Beer Nut: Four Opinions About Beer I Can Live Without
When you’ve been drinking in breweries (and writing a beer column) for as long as I have, you’ve heard a lot of opinions.
Most of these opinions are harmless positions on various beers, styles and / or news / trends in the beer industry. They are the medium of lively exchanges between those of us who are bent on the bar and engage in the camaraderie that accompanies this territory.
But I’ve also heard some opinions several times that make me look back. These are usually also harmless, but irritating in their generic ignorance. I always try to be kind when responding to such opinions, even though they are often promulgated by those who seem to know it all (one of my least favorite types of people).
So I decided to write about four particular statements that I’ve heard more than once over the years – the ones that make me bite my tongue a bit.
“This beer is not good.”
I think what you meant was, “I don’t like this beer.” Just because you not liking something does not relegate it to the “not good” category. We all have our own tastes, which are largely subjective. There is a good chance that the beer you are talking about is well made and enjoyed by many people. Otherwise, it probably wouldn’t appear on the beer menu of the establishment where you drink.
Of course, you can get a beer that has gone bad, or maybe a problem has arisen with a particular batch, and the beer you have is indeed “bad”. But often it’s just a matter of taste preference. We are all at the center of our own universes, but we should try not to place ourselves at the center of those of others.
“This beer has changed; it was better before.
Are the beers changing? Sure. They do this for a variety of reasons. But you know what else changes. Your palate. Age, illness, climate, your mood, and a host of other factors can affect the way you view things, including your tastes. So maybe your local brewery changed your favorite stout and you noticed it because you know her incredibly well. But I would also bet that in many cases your palate has changed.
“They changed the recipe for this beer.
This is really opinion 2-b, as it is an offshoot of the one above. Bar room “experts” love to court this stuff. And guess what? They might be right. My problem with this opinion is not that it is wrong. This is how it is often expressed as a criticism. Yes, sometimes breweries have to change their recipe for different reasons. Maybe a hop variety is not available. Or maybe the price of some ingredients would raise the price to an untenable level. Or maybe the brewer is someone who likes to tweak their beers to try and make them better (especially in smaller breweries). Or a number of other reasons.
Things change. Your favorite TV show is canceled. Your favorite group is breaking up. Apple makes you use EarPods instead of wired headphones. You can complain about these things, but it won’t help. And when it comes to beer recipes, let your local brewer slack off.
“This place does too much (IPA / sours / weird beers / whatever).”
Some breweries focus on style. Some find a niche with a certain type of beverage. Some just do what they like. But guess what? Anything that the menu reflects should work for the place as well, otherwise it wouldn’t stay in business. With the exception of incredibly small places with limited tap handles, I’ve never seen a brewery without a reasonable selection (again, unless that’s their thing: to focus on a corner of the market).
It may be in fact you who has the limited point of view. A place doesn’t have your favorite style? Try something different. We can all always open our minds a little more.