Friday, June 25, 2010

Beer of the Week Rebuttal

For those of you who haven't noticed, Chad has recently commanded more posts from his fellow Fraters contributors. I'm a big fan of the philosophy, "be careful what you wish for, you might just get it." In that vein, I've decided to devote a post to critiquing Chad's sponsored "Beer of the Week" franchise.

I do this partly out of jealousy at the potable largess that Chad gets out of his deal from the good folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits. As mentioned, part of my motivation is animosity at being asked to crank out multiple posts in a single month. However, my main motivation is a disagreement with the idea of assigning numeric value to something as subjective as the flavor of beer. Obviously, some beers use higher quality ingredients than others. Some beers have a fuller flavor profile. However, the idea that rating a beer isn't a highly subjective process is not debatable.

Here's my thesis: Chad likes certain types of beer. I like other types. We both enjoy beers with high quality ingredients that are produced by craftsman brewers as opposed to low cost and highly mechanized mass production methods. However our palates differ, and I might think that a beer that he rates highly is mediocre and vice verse. That would mean that neither of us is right and neither is wrong. But he has previously called me out, so I feel it's only fair to return the favor.

As a rare blogger who didn't post commentary on umpire Jim Joyce's botching of a perfect game, I'm probably violating some sort of internet rule. Instead, I'll start by deconstructing Chad's bizarre assessment on January 22, 2010 that Bell's Hopslam is the perfect beer . Chad must have a thing for double IPA style beer, because on May 28, 2009 he also overrated Sierra Nevada's Torpedo with 16 out of 19 points. I like IPA just fine and both of these beers are good. However, when I’m plunking down $12 or more for a six pack, I’d expect better. Both beers are overly heavy with respective alcohol contents of 10.0% and 7.2%.

Further, I believe that these beers are far from the best beers produced at their breweries. I’d prefer a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale or Oberon to either of these beers. I guess that just means I like Pale Ales and American style wheat beers to double IPAs. You may agree or disagree. Just don't tell me that your mathematics suggests that one is the perfect beer.

Finally, I have to take issue with Chad’s last two ratings, which I believe he might have gotten backwards. On June 4, he rated Samuel Adams’ Summer Ale at an undistinguished level of 12. Then he turned around on June 11 and rated Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat a solid level of endorsement at 14. As I stated above, I think he mixed the beers up. He took off one point on Sammy’s Summer for lack of sufficient head. I’ll be the first to say that unless your beer requires a special pour like Guinness, head is overrated. He also dinged the Sam Adams’ product for overall taste, suggesting:

A decent summer beer, but not one of my favorites. It has some nice individual components that for some reason don't come together all that well overall. The aftertaste is not very pleasant and for me was the beer's biggest flaw. There are plenty of other better wheat beers out there that I'd rather sip on during the lazy, hazy days of summer.

I have no idea what he’s talking about here. In the interest of full disclosure: after winning a Keegan’s Pub trivia winner drawing, Sam Adams’ flew me out to Boston, paying for my hotel and airfare. However, I’m not a blind Sam Adams’ fan. I really don’t like their flagship Boston Lager. Nevertheless, Sam Adams’ makes a terrific summer beer. I’ll admit that it is a little sharp and may be an acquired taste, but that’s what makes rating beer an impossibly subjective task.

I’m equally confused by his endorsement of the Leine Sunset Wheat after disparaging Leine’s Red Lager. Chad is correct to call their Honey Weiss “not that much better than your typical macro.” The thing is, the Sunset Wheat isn’t that much better, though it is better. Like the Leine's Red that Chad scorns, it’s a solid offering I’ve enjoyed many times. Of course, I'd enjoy a Sam Adams’ Summer Ale a bit more.

To close, Chad's effort to characterize beer quality on a numeric system reminds me of the episode of the Simpsons where Professor Frink is called on to teach kindergarten. He goes into a ridiculous amount of scientific detail to show the kids how a toy works, at the expense of enjoying the fun of play:

Professor Frink takes over the kindergarten class, drawing equations and
free-body diagrams on the blackboard to explain the workings of one of
those things that kids push which makes the balls pop.

Frink: N'hey hey! Ahem, n'hey, so the compression and expansion of the
longitudinal waves cause the erratic oscillation -- you can see
it there -- of the neighboring particles.
[a girl raises her hand]
[sighs] Yes, what is it? What? What is it?
Girl: Can I play with it?
Frink: No, you can't play with it; you won't enjoy it on as many levels
as I do.