This week’s topic: Beer Assumptions Gone Wrong
Whomever thought of all these things when it comes to beer probably didn’t realize there are all kinds of palates out there: palates like mine… like yours.
“Summer” beer: and these comments go for all “seasonal” beers. I have no problem with the sales technique of having seasons for beer, but for my palate the idea I might not want a nice Barleywine by a campfire mid-July is nonsense. The idea I have to enjoy a Wheat Beer that time of year equally foolish. As the years go on, and the more I judge, the more I can appreciate. But even now: wheat beer and I respect each other at best. Give me a nice pale ale if I want to go on the light side, or even a sour. Hmmm… “Sour.” That… I have developed a taste for: I think it started when I started brewing rhubarb ales.
Watch the acid! It’s very acidic and, if you like your rhubarb pie like I do: rip the flesh off the inside of you mouth sour, carbonation may insist you call it a “still.” Ironically it has always fermented, it’s just a carbonation killer when rhubarb is at its mouth twisting best.
Seasonal beer reminds me of hot stops who insist their employees dump their flavored coffees in the morning. Damn it, I want my Cherry Chocolate coffee at 7 at night too! For years Cumberland Farms, better known in New England as “Cumby Farms,” had flavored coffee open to close, and I think some Cumbys may have been 24 hours… not sure. It sold well. The assumption no one wants it post some am or pm is silly.
Now they have shots of flavor from a machine. OK, but not as good. I do understand less prep for their employees so they can find even more meaningless tasks they have to do… or else. That’s how corporate world works. But I do miss it.
Mr. McGuire; of McGuire’s (Irish) Restaurants (and brewpubs) in Destin and Pensacola, used to make his brewers dump their seasonal beer after the holiday is over. He probably still does. FI! As his first, longstanding (Well, as far as brewing goes “longstanding,” but drinking? Well, I can vouch for an occasional otherwise.) …brewer Steve Fried told me, “I tried to convince him just to relabel the Christmas beer Winter Ale or something.”
It’s an Irish restaurant. Surely I might be able to find some surly leprechaun hit squad somewhere… Do they grow psychedelic four leaf clovers that could be slipped into the owner’s favorite quaffs that might drug him into being more sensible?
Sigh. I loved that Christmas Ale. And in Florida I can’t just bring by my many Grolsch growlers.
I have nothing against those who prefer Wheat in the summer: be my guest. Just don’t use its namesake to mow a lawn after tipping one or more. Want to see my left foot? No big toe. No, I didn’t drink and mow in the 60s. Just an accident. But this is a crusade of mine: DO NOT DRINK THEN MOW.
The year it happened I used my crutches to walk in one mile to my beloved Beaver River, where I now have my retirement shack. Stan Thompson, owner of Norridgewock: local restaurant, bar, etc. etc. told us this story…
“It’s going to sound like a joke. Two drunks mowing a lawn in Beaver River. See what I mean? ‘A joke.’ They reached a wall. They got on both sides to lift it atop the wall. What did they forget?”
Almost equal to my irritation over the “one must have different beers for different” seasons nonsense…
Certain beers must be had with certain foods? I will admit, occasionally in one of these food/beer matchings they point out some very simpatico matches, but usually I enjoy a nice Russian Imperial with my fish, or a Sour with my oyster stew. In fact it’s contrast I love, and most of these matches I’ve offered as “perfect” offer similar flavors paired together. I want to mix it up. That’s why, when I head a table at beer competition, I’ll mix it up a bit. Don’t give the palate time to be too comfortable: we might miss something. Differences sharpen the palate. I sincerely think this is why stronger beers, more flavorful beers, too often get better scores. Palates tire and long for a difference. Why not shock them into, “Wow!” …then then demand they seek more delicate aspects of a beer. Plus, as you switch pages, or screens, on your guidelines, it helps to keep you on task.
Am I wrong here? Maybe for many judges, or at least some. No one I know of has tested my theory except me, a few times, with results that seem to indicate my way is fine. Yet I admit my judging table is still in session regarding this. But I’m not wrong about some beer that would seem counter intuitive can go bloody well with its opposite, food-wise.
Lastly, I don’t want beer to become what wine has in some circles: snob appeal where every wine drinker who thinks they have more “class” assumes themselves superior when it comes to wine. To me that’s what many of these concepts are based on. “Winter Ale in Summer, how uncouth!” “…haggis and Hefeweizen? How horrid!”
I enjoy how beer has somewhat avoided that. Please stop trying to add snob appeal.
And one way is not to assume we all taste, and prefer, beer the same. That’s what brewers did previous to the craft beer explosion.
That’s what we don’t need.