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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Beer Tasting Is Subjective

Note: I'm away from my computer for awhile, and I'm re-posting some of the more interesting items from recent years. The one I'm posting today actually had an amazing influence on my appreciation of how different individual palates are. Also, the links appear dead, but the point is still valid.
Let's try a thought experiment. Imagine you assembled a list of a city's best beers. Then you polled a bunch of people to find the consensus of which of these they would recommend. Here's the experiment part: how many of those beers would have high levels of agreement--say 75% or more?

I would have guessed you could get at least a couple beers in every style--essentially broad agreement on the "best beers." Well, Matt Wiater at actually did this, and guess what: not much agreement. Of the top 15 beers, only two met my hypothetical standard. Mostwere recommended by only a bare majority of people. Mirror Pond, for example, surely one of the more famous, beloved, and best-selling beers in all of Greater Beervana, managed a recommendation from only 50% of the people.

So who were these half-wits? Bloggers, mainly (including me).

The lesson is clear to me: there is no "best" of anything. "Bests" are reserved for track meets, where you can actually measure performance. In beer, the master is the taster. What's best is what your tongue likes. I tend to think we can talk about some general standards of quality, but specific beers?--clearly this isn't so easy to figure out.

So the next time (and there will be a next time) we get in a spat about a specific beer, we should recall this lesson. Different strokes, folks. And ain't it nice we have so many breweries to serve these different tongues?

1 comment:

  1. Because beer, just like wine tasting, is subjective, home brewing is becoming more and more popular. People are actually proud of their efforts and even enter their own brew at the State Fair. Used to be people were criticized for brewing at home, but not anymore. It's amazing how everyone uses the same basic ingredients - barley, water, hops, sugar, and yeast - but the results are so different. I don't think it saves any money, but home beer making is a really fun hobby! Please drink responsibly.