Rating Beers Exuberantly, With An Assist From Mike Trout

Alex Fossi, April 07, 2014

The man shown above is Mike Trout. He is projected to lead Major League Baseball in pretty much every statistic except Necks Possessed. He was in the majors at age 19. At age 20, he was arguably the best baseball player in the world (if you're an argumentative type, that is. Another word I considered there was definitely). At age 22, he signed a contract that guarantees him $144 million. As my friend pointed out the other day, if you were betting on what person in the world was most likely to have never had a bad day in their entire life, he'd be the favorite. Take a look at some things he's said about himself:

I always dreamed of making it in baseball, but life has moved pretty quickly for me.

It's cool to get recognized in public; it's an incredible feeling.

I'm going to play loose, and it's going to be fun.

He's achieving his dreams! It's cool! It feels good! It's going to be fun! Trout talks (and tweets) with an average of four exclamation points per sentence. When I see him, I can't help but mentally replace that cheerful dude up top with this:

He's just so goddamn happy about everything. Thinking about Mike Trout always makes me wonder, "What if I just enjoyed everything all of the time without having to think about it?" Not an easy thing to do. This comes up most clearly for me with beer, because on Untappd we're always rating beers and our experiences drinking beers, so I'm always evaluating the subjective value of the experience. How good is this beer, really? How happy am I with what I'm doing right now?

When I have a beer I really like, there are a few things that go into how I rate the experience. The first is the obvious one -- how much do I enjoy it? Does it have any weaknesses? The second is how unique it is. It's all well and good to have a great double IPA, but if it's the same as half a dozen others, that's a bit of a downgrade. I've actively sought out beers that I expect to dislike (why hello there, Crime) because it's at least interesting to sample something out of the ordinary. Just as a novelty can get me to buy a beer, a novelty flavor can get me to try it.

The third thing, though, is something I've been trying to stop incorporating into my ratings. I tend to avoid giving things five stars on the first try, unless it's something that's come highly recommended by reputable sources. Pliny the Elder? Five star beer. Everyone knows that. Victory Dirtwolf? Well, who expects a five-star beer from Victory? Must be a mistake on my part if it seems that good to me, right?

The thought process is something like this: I really like this beer, but if it was as good as it tastes to me, other people would be talking about it. And no one likes the guy that goes around dropping five stars on every beer that's just pretty good. So I don't give it five stars, even though it tastes like a five-star beer to me. It's a silly way to think, though -- I'm basically just avoiding disagreeing with the consensus on a beer.

To be fair, this sort of self-doubt would make perfect sense if I were a baseball scout seeing a player for the first time. If I thought he was a future star and everyone else thought he'd be no better than mediocre, it'd be silly of me to be too attached to my personal viewpoint. But I'm not a baseball scout. I'm drinking a beer. If I'm trying something for the first time and I can't think of a beer I'd rather be drinking at that moment, it stands to reason that it's a five-star beer. If I try it again later and it sucks, I'll rate it differently. Let's not go overboard trying to be rational. The whole point is for all of us to have the best time possible, n'est-ce pas?

Of course, the end goal of this site is to create a better framework for evaluating beers. What I want to avoid is getting so focused on the evaluation process that we forget that the end goal is to enjoy the beer as much as possible. When I watch Mike Trout play baseball, I'm sure he's thinking about what pitch is coming next, where he should position himself in the field, when he should take off for second base. Mostly, though, it looks like what he's thinking is oh my god baseball is fucking awesome!!!! Replace baseball with beer, and that's the emotion we're going for when we grab a cold one.

In that spirit, here's a beer I had a couple weeks ago that was a five star experience, no questions asked. Might not be the number one beer of all time, but while I was drinking it, I couldn't come up with anything I'd rather have. Admittedly, this example isn't totally unhyped -- still, it was a more-than-pleasant surprise to me.

DC Brau On The Wings Of Armageddon

Appearance: Coppery orange, a bit hazy, lasting foam and lacing. Nothing unusual, but I have to say--is an unusual appearance really desirable? This looked one of the ways that a good double IPA can look. Can design and beer name are both 80 grade. 4.5/5

Smell: Tropical fruit and a stronger malty presence than most west coast IPAs. Someone I know called this a "DC IPA" but I kinda don't think that's a real thing. Smells damn good, though. 4.75/5

Taste: Similar to the aroma, but with a surprisingly strong herbal/piney note that I didn't get before. There's a bit of a spicy bite to the finish. Bitter almost to a RuinTen extent. Love it. 5/5

Texture: I feel like IPA styles can't really have an outstanding texture--there's many that are ideal and then there are some that are less than ideal. Too boozy, oily, or grainy can be bad, and this is none of those things. Smooth despite the bitterness, lasting flavor, heavy without being syrupy, as good as any I've had. 5/5

Overall: Up there with the best beers I've had. More to the point, it was exactly what I wanted to be drinking when I drank it. OTWOA is as wonderful a beer as Mike Trout is a baseball player, as good at being a beer as puppies are at being puppies. 5/5

You can find Alex on Twitter @AlexanderFossi.