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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NYT on Belgian Goldens

Eric Asimov, wine writer for the New York Times, periodically takes on beer. Generally to my dissatisfaction. (A friend kidded me for my "Asimov envy," which is half-true. What a huge megaphone he has! What I wouldn't do to write just one column for the Times.) Yesterday he took on Belgian golden ales, illuminating things not a great deal. Read it and make your own judgments. I will, however, make a comment or two on this passage:

One surprise in our tasting was that Duvel, the classic example of a strong golden ale, did not make our top 10. This especially surprised me as I loved its spicy, flowery flavors, which lingered in the mouth, but my colleagues felt the example we tasted was not as fresh as it ought to be, so they voted it out. Freshness is always an issue when dealing with imported beers, which have to travel a long way in not-always-ideal conditions.
I have two problems with this. The first is amazement that the NYT couldn't manage to find a fresh bottle of Duvel, one of the most widely-available Belgians in America. This is a paper that lets reporters go for months or years on a single story, has bureaus around the world, and regularly wins a majority of the pulitzers. But they couldn't find a decent Duvel?

The second point is related to the first. As a matter of journalism, I don't see what the point is in writing an article that explores a product when you ignore the giant within that product segment. It's as if a tech writer were doing a review of smart phones but ignored the iPhone. Never mind that the iPhone you brought to the testing lab was dead, you don't just chuck it aside and pretend you're telling people anything when you laud the Droid instead.

Generally when I grouse about Asimov, I am taken to task by readers more generous than I. Truth is, I had other quibbles, but they seemed to trifling to mention. But perhaps this will seem enough of a trifle to spur comment.


  1. Are we to understand that this was supposed to be a "Golden Belgian Ale" tasting? Not a Strong Golden, Abbey, Belgian IPA, Belgian Amber or any other kind of Belgian? I would say this tasting was flawed from the start. First you need to get a group of tasters who know what a Golden Belgian ale is and then get them to be able to read a label.

    Maybe this NYT reporter should stick to the weather and mall openings. :-)

  2. I would agree that the rational behind the short treatment of Duvel is pretty suspect. However, I actually appreciated that they lumped these all together saying they preferred to have a broad group to sample from: "But most were so good that we lost interest in whether they conformed to our parameters."

  3. Does Duvel use brett? Could that have influenced the palate of the wine critics?

  4. I generally like Asimov's writing, but as with just about everything in the NYT, this article demonstrated the paper's East Coast bias. No Avery Salvation, no Bruery, no Boulevard, etc. But the paper got Brooklyn in there, of course.