22 Apr 2013

On reviews


As you might have noticed, beer reviews aren't a usual feature of this blog anymore. The few that I post serve mostly to illustrate a point or another. The main reason is that I got bored of writing tasting notes and later fleshing them out for a post. I got tired of having some kind of self imposed obligation to dissect every sip of every new beer in search of things that show up over and over again; not only because I find that to be a waste of time and energy, but also because I realised that it can become an obstacle to properly enjoy a beer. Now, when I drink a new beer, I prefer to let it speak than to force the words out of it, and if there is a sensory element that stands out, I trust my memory to be able to keep it safe in case I need some day.

There is also another problem with beer reviews. On the one hand, we have the use of some very detailed descriptors in tasting notes, what can marigold, treacle or rose water mean to someone who's never seen any of that? On the other hand, and even more importantly, is the fact that there aren't standards. What is excellent, interesting, extraordinary for me, may very well be mediocre, boring or everyday for others; and there's no arguing it. If someone declares that there is no better beer than, say, Braník, or Mikkeller 1000IBU, they won't be wrong, every person has different experience and tastes and all opinions are qualified. This isn't like, I don't know, Iranian cinema, which someone like me could qualify as 120 minutes of utter boredom; to which a film scholar could respond saying that I'm not getting the message, that I should see the full opus of the director and other things along those lines, and they will be right! This person would have studied the subject matter in detail and watching film is mostly an intellectual experience, after all. Drinking beer, however, is a sensory experience, it's purely subjective and it's impossible to get it wrong. It's not necessary to know, understand or have any prior information about a beer you are drinking in order to be able to determine if you like it or not.

It is different with pubs, etc., and that is why I like reviewing them more. There are a series of almost universal standards that can serve as the basis for an evaluation. I believe that those things that make a pub good, not great or wonderful, just good, can be recognised by almost everyone.

Boak and Bailey mentioned some of them the other day. The only one I don't quite agree with is point 4. Smiles, I believe, are overrated, or rather, have been devalued almost to the level of a requirement like functional and clean toilets or not being ripped off with the bill. That's wrong. Nobody should be under the obligation of smiling if, for whatever reason, they don't feel like it. To me, a fake and forced smile is much worse than an honest grunt. I believe that politeness, professionalism and efficiency are more than enough to make any patron feel their business is appreciated. All the rest, if genuine and sincere, is a bonus; it's like finding that truly great beer among a bunch of good ones.

But I digress, it's reviews what I wanted to talk about.

For better or worse, nowadays technology allows us to publish reviews in real time. We walk into a place or have the first sip of a beer, and sharing our opinion with world is only a tipi-tipi-tap away. Honestly, this is not something I like too much.

Personally, before sitting down to write a pub review, I prefer to ruminate, to let it bounce around my mind for a couple of days to give it a bit of perspective; can it be that that alleged fault is something premeditated, aimed at an audience I'm not part of? The same could apply to beer, once the first impression has passed, how does the beer compare to other similar ones? would I buy it again? how good is in terms of value for money? All that often needs time to be considered and, in my opinion, it improves the review, it becomes more useful for the reader.

However, that instant, immediate review, penned right when the experience is taking place, could be considered, especially in relation with beer, as more honest, as it's more visceral, guided by the feelings and the senses rather than the intellect.

Interesting.

Na Zdraví!

1 comment:

  1. I hate writing reviews as much as reading them—pubs, beer, porn or otherwise—boooooooooring. I don't care what I think, so why should anybody else?

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