News, Nuggets & Longreads 7 October 2017: Sir Geoff, Squirrels, Subjectivity

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the world of booze and pubs in the past week, from industry profiles to philosophical ponderings.

First, the Brewers’ Journal has a profile of UK brewing industry veteran Sir Geoff Palmer who came to the UK from Jamaica as a teenager in 1955:

“I’ve been able to teach many people, I have been given awards and I have even been given an OBE which are all great, great, privileges.

“But to be honest, the best feeling is when I go into a supermarket and see someone struggling when it comes to the choices available to them on the beer aisle.

“So I go up and ask what are they looking for. I don’t tell them I have studied and taught brewing, I just listen to what they say and make a suggestion that they will hopefully enjoy. I’d like to think they will do something with that knowledge.

“But in reality, they will probably just go home and tell their family about the old Jamaican that was rambling on!”

We were also interested to read the same publication’s interviews with Phil Lowry (“Brewers have little to bitch about right now. If your brand isn’t flying, that’s your fault. ”) and John Keeling of Fuller’s: “I think this industry here is still too slavish to America. We need to develop our own identity and our own beer styles should be at the forefront of that.”

Continue reading “News, Nuggets & Longreads 7 October 2017: Sir Geoff, Squirrels, Subjectivity”

Stimulus from the World of Wine

Close up of The Thinker

We recently asked people to recommend books which weren’t about beer but which could help us better understand beer, prompted by reminders from Knut and Alan that books on other topics do actually exist and can be all the more illuminating for their distance from The Obsession.

Gareth, who writes the Beer Advice blog, and has a background in wine retailing, suggested Questions of Taste: the Philosophy of Wine (Ed. Barry C. Smith, 2007), a collection of essays exploring what it really means to ‘taste’ wine. Is it possible to taste objectively? Which qualities are an essential part of the wine and which are projected by the taster? Are some wines really better than others in an objective sense? And so on.

If you’re allergic to the merest whiff of pretension, you won’t enjoy it, but, so far, like Johnny Five in search of input, we’re finding it very thought-provoking, and are already itching to write posts based on ideas therein.

Here’s one example from the essay ‘The Power of Tastes: Reconciling Science and Subjectivity’ by Ophelia Deroy:

Am I objective when I say that this wine tastes like ripe pineapple, or do I just indulge in association of memories, condemned to remain purely personal? Do I try to find rare tastes or fine adjectives to conform to a social ritual, in an arbitrary and perhaps pretentious way? But, even if socially codified, do these practices and ways of talking about wine transform the experience we have of it?

This set of all kinds of fireworks in our brains. We’ve certainly found ourselves thinking: “We can’t just call this beer hoppy — people won’t approve,” and so sipped, sniffed, struggled, trying to unlock a particular elusive aroma or flavour; and we recently saw a novice beer reviewer (one with a provocative sense of hubris) shot down for the lack of finesse in his tasting notes — for not going deep enough.

What if those elusive flavours just aren’t there? Or the label we’re putting on them only makes sense to us because we’re recalling a particular mango, of a particular variety, at a specific point of ripeness, that we ate at a particular time in a particular place?

Other recommendations — the further removed from beer the better — very welcome! Picture from Flickr Creative Commons.