Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Wednesday Weekly: "Neither a pundit nor a poet be."

You may have noticed that I go through these periods when there’s precious little time to actually write about beer. Admittedly, this is problematic, because presumably, that’s why many folks pay attention to this space in the first place.

The lamentable fact is that it’s hard to function as a beer pundit when the beer business at NABC takes up so much of my time, but moreover, as the nature of beer punditry continues to change so quickly and profoundly.

Yesterday I was conversing with my cellar-keeping, beer managing NABC assistants, Ben and Eric, and we decided to check www.beeradvocate.com for information on a particular nationally distributed beer. We perused a dozen or so reviews submitted by samplers from disparate geographical locations, and our verdict came in the form of a question: Are you sure you all were reviewing the same beer?

In short, we viewed multiple opinions without really coming close to answering our question.

Of course, an opposing phenomenon occurs frequently, whereby these proliferating beer reviews seem to have been freely borrowed from each other, with random words changed to evoke the stray possibility of originality, like so many school kids copying off the papers of others.

I’m not disparaging anyone’s enthusiasm or good intentions, and generally support democratization of zealous attachment, and yet I must simply observe that there really doesn’t seem to be a shared foundation for beer punditry when it comes to the vastness of the Internet and the bases of explication therein. Even my thoughts here are not original, and plenty of like discussions have occurred, ones that I may be unconsciously plagiarizing.

Perhaps confusion of choice has outpaced any means of precision of quantification.

As I’ve insisted, it’s the Golden Age of Beer, and there are thousands of breweries, styles, beers and preferences in America alone to sift through in search of pleasure and enlightenment. Thirty years ago, it was far, far easier for Michael Jackson to write concisely about the smaller number of American breweries, and about those world beers that were exported. Similarly, it was easier for three major television networks to decide what constituted news and what didn’t, and to have all the music news worth reporting come from two major print publications.

Consequently, it seems that localization as it pertains to beer appreciation is a schizophrenic concept, at least for me. As the beer universe expands exponentially, I become increasingly interested in the parts of it nearest to me, my home and my business. As it explodes all over the map, I want to embrace the ones at the grassroots, right here, and see more of them flower.

Accordingly, I become increasingly obsessed with how all of these considerations apply to craft brewing gaining market share in my community, where five percent penetration would constitute a veritable apocalypse. Is it the rejection of genuine flavor on the part of those who’ve never experienced it? Is it price point alone? Have we not truly grasped the invisible hand of brand loyalty as it affects a Bud Man? Is it a matter of class and socialization? Would more education do the trick? Are all of the above true, at the same time?

This is my brain today. Tomorrow, it may be different. Am I a strategist, a pundit, a carnival barker, a politician or just a beer lover punching above my weight class? Does it matter? Too many questions, not enough answers … but a nice hoppy ale is never very far away.

1 comment:

johnking said...

When I write my reviews and I can't find a good link to reference a beer to, I generally use BA. Usually when I review a beer, my general consensus is "Did I like it or not?", not discussing whether it had a leathery taste (last I checked leather wasn't one of the major food groups) or the nice aromatic component of Kentucky bluegrass. A majority of them are the same, with each reviewer trying to outdue the other with the philosophy of the bigger the words (or more of them), the better the review. The reviews are very similar to reading college freshman essays over and over again...the same point, but just said in different contexts.

As for the Bud Man, it's a combination of class and socialization. Math is simple for the un-educated beer drinker. I can buy 12 beers for $8 or two good tasting beers for $8. If I'm a Bud Man, I know that 12 > 2. I think a lot has to do with socialization as well. Craft beer is often seen as "fancy" in some aspects and Bud Man don't want to lessen their masculinity. If the commercials are true, Bud will bring them bikinis and brawn...sadly, not taste though.