Stan asked me to elaborate on something:
Could you elaborate on what you mean by 'beer thinking'?
Hmm... I think there is beer thinking. If there is anything, there is a lot of under-thinking about beer thinking. If I were honest with you, there is a lot of under-thinking about over-thinking, too. Not sure if there is over-thinking about under-thinking but that could be, too. And if there is beer thinking there must be schools of thought. Can we describe them?
The School of Aesthetics: As a pleasure trade, beer is concerned with sensory experience and - as with any ideas of beauty, art and enjoyment - the sensory-emotional values of the individual. In a way, all efforts to elaborate the subjective experience of the aesthetic undermine its purity. Boak and Bailey observed in a tweet this morning: "we're going to run out of language for talking about beer soon..." But as we know, by any other name, a beer is a beer is a beer. The aesthete knows that there is no higher thought than moving into a less conscious experience... maybe I could put that in a better way... a less dictated experience with their perception of pleasure. Yet less of that can be more of something else - the drunk, the addled.
♦ The School of Empiricism: These place the emphasis on observational evidence. While still involved in what we may experience, objective is added to the mix. In this school we find the historians, the data miners, the mash bill reviewers, the home brewing replicators. Just as the aesthete is the neighbour of the short term drunk and the long term addled, the empiricist can lead us astray through the musty corridors of the library. They forget sometimes that the well stocked beer shelf in a store or a pub is the only library you really need. They also lead to judging. Where the aesthete might describe, empiricists judge. The county fair jam and jelly contest is a very fine thing and a blue ribbon a treat - but remember: judge not lest ye be judged.
♦ The School of Ancient Wisdom: These accept received wisdom or, in another way, believers that others - their betters - were and are wiser. When you read enough beer books about the same few notions, it does become pretty evident that not thinking can in fact occur. I blame Jackson who did a very fine thing in layering classification upon us but then did not enforce enough that it was only one mode, one approach. As a result we are left with broadly practiced rote based lessons. They are related to conservative pessimistic approaches like skepticism as it presents a doubtful outlook, doubtful that there is anything new to be said. It also gives rise to experts to tell you, for a fee, that you do not know what is right. They even tell you that something is off when it's simply not to their taste. Never mind that. You simply need to be told.
Ultimately, while each may have a place, each school distracts us from the good, that simple state of the moderate engagement with meaningful pleasure. When combined, they are disaster. Imagine a library where the best books were removed after a few weeks and taken out of circulation. Aestheticism meets empiricism. That is what we face here in Ontario with the restricted and regulated government store that stocks it shelves with temporary listings of good beer, our better's ideas of what the experts tell us to enjoy when and where they determine. And imagine a store that sells paperbacks for fifty bucks because there are only a few copies printed. The wise meets the empirical. That's what is being foisted upon us by short run swanked up brews which seem to have as part of their experimental goals a study of the best way to get wallets opened wider. But surely we have to forgive them. They know not what they do. Maybe. It is always truly wise to recall the first lesson of Thales.
Are there more schools? Many more no doubt and likely splintering schismists amongst these schools above each trying to set in stone a better more complex rule to define what for most really does not need proscription. They do as much harm as good. Each aggrandizes an aspect what is essentially a simple thing - the enjoyment of a malt mildly intoxicating beverage that has been enjoyed for thousands of years quite nicely, thank you.