Generalisations about beer culture opinion

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 replies on “Crediting others with sincerity”

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.

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…

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.

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.

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 ……

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?

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.

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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