A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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Stephen Beaumont -

Supertasting is only a part of the equation, Alan, and not even half of it, at that. Olfaction, or the sense of smell, plays a major role in taste perception, and according to the author of one of the few books on the subject, Rachel Herz, there is some evidence that women are better than men in this regard, although it is not definitive. Fact is, there appears to be much about both taste and smell that we still don't know. (It was only relatively recently, for instance, that umami was added to the principle taste perceptions, and also that the whole "we taste sweet, sour, bitter and salty on different parts of the tongue" thing was thoroughly debunked.)

I have been tested and found to be a supertaster, but I can assure you that beer does not generally remind me of urine. (Although there was that one suspect beer in a homebrew competition I judged some years back.) Which brings to mind the question: how does it remind her of the taste of urine, anyway? I would suggest that perhaps she is reacting not at all as a supertaster in that regard -- which trait would normally bring the bitterness to the fore -- but to an intensity of smell that makes her recall urine. In that regard, there might be an emotional key at play, since smell is the only sense we have which is hard-wired into the emotional core of the brain -- hence the strength of memory that certain smells will evoke.

As I noted at the outset, there's a lot involved in all this and little of it is as cut and dried as that original article would have the reader believe. I strongly recommend Herz's book, The Scent of Desire, as a great place to go for further reading.

Alan -

Excellent information, Mr. B. I bet at the end of the day so many factors play into it that each person stands largely on their own - but that includes of course women. So, again, my quibble might be use of "better" as "accurate" or "attentive" or even focused on a set of perceptions to the detriment of others. Then there is the secondary use of the data of perception. I thought the point about medium tasters being the marketplace was a good one.

I had come across an interesting article that I can't lay my cursor on at the moment about East Asian immigrants in London and their perception of spices. Apparently, some older female members of the test group were able to use the word "bland" to describe things that you and I might find extremely strong tasting (and smelling).

On the pee reaction, I would only note the Sauvignon blanc experience - some perceive cat pee and some perceive gooseberries. You are going to have to do a lot of work to overcome the cat pee reaction but it would really be much simper to give them a Riesling.

Lisa -

I'm a supertaster/female/beer judge...and I can't stand wine. Every variety I've tried just tastes like (different kinds of) vinegar to me - and while there are certain beers styles I don't care for (typically lambics, although I don't mind some individual beers, and rauchbiers are out for me - both flavor profiles are overpowering for my overly-sensitive palate) , I can always find something I like. We supertasters are actually rather under-studied; I'm a tricky one since I like certain types of bitter things (IPAs, for example), but can't stand something like coffee (although a stout or porter with some coffee undertones is just fine - go figure). It's much more complex - and complicated - than one might think at first glance - and that's before you start working texture into the equation...

Jeff Alworth -

As I speculated in my own post, I think attention is a major factor in all of this. At least when we're talking about the general population. As for supertasting et al, I suspect in twenty years we'll know a lot more.

FWIW, my wife, who generally has a better palate than me, has a lesser nose. That's where I make up ground. I think Stephen's right there, and I wonder if we shouldn't be spending at least as much time on olfaction as papillae.

Alan -

I married into a family of apparent super tasters (male and female) and (with all due respect) it makes for a pretty dull menu. They reject anything that I think has flavour. I heard that many chefs are drawn from low tasters who got into the job driven by their need to turn up the volume of flavour intensity.

I suspect I am a boring old middle taster but one with a really good memory for the experience of tasting and smelling. I can think of the difference between, say, a sultana and Thompson raisin and think of beers I have had that align with each as a pleasant daydreaming exercise.