This week there have been several articles that have made waves in the craft beer world. Boston Magazine had an article about how craft beer has left Samuel Adams behind. Local homebrewer Vinny Mannering wrote a rebuttal to the article taking issue with those who called Sam products “mediocre” which went viral on social media. In another article, the founders of West Coast craft beer pioneers Widmer Brothers and Deschutes lamented the fact that as they have grown in size, the perception some have of their beers have changed.
If a beer is well made, it is well made. I don’t care if it is a homebrew, a local nano-brewery brewing out of a garage, a “too big to be cool craft” brewer, or even a macro from AB InBev. People who won’t drink or say a Boston Lager or Guinness Draught suck because of their own preconceptions just shouldn’t be taken seriously. If you have valid and informed reasons why you don’t like a beer I have no issue with it. There is a reason why stores, bars, and restaurants have more than one beer in stock. Too many beer drinkers can’t or won’t; sadly asking people to be honest and open-minded is often too much to ask for.
Many beer drinkers, especially self-identified connoisseurs don’t understand is how beer is supposed to taste. If you think Boston Lager sucks because it isn’t hoppy enough, then you clearly do not understand that a Vienna Lager isn’t supposed to be hoppy. The issue really isn’t the beer, the issue is that you just don’t like the style. It’s not the beer, it’s you!
On Christmas Eve I went to my uncle’s house. I brought a six-pack of Narragansett Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout. After gorging on food, a full-bodied stout was not all that appealing. To the shock of everyone, I went for an Amstel Light. I hadn’t had one in years, and it was actually better than I remembered. I don’t usually drink light lagers, but at that moment I enjoyed it. It was light, refreshing, and tasted exactly how it was supposed to taste.
BJCP Grand Master Gordon Strong has posted several sample scoresheets on the BJCP website. On a scale of 0-50, where 38-44 is “excellent” and 44-50 is outstanding he gave the following scores:
- Miller Lite: 43
- Amstel Light: 42
- PBR: 45
- Negro Modelo: 42
- Genesee Cream Ale: 43
- Widmer Hefeweizen: 43
- Bass Ale: 42
- Guinness Draught: 44
All of these beers are fine examples of their particular style. If you say any of these beers suck, you’re wrong. If you don’t like them, see the distinction, then have a reason why other than the name on the label.
Two years ago when asked about “guilty pleasures” in music Dave Grohl said, “I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, I believe you should be able to like what you like. If you like a f***** Ke$ha song, listen to f****** Ke$ha.”
I was out with a group of people at The Yard House last fall. Being at a beer bar the topic of beer came up. My friend Kate sheepishly mentioned that she really enjoyed Shipyard Pumpkinhead. As Shipyard has grown it has fallen into a similar trap as Samuel Adams, Widmer, and Deschutes. Their English and English influenced ales are certainly out of place in a world where if a beer isn’t a hop-bomb, it’s crap! Just because there may be other pumpkin beers I think are superior, or a beer snob who measures the quality of a beer only in IBUs might look down on the Shipyard line, doesn’t mean a beer drinker should feel the need to justify anything to anyone.
I am also starting to question the chase for the latest and greatest beers which has some drinkers leaving brands like Sam Adams. I love trying new things. I love being inspired to brew new things. Now it is to the point where I can’t remember most of the beers that I have tried. To what end am I chasing new beers if most of them aren’t memorable?
Before I started brewing I thought I was an educated beer drinker. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. That was when I truly learned how beer was supposed to taste. That doesn’t mean you have to brew to appreciate beer. What it does mean is to be open to what you don’t know. Too many beer snobs aren’t.
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