This is by way of a summary of some thoughts we’ve had in the last year or so, backed up with links to some posts we’ve enjoyed elsewhere on related topics.
1. People’s palates work in different ways, as Wilson at Brewvana points out. For example, Boak’s is calibrated in such a way that anymore than the merest hint of salt in a meal renders it inedible, but she can handle almost as much chili heat as you care to throw at her.
2. Tastes evolve over time. Everyone knows the theory that you become more tolerant of bitter flavours as you enter your twenties. In the case of beer, there’s a similar theory (“Lupulin Threshold Shift“) which suggests we become more tolerant of the presence of hops the more we’re exposed to them, so a beer which tasted crazily hoppy two years ago when you first had it might not seem quite so extreme today.
3. Branding, marketing and other cultural prejudices influence our thinking. The only path to true wisdom is through blind taste testing, and that can really surprise you, as Lars discovered.
4. Context is all important. As long as it’s of reasonably good quality, the first beer you drink on holiday will taste pretty amazing. In fact, scratch the opening caveat: we always enjoy our first Cruzcampo on holiday in Spain, and it’s of very poor quality indeed.