Someone sent me beer, just to try it, and I was -- as always -- both flattered and excited by the prospect. I make little enough money writing that maybe I should just see these gifted beers as extra income, but don't tell my wife. That dude from Sublime may have said "I chose this profession so therefore I get paid in beer," but my wife doesn't want to hear it.
Anyway, a reader sent me this Flagship American Pale Ale from Staten Island and... I didn't love it.
I'm shattered, and I feel there are layers of onion here.
The first is the one my wife rolled her eyes at. Yeah, sure, we don't all love the same thing. That's Life 101. And even here at BeerGraphs, where some might think we are trying to adjuticate taste, we of course understand that people have different tastes. We are here to learn better how those tastes line up, and what we can learn from the numbers. We don't think everyone likes the same beers.
So: not a big surprise that two people didn't agree whole-heartedly about a beer. Whoopie.
But of course it's not that simple. We aren't just two people who like beer, we are two people that like beer, and baseball, and stats about beer, and stats about baseball, and probably have more than a few beers in common. So our Venn diagrams are near circle-like on many things...
Not this beer. And still, you can roll your eyes and say, it's the same thing, really. But no, there's something more. Imagine your friend which which you agree on almost everything. Imagine he brings you a beer and you both like beer and baseball and everything, you both agree on how bad this season of True Detective has been, and you both think Heady Topper is a little overrated. And he brings you a beer with that light in his eyes, and he says, you, you, you HAVE to try this. Right now.
The last layer of the onion is: how much do you alter your opinion to match previous opinions you've shared? Even with this reader, who I have never seen in real life, I don't think I was able to stay completely unbiased. Even at this level of relationship, I gave the beer second shots I might not have given other beers.
Because of the story behind the beer, because of the enthusiasm, because we share other things in common, because I have been primed to like this beer, I probably liked it better. There have to be other stories like this that you remember: I like this beer because my father did; I like this scotch because my uncle did; I hated this beer but my wife brought it home every month for a year and now I like it.
And so the only kernel of newness that this story can really bring to you is this. Context is huge in beer -- and that you knew -- but the context is not only the glass the beer came in, or the fact that it came from a keg or a bottle, or if the distributor used refrigerated vans, or if the retailer stored it near the window.
Context can also be: the bartender that handed it to you, the bar that recommended the beer to you, the friend that told you it was great, the mood you were in when you first sipped it, and how much you wanted to like the beer or hate it because of the person sitting across from you.
So, yeah, I didn't love this beer, but I gave it 3.5 stars. I can't tell if that was because I was predisposed to liking it and gave it another chance, or if that's truly how I feel. And I've had three of them. So good luck to us all.
The only solution? Huge samples. Lots and lots of people.
As long as not every single one of them is sitting across from a person shoving the beer across the table with an emphatic opinion.
TRY THIS IT IS SO...
American Pale Ale, Flagship Brewing (6.2% ABV)
Appearance = 3.5/5
Reddish tan, like it's on the amber end of IPAs. Nice head.
Smell = 2.5/5
Malty. Not much hops in the smell. No fruit really. Just.. beer.
Taste = 3.5/5
There's a bit of juice, maybe, just maybe. No fruit really, at least not stone fruit. Maybe some citrus. It's like an Anchor Steam without that trademark coolship taste. Or a better Sam Adams Lager. It's got the amber qualities, and the malt, and some biscuit, and some citrus. So there are tastes there, but as you can tell by the comps, it's not enough to... recommend it to anyone.
Feel = 4/5
Decent mouthfeel actually. Creamy almost, which not many amber-type IPAs have that creaminess. Long taste, but wish the finish was a bit more crisp. The best part of this beer is enjoying the mellow mouthfeel on what looks like an amber IPA. Otherwise it's just decent. SO DECENT.