I know it's April Fools Day but let's just set that aside as this may take a little while to type out. Jeff wrote a good post entitled "Zen and the Art of Appreciating Simple Beers yesterday a key section of which reads:
The true apex of appreciation is the ability to locate the sublime in any style (not, of course, any beer). This means being able to pick up a glass of helles--or English mild or Belgian bière de table or even a characterful mass market lager (of which, admittedly, there are not a great number)--and find the flavors as pleasant and satisfying as when you heft a barrel-aged imperial stout. It is possible, but not if the only flavors you can appreciate are intense. You have to fine-tune your palate to appreciate the difference between a helles that has dull, simple malt flavors and one that has rich, fresh, and complex malt flavors.
I don't really disagree with this at all. But I was triggered to comment in a way that was not very successful mostly in response to Jeff's final statement: "Until you can appreciate all beer styles, your journey of appreciation is not yet complete..." For me, that is too neat a conclusion and it got my brain going as I wrestled with why I felt that way.
At its heart, it was insufficient. Not wrong so much as simply not right enough. I wrote "I understand you are looking for completeness of understanding but whether you say style or type you are still lumbered with an arbitrary construct which is as decontextualized as the periodic table of elements is from an appreciation of life..." in response but that was too short a reply. As I thought about it more, here is what popped into my head:
=> 1D: a point sits in one dimension. This is what a brand loyal single beer drinker is.
=> 2D: linear in two dimensions. When I look at those style charts and things based on it I think of a two dimensional world. Filled with tickers and cicerones. The 1D drinker is pitied and mocked. If you are convinced that the appreciation of beer is complete when you appreciate all beer styles as Jeff describes you have filled out your chart, you have accepted the promise of the two dimensional universe.
=> 3D: this is where beer contextualizes into daily life because you approach it in all three dimensions. And it gets a bit more difficult. Because you have to build a grid of layers growing out of the flat periodic table of styles laying there on the table. Like Star Trek chess, things strike you from above or even below. You travel and see other beers and beer drinkers in their native habitat. If you contextualize beer into life you have to consider business side, be aware of the claims of trade associations and the pressures upon you as the consumer from messages, money and alcohol. You move a bit past the promise of the tickers and cicerones. You might even stop thinking about beer writing and take on the notion of beer thinking. Beer people living in 2D may appear to be passive aggressive. They may be. You see things about the complete brewing industry that takes economics and neurology into account in relation to each aspect of the periodic table of styles.
=> 4D: When you hit the fourth dimension you are thinking beyond your daily experience because you have a glimpse of more. You have lived and recall that time but are not in that time. You anticipate the future. The more I research and read and write about beer history, the more I am struck by how the past is a foreign land, as they say, as well as how patterns repeat. Craft brewers lobby for beer now in the same way that lager brewers did in the second half of the 1800s. Beers which are considered new now existed at many points in time. Things done in the past are not only not done now but they are denied, not understood and impossible to replicate due to lost ingredients and strange pre-industrial techniques. Beer people living in 2D now appear to be slightly see-through and those in 3D are getting smaller. Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the drinker cannot hear the brewer. The cubed approach to beer appears static from your perspective. Deadened. The grid is now in motion. Expanding and contracting, twisting and contorting as you view it at different points in time.
=> 5D: Beer has moved out of time in this dimension Things are no longer analogous to the human experience. You start to think like Billy Blake and understand that, yes, if the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. The knowledge of beer is no longer about beer but about the ends of knowledge. Beer breaks apart and its bits rearrange with other bits for a moment and then rearrange again. You hum-mumble "...and did those beers in ancient time walk upon England's mountains green?" as you bend your elbow of desire. Your cat thinks you are nuts. Your cat is right. The cube is gone, the colours swirl and...
All of which is problematic. Because you can't do this. You can't live in 5D or 4D for that matter even if you get glimpses. You can't really live in awareness of 3D for that matter, at least not all the time. And you really cannot even live in a full awareness of the 2D, can you. No one has the resources to engage meaningfully with all "styles" of beer because there is not enough time, money or liver function. Tickers as aggregators try but give up depth for breadth. Cicerones and other stylists attempt it but only through summation and proclaimed authority. Even at 2D you run into both human limitations as well as belief systems under which you have to accept the construct to pass the test. You compromise.
You can, however, experience more if you reject completeness. The beer drinker who is living in the single point of reference is complete but may have a sense there is more from observing the next guy on the next dot. From the 2D flat grid of style, you can see the layers above and below but if you look in that direction you lose sight of the full wonder that is the entire flat lacework of styles. Once up into the networks in three and even four dimensions you can reach out into greater context and view other points in time but, again, you have to loosen your grip on other hand holds. You can only reach so far at any one time.
Your journey of appreciation will never be complete. Because you do not have the capacity to complete it. So what do you do? Do you envy the man on the dot or William Blake?