Within the next few months I intend on writing a post(s) on how to “taste” beer.  By “taste” I mean, how to unlock the intricate nuances in your mouth.  Before delving into this subtle art, I felt it necessary to first report on how to review/rate the beer subsequent to the tasting.  Some may find this order illogical, I find it imperative.

This is part one of a two part series, and unlike the soon to be posted part two, this is going to be short and simple, and entirely unscientific.  Part two will deal with the categories that beer reviews typically cover, and thus will be more methodical.  Until then, the thesis of this article can be summed up in one statement:

Do Not Be A Lemming

Lemmings are the arctic rodent fabled to commit mass suicide by jumping off of sea cliffs.  The metaphor, of course is that of “don’t follow the herd.”

Following the herd is inescapable in many senses and necessary in some cases.  For example, if it came out that a brewer used urine as an ingredient in their beer, I do believe it would be wise for the common consumer to follow the herd and abstain from drinking such a foul brew.

In the case of the craft beer industry, being a lemming can only be insulting to the brewer.  Consider Joe “The Neophyte” Beer Geek.  Joe has recently discovered craft beer.  He purchases a bottle of Imperial Stout by Fake Brewery.  Joe wants to write a review on his blog after drinking.  Joe doesn’t want to appear stupid, so he goes to a beer rating website to see what the community thought.  The community said the beer was an A+ and was very, very hoppy.  Joe drinks the beer and writes and A+ hoppy review.  The beer was an Imperial stout.  Joe had accidentally read the review for Fake Brewery’s Imperial IPA.  Not only does Joe REALLY look stupid, he tainted his own perception of the beer, and did the brewery a disservice by tasting mass opinion rather than just sitting down and enjoying the beer, a brewer’s primary objection, I reckon.

So next time you review a beer, I would suggest, and some may reasonably disagree, not to read any reviews before hand.  Some beers, Westvleteran for example, are so renowned as being “the best in class,” avoiding prior reviews will be futile.  In such cases, be yourself!  If you liked the beer, say you liked it.  If the beer made you cringe, write that it made you cringe…just don’t be a Lemming!

After I write a review, I typically check out the community reviews and it never fails, that while there may be slight variation in rating, it seems that everyone tastes the same fruits and same spices.  I have to wonder if each review ends up just being a variation of the one prior.  If you taste gin (see this review) in your beer and know one else did doesn’t mean there was not a gin quality.  If you taste green olives (see this review) in your beer, write that down, even if sounds absurd.

Subjectivity is the only way to wholly embrace not only the enjoyment of beer, but the reviewing process.  Just be yourself.