Tuesday, January 25, 2011

‘Rating Beer In “The Moment”-It’s Really All About the Beer!

Have you ever considered the circumstances you find yourself in while you’re rating beer and how it may affect your ability to remain objective? Rating beer, or in my case, "researching" beer is an additional activity attached to the actual act of examining and consuming the product. It should be an enjoyable part of the beer-drinking process, but it should be taken seriously as well. There are many different reasons to rate beer. Some, like me for instance, like to keep track of all the different beers we have sampled. After over twenty-five-hundred beers, (not all at one sitting) it’s not always easy to recollect with any degree of accuracy exactly how each beer looked, smelled, and tasted. Another good reason to rate is to track year-to-year quality consistencies of breweries. Certain beers are well-suited for cellaring. As these vintage-type beers age, they evolve in flavor, aroma, and appearance. So rating beers of this nature can get very interesting. Of course it’s of vital importance to maintain these vintage brews in a light and temperature-controlled (around 55°F) environment. But I digress. Vintage and cellaring is a topic worthy of a separate article.

Anyone who takes rating beer seriously understands that ratings can be somewhat subjective, with personal preferences coming into play. Raters who prefer rich stouts and porters may, for instance, need to raise their objectivity level to fully appreciate and describe a delicate pilsner or crisp clean lager. The flavors and aromas of the lighter beers are naturally subtler and require an increased amount of concentration to identify specific brew characteristics.

Which brings me to the point. As we rate beers we have a responsibility to the reader to remain objective in spite of personal preferences. A less obvious factor that may create bias in our writings- is what BeerAdvocate.com Co-founder, Todd Alström refers to as, "The Moment", or the current circumstances we find ourselves in while we are rating.

For instance, I was laboring with heavy video gear in the sweltering 105° F humid heat of smoggy Bangkok, Thailand. I had no idea my hotel could be so well hidden and frustratingly distant. As I was about to ask for directions ... again, or worse, hail a tuk-tuk (little rear-seated, open-air, death-trap scooters with awnings), I spotted my hotel.

Dripping with sweat, I entered the lobby. The staff, astutely sensing my extreme discomfort, relieved me of my gear and provided me a hot, scented washcloth. The inviting teak and mahogany bar's A-C was blowing Arctic quality air. Freshly chilled prawns with a spicy dipping sauce and jumbo salted peanuts were promptly delivered to me at the bar. "Welcome back mistah Don", chirped the cute barmaid in the tight silk dress, as she handed me an ice-cold Singha Beer in a frosted mug. "Ahhh"!

Now fellow beer raters, I pose to you the following question; given my extreme change in fortune and most excellent surroundings, should I be allowed to bestow the non-existent “10” overall rating on Singha? The answer, of course, is no. Let’s face it; embalming fluid (if it was cold and had a head) would be tempting in the aforementioned circumstances. By the way, Singha is a pretty good beer and it needn't be served tongue- numbingly cold to enjoy. No beer deserves near freezing conditions.

Remember, though, objectivity is key. Although that beer you're about to consume with your favorite special pizza may seem to taste better, don't be fooled. Beer can improve a dinner, but the dinner cannot improve the beer. Conversely, a bad meal should not reflect poorly on the beer. That promotion at work will not make your beer taste better. You will, naturally, enjoy it way more. That tasty ale you just enjoyed will not make your mate more attractive ... it may, however, seem that way. Beer IS magic like that! And the magic of beer can be tricky!

So, please, for the sake of our readers, and for our own benefit, let’s try to remain focused on the beer. We are, after all rating the beer, not the “moment”.

Happy Rating!


Friday, January 21, 2011

Flying Dog - Double Dog Double Pale Ale

Flying Dog - Double Pale Ale (Double IPA) Maryland, US
12oz Dark brown bottle. No freshness date noticed. Served in an Orval goblet.
It pours a deep coppery color with a rich foamy beige head which leaves loads of sticking, webby lacing.
I was half expecting to be knocked over with a big alcoholic aroma blast at 11.5% abv, but instead was mildly surprised to inhale lots of sweet malty bread notes and citrusy hop smells. There is a nice rummy fuminess rising up and lasting throughout, but it is in its place.
Tastes of brown bread and spiced rum cake and grapefruity citrus are potent. Sweet honey and a mild taste of oranges follow. The rummy alcohol taste reminds me not to go too fast with this one. Peppery and clovey spices are noticed in the finish.
A tingly effervescent body is another surprise here. I expected more of a rounded and buttery mouthfeel.
It is what is is. A really strong brew for sitting by the fire while enjoying some smoked almonds and cheese and crackers.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project - Novemeber 15, 1901 KK - Black Ale

Westport, MA - 7.8% abv
22oz dark brown bottle. No Freshness date, although the legend on the label suggests cellaring.
Pint glass.
It pours a very deep dark smoky cola color with a firm and rocky tannish head and loads of lacing.
The smell is a little here and there. Burnt rye toast, grapefruit zest, coffee and bread dough is followed by a slightly astringent camphor and witchhazel fuminess.
I like the overall flavor mix, although it reminds me of several homebrews I have sampled over the years. The citrusy and metallic hops are surprisingly up front. A resinous hop taste is always present, yet mild. Burnt sugar and rye crackers tastes follow and some warming alcohol is in the finish.
The mouthfeel is a tad raspy though not enough to keep me from taking some large gulps now and then.
Interesting brew!