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An anecdote with a moral

Catfish Sumeček is one my favourite products from Pivovar Kocour. It's one of those almost perfect beers, sessionable, but also a good sipper to pair with a book and good music, interesting, but thirst quenching, brilliant. The other day I fancied buying some to drink at home at the weekend. While I was doing my shopping at Pivkupectví I talked with the people that were there. I picked a bottle, paid, put it in my rucksack and then in the fridge as soon as I got home a couple of hours later.

Its moment came with Sunday's dinner. I opened the bottle and felt a strange smell coming out of it. Nothing that I could identify as an infection or contamination, just something that didn't belong there. When I poured I noticed that the beer was a bit darker and browner than I remembered and that the foreign aroma was more intense. There was something wrong, very wrong with that beer. So wrong that it wasn't Catfish Sumeček, it was V3 Rauchbier. I didn't realise that because my sharp senses identified that aroma (smoked, DUH!), but because I happened to take a look at the label, for the first time since I had bought it almost a week before. Hmm...

But that's not the bad thing. I wasn't able to enjoy this beer. Not because there was anything wrong with it, V3 is a good rauch and it might have even paired better with the lasagna than the other would would have, but it wasn't the beer I wanted and I had looked forward to.

Later, this made me thing about the way expectations affect the impression we get from a beer (or any product or service). It's true that in this case my expectations were very specific (a given beer that I knew), but I think you understand what I mean. We read blogs, some also consult sites like RateBeer or Beer Advocate, full of reviews and tasting notes. Some of those reviews can shower a beer in praise, which can result in very high expectations. To this, we have to add some of the not very concrete information on some labels, like styles, for example, which not few consumers associate with a exaggeratedly limited range of characteristics. So I wonder how much all this helps and how much it harms our relationship and experience with beers and if sometimes those beers we have the least references about aren't the ones we end up enjoying the most.

And the moral? Pay bloody attention when you are shopping.

Na Zdraví!

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  1. Very nice post! I recently moved to Prague, and armed with your wonderful book went to visit the Prague Beer Museum, and they had Sumeček, and it was indeed incredible, but I don't think they have it always on tap. They have Samurai instead?

    Where would you enjoy Sumeček on tap?

  2. I had it yesterday at Zlý Časy, but it's not permanently featured anywhere, really.

    (thanks for the compliments, by the way)

  3. PF -- reassuring that you were able to spot the difference from the aroma...

  4. But to my discredit, I swear to you that I couldn't identify it as "smoked malt" until I saw the label.... Funny...

    1. I believe I should have mentioned that Sumeček is a Pale Ale...

  5. That happened to me a few weeks back. Wanted a certain beer, thought I had picked it up, opened, poured it, noticed it was the completely wrong color and then finally really looked at the bottle. D'oh! The beer I picked up I had had before, and enjoyed, but I didn't enjoy it that time, b/c it wasn't what I was looking for (queue U2).

    I definitely believe expectations (via blogs, rating sites, etc) can take away from a beer. I try to limit my beer review readings for that specific reason.

    1. I can't be arsed with the review sites, but I do follow a few blogs that are mostly beer reviews because they are good writing. Fortunately, I tend to forget the beers they review, but I'm sure they linger in some unconscious level or another.


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