Beer Critics – Reviews – We all Taste things Differently..

Posted on February 5, 2010


It has been over a week since I have had time to write anything, as it has been filled deadlines and other things in life that get in the way. But it has not stopped me reading several Beer Blogs and various Beer Review websites and trying to make sense of them. Without question most of the Year End Reviews are bullshit anyway, and made up from people’s own opinions or tastes. Alas my top 10 beers would differ greatly from yours, as they would next year.

So onto Taste.. Depending on my mood helps decides what I like to drink, either wine or beer, and then even that is not so simple sometimes. A Friday Night is usually a Beer Night, with Saturday reserved for good Wines with my lovely wife. But then there could be a new bottle of beer that I have been aching to try, and then it changes hourly.

I never read Beer Reviews, or Wine Reviews, I don’t follow the points system as its very academic and I know how subjective it can be. I have had a lot of bad beer & Wine that scored HIGH marks in some competition that has been shit. But that is to my taste, as you may love it. Wine is no different to beer on many fronts and there should be coordinated attempts at making that point.

So for several months I have been playing around with TWITTER, and have found it somewhat useful for Beer Geekdom, and also for being sent links to interesting articles on Beer or Wine. So Jancis sent through a story yesterday that intrigued me. I follow the respected Wine writer  Jancis Robinson on twitter, she is a UK Wine Writer/Educator and she posted an Oliver Thring article on Wine Critics and their evaluation from the Guardian. The article discusses an American MW named Hanni who thinks that everything we know with matching wine and food is wrong, such as certain wines shouldn’t be had with certain foods (White with Fish, Red with Meat) as prescribed by all the books on wine we own. He states we have certain tastes that are inherit within us, and that is helping our bias one way or the other. So if that was true, we wouldn’t need a sommelier to help us decide wine in restaurants, we’d just pick our own wine based on our own taste. His advice is to order the wine styles you enjoy with what ever food you enjoy, so he is ultimately taking away the prescribed ‘Rules’ of Wine/Food. For which many are bullshit in my opinion, but you may agree or disagree.

The beer community can learn a lot from the wine industry in that different tastes are enjoyed by certain people over others. Recently several US Beer websites released their Best Of Lists for 2009, which is based on ratings by visitors and site members. We had the Rate Beer Best 2010 Awards that awarded Best Bars in the World, Best Beers in the world and many others. Beer Advocate had Best Beers on the Planet. These lists are often taken by those in the beer world with a grain of salt, but some people actually take it quite seriously. Bars or Beers that scored highly on these lists are often gloated by those breweries, but those that know the beers or bars on the list have to smile and laugh and ask ‘who is voting on this?’.

The Rate Beer Best Bar in the world was awarded to a bar in Rome that I have not visited, as when I’m in Italy I drink wine. The bar in Roma has 10 taps, some German, a few Italian, but there is nothing that would make you detour and visit Rome to enter this #1 bar.  It WON Best bar with 47 reviews, with some calling it the best bar experience in the world. I’m sorry have those 47 ever visited  Toronado in San Francisco?? Toronado had 154 reviews that I know are either in love with the bar, or hate it. Toronado came in 35th on the list. Toronado is an experience that every beer drinker must experience, it doesn’t get much better than there. Especially during San Fran Beer Week. Yes my personal Bias is for this great beer bar.

Now onto the Beer Advocate’s best beers on the Planet that have a heavy tilt towards; Imperial IPA, Imperial Stouts, and Barley Wines. 21% of all beers in the top 100 in 2009 had the words Russian in their name, so either Russian River, or Russian Imperial Stout. The list definitely leaves out great German and British beers. It was quite funny another person I follow on Twitter is Mark Dredge a UK Beer writer with quite funny views.  Mark Dredge calls part of the euphoria for these beers to do with “rarity and hype do play a big part in the experience” which I definitely agree with.  But the point he makes is this lists have to taken with a grain of salt, and it’s a geeky guide, but displays beers that more people should try, and even he wants to try them. SO though we laugh and mock these lists, it does make us want to drink these bottle.

There is a term called Beer Geek or Beer Dweeb that is used to describe beer people that rate or critique beer all the time, and though I have to admit I’m in that category. Though some geeks/dweebs with whom never get out of their mom’s basement but call themselves EXPERTS and criticize everything that wrong with a beer, or bar based on a bad burger & fries, or a surly bartender.  Some people profess to have tried 3000-12,000 beers in their lifetime and it somehow makes them experts? It could be believable that people have tried several thousand beers, but have your tastes changed in the last 5 years?  did you start drinking Chardonnay and then move away from it to Reds, and then after banish every Chardonnay from existence?

The English Beer lovers are never going to agree with the American beer lovers as the US Extreme beers are now more popular than ever, as there is mystique surrounding so many beers here. Beers like the Abyss from Deschutes is a 13% Imperial Stout that is released annually,and I personally found it too Alcoholic and imbalanced although its in the top 5 beers in the world. But not to me. I like the Double Black Butte better, but that’s my opinion.

I think too many people rely on these Beer Magazines, Beer Websites to evaluate what beers they want to try instead of actually just buying bottles of foreign different beers and rating it themselves. The Beer Festivals are great shows to evaluate a lot of beer, and though everyone bitches about the small samples, the GABF in Denver is something all Canadian and US beeros should attend, as with 2000 beers available its a chance to truly test your palate over a few days. Though one of the Beer Websites tells people to not rate unless you have had at least a bottle/pint, I find that bullshit, as you can evaluate a bear after a few samples at a beer show, and you can come back for more to re-taste, and its not about rating the bar based on how good the fucking burger is.

So yes we are all biased in our critical view, but the point with Wine and Beer is to taste outside your comfort zone, drink Belgian beer, re-try German/Czech Pilsner, and less hop driven IPA’s that actually have balance. Form your own opinion and don’t just follow the sheep, as remember they get slaughtered!!