Crediting others with sincerity

Why is it so hard for people to believe that other people really enjoy drinking the beers they say they enjoy drinking?

We saw anoth­er small out­break of sec­ond-guess­ing last week when Matt Cur­tis wrote in glow­ing terms about Har­vey’s Sus­sex Best – a beer we also hap­pen to love.

To para­phrase, the sug­ges­tion we saw float through the time­line was that Matt and oth­ers don’t real­ly believe Sus­sex Best is bet­ter than, say, Greene King IPA – it’s just that it’s trendy, or at least on the approved list of Beers You’re Allowed to Like.

The same think­ing some­times seems to be behind the dis­missal of ‘craft murk’ – that is, hazy IPAs and the like – and sour beer, lager, or any oth­er style you care to think of.

Here’s what we think the thought process looks like:

  1. I don’t like this beer.
  2. I find it impos­si­ble to imag­ine any­one else lik­ing this beer.
  3. Peo­ple who say they like this beer must be delud­ed, or lying.

The assump­tion that every­body else’s opin­ions are either (a) part of a herd response to hype or (b) delib­er­ate con­trar­i­an­ism… Well, it gets a bit wear­ing, to be hon­est.

After all, taste is a del­i­cate mech­a­nism. Even in this team, Jess is bare­ly sen­si­tive to light-strike or skunk­ing, while Ray is; Ray isn’t espe­cial­ly attuned to diacetyl, but Jess is.

We can’t speak defin­i­tive­ly for any­one else, of course, but we know this: when we say we’ve enjoyed drink­ing some­thing, it’s because we enjoyed drink­ing it; when we say we don’t, it’s because we don’t.

And we try to assume the same of oth­ers.

Of course there are times when you might ques­tion the motives of a review­er – do they have a com­mer­cial rela­tion­ship with the brew­ery? Are they paid to under­take PR on its behalf? Did it send them a lav­ish ham­per of free­bies?

We do also think that some beers are bet­ter than oth­ers, where ‘bet­ter’ means ‘more like­ly to appeal to peo­ple in a giv­en group’, whether that’s beer geeks, main­stream drinkers, tra­di­tion­al­ists or whichev­er.

But we’ve no rea­son to doubt that Tan­dle­man gained real plea­sure for his pints of Mor­land Orig­i­nal, or that Al found some­thing to appre­ci­ate in Ten­nen­t’s Lager, or that Brad has nev­er had a beer from The Ker­nel that was “any­thing short of out­stand­ing”.

9 thoughts on “Crediting others with sincerity”

  1. I would­n’t for a minute ques­tion Matt Cur­tis’ sin­cer­i­ty. How­ev­er, you do some­times get the feel­ing that Har­vey’s is the trad beer that it is accept­able for crafties to like. It would be more rad­i­cal to express the same sen­ti­ments about, say, Black Sheep or Palmers.

    1. Maybe its the accept­able trad beer for “crafties” to like, because it taps into what they typ­i­cal­ly like in a way that Black Sheep or Palmers don’t. Did you ever think it might just be a sim­ple as that and there isn’t some grand con­spir­a­cy…

  2. Oh so true, seen so many ‘so what’ posts regard­ing GK sale. GK IPA may not be to your taste, and not an IPA, but it is a well made, fine­ly bal­anced ses­sion beer. Suf­folk Strong and 5X are class in a glass.

  3. Expand­ing this out­side of the beer lovers bub­ble (what­ev­er vari­ety of beer lover you are), I think we need to remem­ber this applies to those who drink the indus­tri­al lagers, ciders etc as well. I see so much dis­missal of peo­ple who’s expe­ri­ence of drink­ing means for all sorts of rea­sons they pre­fer the big brands. Snob­bish­ness is no way of encour­ag­ing them to try more. I have to a) sell prod­ucts to get peo­ple in the pub in the first place b) build up a lev­el of trust before they’ll even con­sid­er try­ing some­thing out­side their com­fort zone. Much of the time that trust is dam­aged before I even meet them because of the expe­ri­ences of being dis­missed in craft/real ale spe­cial­ist places in the past.

  4. I am will­ing to believe 99% of beer folk when they say they enjoy a par­tic­u­lar beer; after all, sure­ly they’ve tried a sam­ple, had sim­i­lar before, like the style, brew­ery or even the hops / com­po­si­tion etc.

    When the doubt sur­faces in my mind (and maybe it’s an uncon­scious prej­u­dice, who knows) is when a par­tic­u­lar sub­set of drinker delib­er­ate­ly seeks out – and as a result a par­tic­u­lar sub­set of brew­er then pro­duces – overt­ly and delib­er­ate­ly out­landish, wacky, bizarre and weird brews *pure­ly* as a sop to their per­ceived pop­u­lar­i­ty (Untap­pd check-ins / Insta­gram likes etc) and as a way to demon­strate the sophis­ti­ca­tion of their tast­ing abil­i­ties or as a way of reveal­ing their adven­tur­ous per­son­al­i­ty: all the while sub­ject­ing them­selves to dis­com­fort for nobody’s real ben­e­fit.

    It’s like those YouTu­bers who eat real­ly hot chill­is on cam­era and are then ill for days, com­fort­ed by ris­ing view fig­ures on the resul­tant video freak­show.

    I say this as some­one who has in the past week con­sumed a 12% maple and bacon impe­r­i­al stout and a 12.8% impe­r­i­al marsh­mal­low porter… but these beers are entire­ly with­in my wheel­house as a dark strong beer lover. If I was to sud­den­ly seek out lumpy IPAs or peach sours ques­tions would nat­u­ral­ly be asked of my motives. I believe we should keep a sim­i­lar lev­el of benign cyn­i­cism about cer­tain folk who rave that a beer designed to appeal to 1% of the audi­ence rep­re­sents the “future” of brew­ing and that “one day all beer will be this good”.

    Mind you, they said that about IPA once so what do I know .…..

  5. Because every­thing we know about blind tast­ing con­firms that most peo­ple can’t tell the dif­fer­ence between beers they claim to like and beers they claim to dis­like?

    1. The inter­est­ing phrase there is ‘claim to like’. We think it’s that, gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, peo­ple *actu­al­ly* enjoy cer­tain beers more/less when they have additional/less con­tex­tu­al infor­ma­tion. The enjoy­ment is sin­cere – it’s not a fib.

      1. I’m not sug­gest­ing they’re being insin­cere, I’m sug­gest­ing that the rea­sons they actu­al­ly like (or dis­like) the beer are dif­fer­ent from the rea­sons they think they like (or dis­like) the beer. Does lik­ing this beer, with all its ephemera of asso­ci­at­ed semi­otic con­tent, enhance or detract from the self-image they’re sub­con­scious­ly con­struct­ing for them­selves?

        This is pret­ty well estab­lished, no? In blind taste test­ings many peo­ple can’t even tell the dif­fer­ence between red wine and white wine if they’re served at the same tem­per­a­ture and they can’t see the colour.

        I think this is what the crit­ics you men­tion above are prob­a­bly get­ting at.

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