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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Jordan St.John -

Do you know, I don't like Marston's Pedigree either, but I suspect that's because we had the weird Nitrogen version around town for a while and I don't think it does the beer justice? It's odd what the wrong format can mess up.

Petr -

Duchese du Bourgogne is great beer!

Bailey -

We usually doubt ourselves and keep trying it, again and again.

Sometimes, that works (we wrote off Harvey's Imperial Stout on first tasting; now love it) and sometimes it doesn't (only occasionally catch glimpses of what makes people rave about Orval).

Even if the conclusion is "I don't like it", it's nice to get to a point where you can say "but I can see why others might".

Barm -

I like Duchesse de Bourgogne, but it does smell of balsamic vinegar (I am very fond of balsamic vinegar).

I have enough confidence in my own opinion to not be upset when other people like a beer and I don't.

Gary Gillman -

I'll usually combine it with another beer to make a pleasing blend.

E.g. if something is too sweet, I'll combine it with a similar style which is quite dry. A beer which is a little sour can work wonders in a 1700's-style "three threads". A beer which is too smoky can be combined with a similar but non-smoky one to reduce the smoke component (say two Imperial Stouts) and so on.

Maybe the best example is to combine a heavily hopped beer with one you feel can use more hops.

Usually I won't discard anything unless it is too far gone, e.g. light-struck or damp paper-oxidized.


Gary Gillman -

Actually Alan I read too quickly and see now your question was meant in a different sense than I took it.

For many years and probably still to a degree, it bothered me when I didn't like a Jacksonian "world-classic". I'd think, he said this is a jewel in the rough, why can't I see the same thing? But finally I accepted that my taste must decide - for me of course, and it was fine that others didn't agree, even he.

Marston's is a good example because I've never really warmed to any iteration of the beers although I did like that export pale ale we got a while back, Very Special Pale Ale I think it was called.

There is a certain hop taste many (not all) German lagers have I don't like.

I'm not crazy about an APA/IPA with a very pronounced citric grapefruit taste.

But many enjoy all these and that's fine.

Taste is personal and also relative to a degree.


Craig -

It's not so much, for me, not liking a specific beer. Where I get a tangled up is when I really want to like a beer but can't. It's Magic Hat for me, I'm drawn to their stuff, but it just all tastes the same to me. I just don't like it—but I want to.

Jeff Alworth -

I think not only do you have the right not to like a world classic (which should almost certainly be rendered "world classic") but I think not liking one shows you're not a lemming. I wouldn't cross the street for a pint of Anchor Steam, and I was underwhelmed with Marston's when I had it in Burton.

So many of these beers change, though. Does Pilsner Urquell still belong on that list? Maybe the Marston's I had and the one Jackson extolled were not the same beer. I wonder if that explains the Duchesse, which I agree is one of the finest beers to be had. (I have yet to personally encounter anyone who didn't like it--including oenophiles who routinely give beer the stinkeye.) Maybe Verhaeghe just upped their game?

Alan -

I like classic as that is what's written in the quotation from the underlying post. "World" really adds nothing to the Jackson's concept as set out in 1977 which is, I suppose, why he left it out. He was not describing a beer that would be recognized world wide as best. It was a functional statement - a classic spawns a circle of imitators which becomes accepted as style. Ultimately still a regionalist assertion in 1977 as he might have considered it unlikely or at least far off that anyone but the committed traveler might try them all. The aggrandizement of globalism was a later invention.

Likely none of the beers are absolutely true to the past but most of these on the list are fairly uncomplicated in their own way. Hard to deviate all that much except slowly over decades, dumbing down. I suppose Marston's is the likeliest culprit as it suffered the innovation of the nitro effect around 1990. Maybe it was quite different and wonderful 35 years ago.

Stan Hieronymus -

Alan, thanks for linking to my recap of MJ's "classics" but I think at this point in the conversation is worth posting what he wrote in awarding those 42 beers 5 stars (I added the italics):

". . . no one can deny that a Premier Cru Bourdeaux is likely to have more complexity and distinction than a jug wine (Or, in the British phrase, “plonk”). A beer rated ***** is a world classic either because it has outstanding complexity and distinction or because it is the definitve example of the style, and no matter whether everyone is capable of appreciating it; some people probably don’t like first-growth Bordeaux, either."

Alan -

Very good point. But I am more thinking about the original statement in 1977 and not the later globalized perceptions. I am not as convinced that world classics was as useful as the earlier concept as it was more about awarding something a highest level of preference than describing a functional process.

Jeff Alworth -

It's an important distinction Stan makes. Anchor Steam, judged against all beers in the world, would hardly rate as an exceptional beer. But it is a classic for style (and in this case, I think Jackson was really just trying to throw North America a bone). I think that's a useful framework: it makes sense for a writer to divide beer into manageable groups for her readers and guide them to a few examples of high accomplishment.

But world classic in the sense of an exceptional beer judged just on its own merit, regardless of style--that's a different measure. And possibly a more interesting one because it's how humans normally think.

Alan -

Well, it does feed the 1,001 beer meme so may be useful that way but not something that interests me. Serves branding purposes as well. What you may not be clicking with yet is that in 1977 classic preceded style. There were no manageable groups. Anchor Steam created imitators, it did not express a style. Interestingly, Anchor actively protected their trademark against poaching based on an assertion of "style" where there were just copycats.

But since then - like 1,001 beers available for deathbed guilt - "classic following style" rather than the reverse has become a framework and then scripture based on the notion that style itself exists as a fundamental principle. For something not recognized even in 1977 it does seem a thin sort of intellectual heritage.

What I am suggesting is that there was a more interesting analysis available which was not pursued. Fortunately, we might be in the latter days of Neanderthal dead end and might be taking two steps back to go forward around the obstacle.

Gary Gillman -

Sometimes Michael did use the term world classic, as here to describe Samichlaus:


This is a beer I never particularly took to by the way. He was using the expression I think in a general way, to draw attention to a classic amongst the world's brews. His first major book was, as well, called World Guide To Beer.

However, I basically agree with you Alan, which is why I put the expression in quotation marks in my post above.

Anchor Steam is an interesting case. It is a true bridge to the craft beer phase in that it has quite a bit less taste than a typical APA, say, but away more than the industrial lager which was the norm at the time. I like it on draft in the city (SF), it always tastes best there IMO.


Alan -

Some frankly likely unintelligible background on "steam" beer as trademark.

Alan -

Something a bit more digestible.

Jeff Alworth -

I actually tend to agree with you Alan, but I think we're a minority group. I haven't seen Jackson's original in a long time, but my recollection is that he was chunking things into groups then. Others like Eckhardt did as well, and all those old writers Pattinson and Cornell reference discussed types, too. Humans to break things up, for good and bad, but inevitably.

On the steam beer (TM) thing, I think trademarking the style was one of Fritz's greatest business mistakes. What the decades since he did that have taught us is that styles are a huge branding opportunity, and owning the beer that defines the brand is hugely valuable. If he'd let steam beer become the first craft style, Anchor might now be making five million barrels. Instead, by forbidding anyone else to use the name, he effectively killed all viral opportunities for growth.

Maybe he didn't want a big brewery and maybe he just wanted to keep steam to himself. Either way, Anchor is a small brewery making a style that never had a chance to capture the imagination of a wider audience.

Alan -

I'd like to graph the annual meaning of style if I could free up the staff. I am sure it would have even less meaning on a pie chart.

StormDawg -

Regardless of the rest of the argument, the quoted writer's description was clear and accurate enough that I knew exactly what beer he was talking about -- it could only have been Duchesse de Bourgogne!