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Generalisations about beer culture

“I just find it too bitter.”

Discussing the relaunch of Let There Be Beer today reminded us of just how often we hear the statement above uttered by people who dislike beer.

We ought to bear in mind every time we catch ourselves complaining that mainstream beers are bland or that, say, Sharp’s Doom Bar is too sickly sweet, that, for some, those beers are probably still too bitter.

We’re quite cured of the desire to ‘convert people’ these days, but if a beer sceptic asked us for a suggestion, we might point them to a gentle-but-quirky, barely-bitter-at-all German or Belgian wheat beer.

7 replies on ““I just find it too bitter.””

Dunno. I’ve punted what I thought were some fairly extreme beers to the beer-sceptical OH over the last few years & generally found she found them much more accessible than I thought she would – in fact, more accessible than I did on first encounter. (For instance, when Oakham Citra is in B&M Bargains it’s now a go-to beer for both of us.) I wonder if, when people say ‘too bitter’, they’re specifically thinking of bad experiences with the classic ‘brown bitter’ malty-body-hoppy-finish flavour profile.

I personally think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that flavour profile – done well (e.g. Harvey’s ESB) it’s one of the glories of the beer universe – but maybe it just doesn’t get a lot of people over the ‘too bitter’ hump. And maybe ‘tastes of grapefruit’ has a better chance.

The OH doesn’t like beer with a strong apparent bitterness, though it would not put her off the exceptional examples. But I turned her with Oakham Citra (bottled). We usually have his & hers beer, bit Citra is fair game.

found she found them much more accessible than I thought she would

Ugh – syntax fail. It’s late and I’m tired (plus two pints of Lees’ Bitter).

What we mean by bitter is often not what “people who don’t like beer” mean by bitter.

I find a lot of people who don’t like twiggy muddy stuff like Doom Bar and complain its “too bitter” actually find something like Dead Pony Club much more palatable, and “less bitter” despite it being, to our minds at least, more bitter.

There’s a certain strange decaying organic matter taste to a lot of traditional british beers that a lot of people don’t like, but the new wave stuff doesn’t suffer from. This is often what they mean by “too bitter”.

We’ve got a friend who “doesn’t like beer”, and it’s become a bit of a party game to see what he thinks of the more interesting stuff that we end up drinking. To date, he’s been very enthusiastic about Thornbridge’s Versa Weisse, and fairly positive about an assortment of double IPAs, oude guezes, imperial stouts and so on. The basic conclusion that we’re arriving at is that it’s less that he doesn’t like beer and more that he doesn’t like bitter.

All of which is why I get a bit annoyed when beer lists for GBBF tend to be very conservative, presumably on the assumption that it’s a bit of a shop-window for people who aren’t regular ale drinkers, and that straightforward bitters are good drinkable entry-level beers that everyone likes whereas having too much “weird stuff” would risk scaring the horses.

Of course it is well established that some people taste bitter in a way that people who love bitter just cannot comprehend, that is they taste bitter as evolution intended a warning not to eat the food stuff, seems deeply odd when applied to broccoli. It is the interesting part of taste and smell differences within humans ultimately why tasting descriptions become so language driven. Still my strawberry may be very different to another’s.

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