. I think the way session beers blow our minds is different but still valid. One of my favorite beer memories of 2009 is a Miller High Life and a hot dog because I was at a perfect minor league baseball game on an impossibly perfect summer evening in the US mid-west on a trip just with my nine year old son. I had a trunk load of great craft beer in the hotel after a day's worth of shopping but that basic brew was what the moment needed. Neither a spicy dubbel or a plastastic Pabst Bleu Ribbon would have made the moment the same.

  3. And one of my favourite beer memories is that pint of tooth shattering cold Mythos, I think it was, I had on Crete after walking the 16km of the Samaria Gorge. It tasted like a drop of heaven. But that is actually more the moment than the beer, even though I don't think I would have enjoyed an oak aged Imperial Stout then, either.

    And there you have a beer paradox. The only important thing is what's in the glass, but sometimes, under the right circumstances, even rubbish beers can taste good...

  4. I don't agree with Filosof. Session beers regularly blow my mind. They don't get high rates on BA or RB because most of the people on those sites are idiots.

  5. PF, there is a difference between drinking and tasting, I agree. I have had some fantastic session beers recently. I thinnk the reason they don't do so well on rating sites is because they are flatly compared to 12% barrel-aged imperial stouts. I think a 4% hoppy ale can score full marks in the same way that an imperial beer can; it's about the quality of flavour not the full-on quantity of it. And I share a few Mythos-related love stories - I love it!

    Alan, yes, that's true. Beer is for drinking so perhaps tasting notes should be called drinking notes? I've often thought drinkability and the drinker's mood need to be added to ratings as they are very important. And that's a great story about the Miller - it's all about the time and the place and right there is was perfect. There's no expectation and no wanting something else, but there are other times when disappointment kicks in.