30 Nov 2015

Four pints watching the telly in Kladno

TVs at pubs. I'm not their biggest fan. I can tolerate them when when they're set in mute—you can ignore images a lot better than sounds, and most the sounds coming out of the telly, at least the stuff they put on at pubs, is the acoustic equivalent of the effect food poisoning has has on your bowels—but only barely. And yet, there are times when a TV on, even with sound, can be a force for good.

The last place a visited for the second edition of Prague: A Pisshead's Pub Guide was Starokladenský Pivovar. It was a chilly, rainy afternoon in early October; I hadn't been there for at least four years, nor had I seen their beers in Prague, at least not at the pubs I frequent, or that I had been to while doing the fieldwork for the book, and I was curious.

The place hadn't changed much, or at least not significantly. There were few patrons at that time, and most were drinking Gambrinus, I think. I sat at the bar and ordered the house's desítka, fantastic! Absolutely delicious, the first and the second pint.

The TV was on Discovery Channel, or something like that. A bloke took a stool next to me and ordered Gambáč, just when a programme was starting—some extreme racing stuff where three or four teams of four manly-men must go through extremely difficult terrain. It was the sort of stuff that makes you stop flipping channels on a boring Sunday afternoon, at least for awhile.

I and the bloke sitting next to me were watching it, and he turns around with a wide smile, saying: “ty jsou magoři”. I wholeheartedly agreed. That got the chat started—a bit about those magoři and a bit about... stuff.

It was one one of those short, casual conversations that take place at pubs everywhere, and that can make beer taste better, nothing more, nothing less.

And by the way, the three beers that I tasted drank there—desítka, polotmavé and tmavé—were top-of-the-range and laughably cheap; really, the four pints plus the bus tickets there and back were cheaper than having four pints at not few pubs in Prague.

Na Zdraví!

4 Nov 2015

Why it is OK to say "Their Beer Sucks"...

… If that is what you think.

The way I see it, when you bought that beer, you also earned the right to express your honest opinion about it in any way, with any words and through any channels you see fit; whatever that opinion might be.

There are people, though, who disagree, like this bloke here. Fortunately, he doesn't nearly as ludicrous as to believe that beer is a privilege and not a birthright, but still.

He gives several reasons why you should never say 'Their Beer Sucks', let's see what they are:

It's biased

I don't quite get where he's going with this. It seems to come from the objectivity delusion most reviewers suffer from. And shouldn't that apply also to "Their Beer is Great", or that opinion is never biased? Whatever. He explains it saying that Even though you may think that a beer isn’t good, there are most likely others out there that do like that particular beer. So? They are free to disagree with my assessment, as free as they are to say that my favourite beer sucks. Believe me, I've no problem with that, my preferences and tastes don't need the approval of anyone.

It's disrespectful and It's hurtful

Both are the same, and refer to the people who worked very hard to make that beer—the poor things! Gimme a bloody break! They are adults working in an industry. Nobody likes seeing their work slagged by someone on the internet, I know, but for better or worse, it's part of the rules of the game. They should either grow a thicker skin or find a job where they will get a medal for participating. (On the other hand, making beer that doesn't suck would be a good way to substantially reduce the risk).

It’s flippant

I partly agree here. If you're saying that a beer sucks, it's proper to say why. But, as someone said in this thread on my FB page, sometimes you can't be arsed with writing an essay. The beer just sucks; if the brewers or their fanboys want to know why, they can always ask.

It’s (potentially) damaging

Not just to the brewery in question, but to the whole craft beer world as a whole. In this day and age of quick tweets, instagrams, snapchats and one-liners... This is just stupid (sorry, mate, nothing personal, we all say stupid things every now and again).

There's no way a “Their Beer Sucks” review or two can have any impact in the industry whatsoever; especially with all the circlejerk around the Craft Beer brand. I don't even think it can affect the fortunes of an individual brewery! I've never heard of a brewery going out of business because a blogger twitted in untappd that their beer sucked.

He then goes on to start making a good point; it's a pity that he does it in such an obtuse manner, almost. I'm not against anyone taking a sensory analysis course or reading books or guidelines, but I don't think it is something anyone should do to make their opinion more legitimate.

Now, if you want to make your opinion more valid, it's better to be informed before even getting your hands on a beer. If you don't like sour flavours, perhaps you should avoid Lambics; if you can only appreciate complexity and intensity, perhaps you should avoid desítky. If you do choose to drink those beers, however, don't complain about their intrinsic characteristics, it's your problem, not the beers'. (This assumes that you've been given the tools to make an informed decision, which often is not the case)

Unfortunately, though, there's plenty of crap beer out there—and I'm not speaking about stuff I don't quite enjoy, but stuff that shouldn't have left the brewery, or even been brewed to begin with. It's beer that wastes shelf-space and time; and even the best informed among us will inevitably buy some of it with a disposable income most have worked very hard to earn. There's absolutely nothing wrong with calling those beers out, without pulling any punches. If that hurts the feelings of the hard-working brewers that made them, so be it. I'm not sorry.

Na Zdraví!

PS: The one thing I'm against is getting personal. The slagging should be limited only to the product. Unless you have a good reason to also slag the brewer, that is, like serving you rotten beer at their own brewpub.