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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Jeff Alworth -

1. A sample of experts who rate beers on RateBeer.

2. Lager, mild ale, and strong ale.

I see a couple of design flaws here...

Alan -

I wrote on FB that I had no issue with the use of RateBeer as a data base but then it was oddly mis labeled as expert rather than experience based and, more oddly, the detailed classifications were as you note, summarized into just those three classes. I have no idea what the point of introducing those two sorts of abstractions were. They could have as easily said the numbers show that experts enjoy a wider range of beer styles but that is self evident.

Craig -

See, I do have a problem with using RB as the data base—not that I have anything against RB or their model for reviewing beers. That being said, the info they provide is empirical. The explanation they give for equating expertise and experience is like saying I've been bit by dogs five times, so therefore I'm a veterinarian.

Alan -

Empiricism has built empires! I have not problem with its analysis even if it is aggregations of subjectivity... as long as it is treated as such.

Pivní Filosof -

Awfully flawed as it assumes expertise solely on the basis of number of ratings, without even considering the personal bias of each rater, or, apparently, how long they've been RB users or their personal history (I've been registered in RB for six years and I'm yet to rate a beer, the authors of this paper would therefore assume I'm a novice).

Craig -

Exactly, experience and expertise are not mutually exclusive.

Alan -

But they do not align as well as people assume - especially with a topic as troubled as an intoxicant. Expertise does not require the recording of mass consumption. And mass consumption of a wide range of examples does not lead to expertise. You may go to a next level of understanding but, from the track record of the so called experts, it is a very indirect relationship. Example: you and I likely know more about Albany ale but have never had one. Example: Protz.

Craig -

That's exactly what I was getting at. Experience does not equate to expertise. Neurosurgeons can be experts in strokes without having one themselves. I've played golf for years. I'm about as far away from being an expert golfer as you can get. The water hazards can attest to that.

Craig -

Oh, and I agree that empirical data is fine, as you say, i it's analyzed and treated as such. Noting that the more beer a person drinks usually results in a wider range of beer drunk, is a far different than basing the conclusions of a study on the fact that a person who drinks a lot of beer—and then reviews those beers on RB—is somehow an expert.

Again to go back to the dog analogy, It's like polling 10 people on if they've been bitten by a dog, then asking what kind of dog—and if more than one person was bit by, say, a labrador retriever, the assertion is that "experts" say labrador retrievers are more likely to bite than other dogs.

Alan -

I am sure I have less strength of feeling about the importance of this but I wonder if my disinterest about blind tasting comes from the fact I never drink beer in that context. I like the review that tells me about setting, experience with the brewery and price. For example, I recall this brown beer fondly, a brown from a to me unknown Michigan brewery, had in a weird hotel... while waiting for a single A baseball game in South Bend. It was excellent.

Craig -

I agree that RB and BA data has a place—especially in evaluating those sites. But, the data is not unlike that collected on a diseases, like cancer. Symptoms, reactions to medicine, metastatic rates—all of that information can be collected from patients, and is useful. That being said, though, that information isn't representative of all chronic disease.

Aside form the usefulness of empirical data. The real issue I see in this whole thing is that it establishes RB as a source for "expert" information. I'm sure RB loves that, it bolsters its position as the go-to source for all things beer. The problem with that is: is RB really that source? A source representing all beer, or is it simply the go-to source for, as Jeff said earlier, information on those who rate beer on RB—"expert" or otherwise?

Alan -

This may be the nub of it for me. Sensory data related to an intoxicant's taste is not data like medical data. It is by necessity filtered through the drinkers perception. Which is what I have meant by the "theatre of the mouth" and which also leads to me believing in experience but not expertise when it comes to a pop pleasure trade like music, beer, rec golf or anything else like that. Someone may know more layers of information about the perception but that does does not mean the experience is richer nor that the experiences can even be conveyed. We are too separated from each other to expect that.

Alan -

This is a great example of drinks reporting. Asimov disapproves of blind tasting.