You know what I mean by the holiday effect, right? The idea that the beer on the beach looking at the Gulf of Mexico or the Mediterranean taste great there but sucks when you try one after getting back home? Well, I whipped off a comment over at Boak and Bailey's just now that got me thinking about how we may actually each be on our own holiday all the time:
I am more and more convinced that we do not have a good handle on taste. I have pals who I will have over to try good beer who say “I never tasted that until you described it and then I do.” I think this has as much to do with suggestion as acuity. Apparently there is a valid phenomenon anyone can experience walking down a street. You see across the block and down the street people walking towards you. You can’t make out the face but your brain will fill in the detail with available faces from your memory. So you see old friends as they looked way back then until you get closer when you admit its a stranger. I am wondering more and more these days how much of the range of tastes I am experiencing in beer “X” are based, in the same way, on the tastes I have experienced in the past.
Further, I then worry that there is a disconnect between taste of beer and beer production intentions. When I read at Ron‘s as well as Jeff of Beervana about how there is not the separation, the malty sweetness of Scots ales that we have been led to believe. There is no such thing as the peaty note. Yet since 1977 I have had the Sweetheart Stouts, the Traquair Ales, the Caledonian /80′s. the McEwan’s export and others and there is is. I’ve brewed it myself and there is it. It’s not the same.
I now wonder if the subtleties of taste perhaps less reflected on the brewer’s grain bill than other elements – plus suggestion and expectation – are what really frame what we sense in the mouth far more than what the brewer might be trying to achieve on paper and in the tun.
I don't know if that makes sense but it would align with my understanding of the qualify of evidence based on human observation as well as the anecdotal state of beer descriptors written by we the million monkeys. I have never been a big fan of tastings, judging or correctness when it comes to beer. But I am wondering more and more about how autonomous we each are when it comes to the theatre of the mouth. We may well each be within much the same range when perceiving taste but could it be that that is as close as we get?