13 May 2013

Monday Musings


Peklo na talíři (Hell on a plate) is an internet "TV" show that reviews products sold by supermarket chains, trying to raise awareness about the rubbish we buy and the tricks used to sell it.

The topic of this episode (sorry, I can't embed it) is cheap wines and, as usual, the host has invited a renown authority on the matter, who will, as announced, blind taste eight samples.

After going through them, the expert explains that the wines belong to the "entry level" category and, among other things, mentions something very interesting, the key about wine is personal preferences and expectations. Taking this into account, this good man picks two wines saying that they are good for what they are, simple, clean and "work like wine", he also says that they are fine to mix with soda or a summer cocktail.

I didn't bother to read the comments, but I can imagine the reaction of some connoisseurs (or people who fancy themselves as such) after seeing that an authority of that caliber praising "such crap". And I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be too different from the reaction of many a craftophile and fetishist, if someone did something similar with low end beers, which, much to the chagrin of some, despite their low price, can be quite fine.

As I've been saying for some time, just like with wines, the evaluation beers is all a question of personal preferences and expectations. For most people, "beer" means "moderately alcoholic, inexpensive refreshment", and the best selling beers in each country fit into that paradigm. People drink those beers because they consider them good for what they are.

Unfortunately, a great part of the craftophile discourse isn't be able to wrap its mind around that. Some seem to believe that people live in a lie, that at some point in history the Illuminati, the Freemasons and the Reptile People decided to brainwash us with crap beer that nobody in their right mind could enjoy so as to make it easier for aliens to invade us, or something along those lines. While there are others who strongly believe that the opinions and preferences of the niche they belong to should be considered a universal truth in everything that relates to beer, failing to understand that beer is not art.

It's been some time since I left "beer evangelism" behind. On the one hand, because I stopped worrying what other people were o were not drinking, and on the other, because I believe it approaches beer in a totally wrong way.

The evangelist and the craftophile tell the average consumer "what you drink is shit, it's not beer. Beer is what I drink," and they are awfully wrong. This doesn't mean that an evangelist or craftophile should change their opinion about those beers they qualify as "shit", but that they should accept the fact that the average consumer sees them as "good", that they enjoy them for what they are, no more, no less, and that there is now way anyone can be wrong about it.

Of course, this mentality isn't something isolated, but part of a bigger line of thought, the belief among craftophiles that their tastes and habits represent the true beer culture and that those who drink mass produced beers, not only live in a lie, but also lack culture.

¡What a massive lie! Firstly, because they apply to beer the already obsolete elitist concept of "culture" and secondly, and even more important, because to a certain extent, and at some level, many of these people, in spite of how they see themselves, don't understand "beer" anymore.

Beer has always been a part of a where and when. When drinking or evaluating a beer becomes an end in itself, when the main goal is to check some boxes, assign a score or write a review, beer is abstracted from its natural environment, which is the where and when. It's a bit like trying to understand an animal by the way it behaves in a zoo.

To me, therefore, the person who has a better understanding of beer is not that who at a festival starts taking tasting notes, who regularly attends or organises tastings, or is able to recognise with a sniff the many different hop varieties from around the world, but that who sees beer as one of the elements of a where and when and who takes on beer in its natural environment, even if that means occasionally doing things that "experts" will find reproachable, like drinking straight from a bottle. And there is the true beer culture, drinking without the need of paying more attention than the necessary to determine whether you like the beer or not, while letting oneself to be carried away by a given where and when.

Na Zdraví!

3 comments:

  1. Hmm. Who are you arguing with? Quite a lot of people seem to agree, broadly, with this point of view, and most bloggers have written at least a post or two about the pleasures of decent, 'non-extreme', unpretentious beer.

    Or maybe I'm just not reading the right (annoying) blogs and articles!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not so much arguing as it is thinking out loud (if I was arguing with someone in particular I would link to them or name them). That said, there are still many people who think like that, and in fact, I used to be one of those beer evangelists and I'd like to spare others from that foolishness :)

      Delete
  2. Spot on. I Drink, what I want. At any Given Time, depending on My Mood. Beer Festivals are Fine, for Trying Something New. Sheffield have that Many Good Bars. No need to go to Festivals. Regards Beer Tastings. Begrudge Someone Telling Me What to Drink. Plus Paying them a Kings Ransom.

    ReplyDelete