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Monday, January 18, 2016

A Beer With "Lift"

On Saturday I had the pleasure of judging at the evolving Willamette Week Oregon beer awards. During one of the sessions, a judge (I'll let him identify himself if he wishes) was describing why he liked one of the beers. He was praising its liveliness and described the finish as having "lift." It was an adjective that received appreciative nods and smiles around the table.

A beer with "lift?"
Describing or judging a beer can often be a deadening experience, as we default to a list of familiar attributes. But the experience of drinking a beer, particularly a very good or very bad one, sometimes means using the language of metaphor. "Lift" is not a descriptor that will ever be usable in the way "diacetyl" will--it's not a quantifiable quality. But in the case of the beer being described, it was perfectly accurate. We all understood what he meant. It wasn't only liveliness, but the way the beer evolved in the mouth. It went out with a rising, spirited snap, with lift.

I've heard other beers described as having "bass," a kind of thrumming resonance full of deep flavors. It's not only the sense of heft or roastiness, but gravitas. Some beers seem "hollow," in that they have at the mid-palate collapse--perhaps the opposite of "bass." In a world where we use the same, tired old language ("the beer pours out copper and smells of nuts and citrus") it's great to hear new words that capture a beer's essence.

Happy MLK Day, everyone--

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic piece! Sometimes I need to be reminded that it's okay to use descriptors that aren't "the norm." As long as we are effectively communicating a flavor and a feeling, we reviewers can dare to be adventurous.