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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Another Alan -

Styles exist today primarily for two purposes. 1. To perpetuate the need for competition, in which people who normally agree that everyone has a different palate somehow set that aside and tell us that we should all agree that THIS one is the best; and 2. to give us some idea what we're buying when we order up the next pint or select a sixer at the store.

Only the second serves any real usefulness for me. Only the first has some correlation to the duality of law. Understanding the origin and story behind the beer may help to interpret the description of the style. Much like the legislative history might be useful in interpreting a statute.

I long lost the ability to distinguish between a porter or a stout, or a pale ale or an IPA. I've never known the difference between a saison and a biere de garde. Still, when I see a black IPA on tap I do have an expectation of how that will taste differently than a standard IPA. So I'm not ready to give up entirely on styles. Like what you like and enjoy the journey.

Pivní Filosof -

To there are only three beer categories that are worth considering: "I like it", "I don't like it", "I don't quite like it, but don't mind drinking". All the rest are (more or less sensible) subcategories.

That said, I liked Jeff's post. It explained rather well why I do a facepalm every time someone comes out with a new style. Personally, my relationship with styles is purely empirical, but always secondary to the above mentioned categories.

Alan -

Beer positivism is born!

I am with you, PF. The post is an excellent and succinct dissection. It is only the conclusion that set me off balance but it has spawned a beast, an empire of thought - beer positivism.

Bailey -

The problem with new beer styles is that they often sound like the movie pitches from the Player -- "It's German lager meets Belgian Double IPA... but black!"

Bailey -

Which maybe makes black IPA a form of blaxploitation?

Jeff Alworth -

I thought that last sentence added a bit of verve to the post, but didn't notice its philosophical dimensions. I meant it more an empirical statement--in the direction <a href=http://boakandbailey.com/2012/06/small-details-add-up/>Bailey took it</a>.

I am nevertheless prepared to dive into those deep waters with you. I have this desire to take up the thread in the manner of the rat-bastard debater I was in high school, but the truth is the reason I react to your argument is freighted with emotion. Even leaving aside Bailey's very good point that methods do matter to the molecules of "is-ness," I can't get beyond the impassioned pleas I've heard from breweries who, for whatever reason, decide that the way a beer is made matters. Rudi Ghequire, surveying his 22 cellars of beer, despairing that the Rodenbach way was perhaps too laborious and costly to compete in a market against beers made in two weeks. Jean Van Roy, elbow-deep in some kind of medieval torture device that apparently had something to do with pulling hop particles out of the thick solution of lambic wort. John Bexon who, despite the catcalls from English beer geeks, spent millions of pounds to restore Greene King to 19th century, steampunk modernity.

I think your argument has certain exploitable weaknesses--that method and tradition do matter to what beer objectively, molecularly is--but I have to admit that's not why I care. I'm one of those kinds of people who love human behavior, human endeavors, and especially, human folly in the face of the cold light of reality. For me, the experience of a bottle of beer is inseparable from all those weird habits by the people making the beer. Having seen it, I cannot unsee it.

I guess what I'm saying is that I've drunk the koolaid and signed up with those on a mission of folly. I don't actually care if Rodenbach can be reproduced in a lab in New Jersey because I want the Rodenbach that sits for two years in Rudi's cellars.

But I'm glad the post sparked conversation--it was a rare moment of original(ish?) thought.

Jeff Alworth -

Errata. There should obviously be quote marks in the link to make it, you know, a link. Also, Rudi has 33 cellars, not 22.

Alan -

Excellent! (...rubs hands...)


- I fundamentally do not care about this at all -->. "I can't get beyond the impassioned pleas I've heard from breweries who, for whatever reason, decide that the way a beer is made matters." That may be fine but I think I am in the majority and think this is a niche interest for those discussing the cause of beer. I don't care if my baker doesn't pay his bills on time and has 4 divorces. If the bread is good, I buy.

- I do agree on this point --> "method and tradition do matter to what beer [is]..." but only to the degree that it manifests itself in the flavour.

- I also agree on this point --> "a bottle of beer is inseparable from all those weird habits by the people making the beer" but this is not special to beer. All crafts people, workers, professionals display themselves (good and bad) through their efforts and results. We are defined as much by our weaknesses as our strengths but this is not what makes beer special. It only means beer like everything else is made by humans.

See, I think the flavour conveys much. It conveys production and ingredients. Each implies more. I don't need to get outside the liquid to know those things. Which makes the "is" of the beer experienced through consumption in that way all the richer as well as tastier. But abstracted from drinking? It is nothing. Ask a non-drinker.

Jeff Alworth -

"this is not special to beer." Definitely. But I'm a sucker for everything. The New Yorker depends on people like me, because they uncork 10,000-stories on topics I normally don't care about. Stories about absinthe, food flavorings, and perfumes stick out--none of which I use/consume.

I'm the kind of guy who gets sad with the corner restaurant goes out of business because they made pretty average food.

Um, I've already said too much...

Alan -

"But I'm a sucker for everything."

Well, that explains everything! Me, too. By the way. I watched a show on the dissection of a giant squid this week and thought after how odd it was that I had just quite happily watched a show on the dissection of a giant squid. Maybe that is the problem. We are all manic omnivores.

Craig -

I'm of the the thought that styles have always been for brewers, rather than the consumers. Styles, conveniently, allow one to say: "look I've made this beer correctly—my gravity is correct, my IBUs are correct, I've made a correct XX beer". It's the beery of equivalent of "showing your work" in arithmetic.

"Correct-ness", however, is irrelevant to my consumption of beer.

The problem with style is that it tries to solve to many problems. Beer classification to a brewer and beer classification to a consumer don't necessarily need to be the same thing.

How's this for a slight askew comparison. During WWII the U.S. Army contracted American auto makers Ford and Willys Overland, to build what they classified as a "truck, 1/4 ton, 4x4." To the GI's slogging across Europe and hacking their way through island in the Pacific, that "truck, 1/4 ton, 4x4" was simply known as the "Jeep."

Beer and Jeeps—it's a logical connection, right?

Alan -

Works for me. Style is sort of like a master branding in that sense.

olllllo -

Speaking of convention, is http://beervana.blogspot.ca/ a style, method or tradition as I am more accustomed to the .com version.

Jeeps and Beer? What will they think of next? ;)

Craig -

I'm quite content to ONLY think of Jeeps and Beer

NonconFERMist -

As usual I type up my response, explore some ideas and check to see if I added anything unique. Nope, nada, zero...delete. I had to comment to prove all that mental fermenting didn't go for nothing.

Haven't been browsing the beer blogs much lately, still enjoy your posts Alan.

Alan -

Thanks but remember: I don't care much for my own writing. Aside from good manners, all input is welcome.