The other day, Ethan was asking me about the uselessness of "good" as a descriptor for beer. The question must have been going around the brewery as his fellow Community Beer Worker, Dan, posted about it:
“It’s pretty good,” I said, then immediately qualified the statement: you know, it’s not great, but it’s nice and drinkable, and sometimes I want something like that. And it was surprising, considering the brewery that made it isn’t generally considered to make “good” beer. Ethan bristled a bit. What was good beer, he asked? What makes our beer better than theirs, or worse, or objectively quantifiable at all?
For someone who runs a website called a good beer blog, I had little interest in defending my adjective of choice. After all, it is only "a" good beer blog. There were always intended to be plenty of others even when there weren't... and, I suppose, now when there are again fewer and fewer. But it got me thinking about the function of the adjectives we place in front of things, how they not only have a meaning but how they have a purpose. If I say this or that is "good" then I have the ability to judge that. Yet, by that standard, I also invite consideration of whether I am a good judge of such things or not. "Good" fails not because it is meaningless so much as it is not decisive enough. Not acute enough.
The same goes for "craft" or most recklessly applied style labels - not to mention words like "real" or even many taste descriptors. It's pretty obvious why this is the case. The purpose of these adjectives of choice is not so much to describe as to conclude discussion. They are the play of a trump card... only to realize one slammed the six of diamonds down. What other purposes could there be for an adjective? Certainly to describe the thing in itself but also to describe subjective experience of the thing accurately. In this sense, "good" will always fail because it does not serve this more interesting purpose.
Try "memorable" on for a moment. That's a different sort of adjective. A beer is memorable if (i) it is recalled later or (ii) it triggers memories. Presumably, the implication is that these are happy memories. I have had a lot of beers but not that many are actually memorable when experienced repeatedly in different contexts. But a few are. There is no point listing them as yours would likely differ. It requires you, as you must, to reject notions of objective knowledge and admit you are partial and fallible and limited. Your judging is not definitive for others. The saddest thing about ticking and style guiders is the unending hunt, the underlying lack of satisfaction with the topic of obsession. The pursuit of the objective has sent them on a goose chase. Ultimately, the only way to continue the pursuit is to negate ones own experience and create a frail latticework of alleged objectivity. Not good. Or even real for that matter.
One of the beers I would include in my list of the memorable is The Whale by Community Beer Works, one of Ethan and Dan's first brews. I don't need or care to convince you of that anymore than I need to tell you how much I like my cat more than your dog. It is enough, it is sufficiently meaningful that I can't help recalling it except with pleasure. And the knowing of that is good. Or at least good enough.