1 Jul 2013

Some Monday Musings

Consumer Reports, something like the American Version of dTest, published their choice of the Best Craft Beers, where you can read this gem:
"The best lagers are very tasty but not quite complex or intense enough to be excellent."
This ranks among the most stupid thinks I've read about beer. The people who wrote this seem to understand beer almost as well as I understand the rules of Armenian grammar.

Now, I've got no problem if someone prefers complex or intense beers. That's fine, but this evaluation is presented as something beyond the "like it/don't like it" and it fails because the people behind it point as a sort of shortcoming something the beers in question are not meant to be. It's as if I criticised Lambics for being sour or a super hero film for not being realistic, it'd be more than ignorant, it'd be idiotic.

This has somehow reminded me of a couple of recent articles about wine, or rather, about wine tasting being a whole lot of bollocks (you can read them here and here). Both present a lot of examples and refer to several experiments to prove their point, and they prove it really well. After reading them (and other similar ones) I couldn't help but wonder how much this applies to beer tastings. A lot, methinks.

Beer tastings are also bullshit for the most part. I'm not saying that the experts (the wannabe experts and the rest) are deliberately lying to us (well, at least not most of them), but, as those wine articles show, they are likely being lied to by their own brains.

It is well known that our senses receive a lot more information than we are aware of. That's because the brain filters much of it and then interprets the rest (or something like that). The problem is that the way the brain interprets the information can be affected by innumerable factors, and this can result in the same object being evaluated differently depending on expectations, prior information, personal experience, sensory memory, visual stimuli, environment, health, etc. (which is why I find it hard to take seriously any review of a beer that was drunk at the end of a long session and/or day of boozing).

This in turn has made think about this whole "using the right glass" thing.

It's all quite overrated, really. Firstly, because if the shape of glasses is so important, how come only one kind is used at professional tastings and competitions?. Secondly, because of my own experience: the other day, because of laziness, I drunk Primátor Weizen in an earthenware korbel and it tasted every bit as good as if I had drunk it from a "proper glass", and the same can be said about those beers I drink from plastic cups at festivals.

Now, I'm not saying that there isn't any logic whatsoever about the shape of some glasses, but much of it seems to be accepted as almost an unchallengeable dogma. How many of you have tasted the same beer from different glasses? Hardly anyone, I suppose. So why do so many geeks fret so much about this matter?

The answer is quite easy, looks. I believe that the "proper glass" thing is mostly about looks; some beers look better in some glasses than in others, at least those are our modern "standards of beer beauty". A weizenbier, to me, looks a lot better in a "proper glass" than in a mug and since, as the experience of the coloured white wine mentioned in both of the above linked articles show, looks will affect our liking of a beer.

So there's that, "proper glasses" aren't that much bullshit after all. If you are told that a beer tastes better in a specific sort of glass, chances are that you will believe it and believing can really make reality real.

The conclusion that can be drawn from all this: when it comes to sensory experiences, never put too much trust in the word of the experts, they can be the result of an illusion. Trust your own senses, pay attention to what you are drinking and you'll be fine.

Na Zdraví!


  1. "How many of you have tasted the same beer from different glasses?" I have, but I don't have much of a life, which also means I have time to read beer blogs ;)

  2. "The best lagers are very tasty but not quite complex or intense enough to be excellent." Total nonsense! One of the top three beers I've ever tasted in my life was a batch of 12* svetly ležak made by František Richter at U Bulovky about three years ago. He absolutely nailed it. It was distinctly bitter in the best Saaz way, yet fruity almost like an ale, but yet still malty and absolutely true to the classic Czech recipe. It was mindblowingly delicious! I couldn't stop having one after another because I knew it was something special to be enjoyed at that moment because each batch is unique. It was excellent in every way possible without being extreme or trying in any way to be something it wasn't intended to be. Sometimes simplicity equals perfection and excellence. People who think a beer has to be super strong, have strange ingredients, have a freaky name, come in an extra pretty bottle or have a big price tag to be "excellent" are delusional. Actually, they kind of remind me of an ex-coworker of mine who got bored doinking women so he turned bisexual. LOL. JKAnPRG

  3. Tohle je téma na knihu pomalu, ale v kostce - řídím se vlastním jazykem, nepotřebuju se schovávat za nějakou posu. Jinak stimt.