Generalisations about beer culture opinion

Don't tell us what's funny

We’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about the subjectivity of taste and continued  the discussion last night over our Friday night beers.

Have you ever had a conversation about comedy where someone has tried to tell that something you like ‘isn’t funny’? We’ve always found this infuriating. If you laugh from your belly at an act, TV show or film, then that means it’s funny, full stop.

It might not be fashionable, and people might argue that it’s not clever, or well-made, or make any one of a number of other critical observations, but what they can’t say is that it’s not funny.

And, with beer, the equivalent non-negotiable reaction is probably excitement. If you find something exciting, that’s something no-one can argue you out of. They might question your standards — “You found that exciting? Really? Then you need to try…” — or note that the beer you’re buzzing about is exciting despite its flaws, but they can’t deny the thrill you felt on putting your nose into the glass and the stuff itself into your gob.

Check out Zak’s reaction to Rooster’s Babyfaced Assassin at 5:34 into the video here. You can’t argue with that, even if you think the beer is pretentious, elitist, overblown, etc..

14 replies on “Don't tell us what's funny”

What I find even worse is the reaction of “It’s only a bit of fun” to things that are wrong, annoying or offensive.

I used to go to the Thursday night quiz in my local where there would always be at least three or four questions to which the wrong answer was given. When I complained (as I did, every week) the response was “It’s only a bit of fun.”

“NO!” I wanted to shout, fists clenched “IT’S NOT FUN! IT’S NOT!”.

The beer was shite too.

It actually doesn’t need to be “excitement”. “Enjoyment” is enough. People drink what they drink because they enjoy it, they like it. You and I might think that certain beers are rubbish, but it doesn’t mean that those people enjoy them any less (not to mention the fact that those people might think that some of the stuff – not necessarily beer related – you or I like is rubbish).

I agree entirely with PF. Most of my mates back in Prague drink whatever happens to be on tap, the important thing being the social situation and the friends you are with.

PF/Al — agree with you both, not every beer has to be exciting, but I guess we were thinking that it’s much harder to feign excitement than enjoyment. (“Hmm, yes, this cake is delicious.” *spits cake into base of flower pot, scrapes tongue*)

TBN — works both ways, I guess — if you’re not laughing, it probably *isn’t* funny.

I am more and more convinced that we do not have a good handle on taste. I have pals who I will have over to try good beer who say “I never tasted that until you described it and then I do.” I think this has as much to do with suggestion as acuity. Apparently there is a valid phenomenon anyone can experience walking down a street. You see across the block and down the street people walking towards you. You can’t make out the face but your brain will fill in the detail with available faces from your memory. So you see old friends as they looked way back then until you get closer when you admit its a stranger. I am wondering more and more these days how much of the range of tastes I am experiencing in beer “X” are based, in the same way, on the tastes I have experienced in the past.

Further, I then worry that there is a disconnect between taste of beer and beer production intentions. When I read at Ron‘s as well as Jeff of Beervana about how there is not the separation, the malty sweetness of Scots ales that we have been led to believe. There is no such thing as the peaty note. Yet since 1977 I have had the Sweetheart Stouts, the Traquair Ales, the Caledonian /80’s. the McEwan’s export and others and there is is. I’ve brewed it myself and there is it. It’s not the same.

I now wonder if the subtleties of taste perhaps less reflected on the brewer’s grain bill than other elements – plus suggestion and expectation – are what really frame what we sense in the mouth far more than what the brewer might be trying to achieve on paper and in the tun.

Alan — all true, and very humbling. If you want to really have the rug pulled out from under your feet, a blind taste-test is the way to go. We’ve both tasted beers in opaque vessels and sworn blind they were dark when they were yellow, and vice versa. Suggestion is a huge part of it.

See, I think blind tastings are just another form of holiday – a package tour where are the fun, personal bits are denied you in the effort to create at homogenous construct.

For us, blind tastings are a sort of ritual humiliation to be gone through once in a while to remind yourself how important the setting, the company, the packaging and the ‘brand’ are to enjoying a beer.

Alun — we’re saying something slightly different: that it’s annoying when people try to tell *you* that you shouldn’t feel excited by something. But thanks for dropping by to be sarcastic.

Good discussion; repeat Alan’s point for emphasis :

“I now wonder if the subtleties of taste perhaps less reflected on the brewer’s grain bill than other elements – plus suggestion and expectation – are what really frame what we sense in the mouth far more than what the brewer might be trying to achieve on paper and in the tun.”

Unfortunately, this leads pretty shortly to the thought that marketing the package is more important than brewing the beer. Shurely not?

Gregg — not for the first time, we find ourselves referring to this post. Marketing might not be *more* important than the beer, but it’s by no means inconsequential, not only in achieving sales, but also in getting the drinker geared up to enjoy it.

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