We’ve written about the variables in beer before, but this post on beer styles by Jeff ‘Beervana’ Alworth made us think more specifically about the tiny variables. These are the things that, on their own, might not be missed but which, together, add up to a unique fingerprint for a beer.
You can measure a beer’s attributes and replicate them and declare it ‘technically the same’; and you can categorise a beer and brew something which matches the ‘profile for the style’; but it’s the sometimes barely perceptible contributions from people, process, place and ingredients that make it what it is.
Chemists can synthesise strawberry flavour by breaking down its chemical components or make artificial musk for perfume. Technicians can replicate the sound of a violin or human voice with synthesis and samples. But, for now, what they end up with is something that works in the mix, if you don’t pay too much attention, and which will never satisfy someone who really knows their stuff.
Without the small details — flaws or wrinkles? — a beer can end up in the uncanny valley.
Could we honestly spot the difference between food-grade acid added to a beer and that which occurs naturally during fermentation and maturation? Honestly, maybe not, but we have tended to perceive added complexity in the beers made with the most roundabout, time-consuming, arcane processes.
But maybe that’s psychological?
Bonus points to anyone who can identify the brewery from the ‘small detail’ in the picture above...