Must Try Harder

blind_tasting

Lately, we have become aware of an Achilles’ heel in our attempts to think and write about how beer tastes, as opposed to its history and the culture that surrounds it.

On the rare occasions we declare a beer to be downright bad, off or wrong, we find ourselves pressed to be more specific — to describe what we’re tasting in the technical terms brewers use amongst themselves.

We’re not Heriot-Watt graduates and have never even been on a short course. Anything we have learned has been from books. It’s hard to beat words as a means of conveying sensory experiences, but even they can’t compete with experience.

We know quite a lot of the terminology and apply it, but not with great confidence. We get corrected a lot. (Corrected? On the internet!?) Our lack of confidence means we have to bow to those corrections even when, as if often the case, we secretly think we’re right.

Perhaps we’ve resisted getting technical to an extent: knowing the language doesn’t always mean a lot, and we’ve more than once been cornered by bores who know all the jargon and yet seem happy to drink pints that have turned us green with nausea.

And, insofar as we enjoy reading other people’s beer reviews, it’s those with evocative prose rather than the ones that resemble feedback sheets from a home brewing competition.

Anyway, we’re doing something about it now: we’ve just splashed £90 on an ‘off flavours’ kit from Aroxa.

That’s £90 — enough for a case of very decent beer — for some pills that will make our beer taste nasty. The things we do in the name of blogging…

5 thoughts on “Must Try Harder”

  1. You can gleefully avoid this concern and focus on tastes as opposed to either off or on. It is as with gardening where a weed is just a plant that I don’t know a use for yet. Yesterday, I tried Basque cider for the first time. Pre-warned by Pete, it got used to soak chickens. It was not off but it was not what I wanted. Much the same applied to the easy complexity for flavoured beers with that special ingredient or the rare barrel. If the taste works, it is good. You are the measure of all thinks. Be attentive.

  2. That’s fair commitment to the cause right there, will you use them with your favourite ales though or something cheaper from the supermarket? Would using them on something pasteurized make a difference? Look forward to hearing the results.

      1. yes – absolutely. Bud is what we always use, as the most stable, consistent, neutral base beer possible for these type of tastings.
        I’ll be interested to see if you feel that it was £90 well spent btw.

  3. Used a similar kit from the Siebel guys in the states as part of the BJCP sensory training, with hHineken as the base beer. It was *educational* – I still can’t forget the smell of the butyric acid flaw …

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