The amount of time I’ve spent drinking, talking and writing about beer is still relatively short, but it has been a constant evolution. My tastes always seem to be changing, often in subtle ways, which makes sense when you think that the knowledge of any beer drinker should only grow as they try more beers and different styles of beer. There’s still so much more for me to learn about beer and hopefully I’ll always be expanding my knowledge. That being said, here are some of the things I’ve learned in 2012. Cue up “Ooh La La” by the Faces if you wish.
- Critiquing and recommending beers is a dangerous game. Personal tastes and preferences matter so much when talking about beer, regardless if you’re at a pub, blogging or judging beer. Feelings on a beer can be affected by the weather, what you’ve been drinking lately and many other factors. As with all criticism, there is a large amount of opinion involved. This has been increasingly problematic for me, especially when I do the occassional beer review or am asked for my thoughts on a beer. Calling anything “better” or “best” is problematic, yet the role of the critic still seems very important to me. I still haven’t figured out what it will mean for the next version of the Ontario brewery tiers.
- People have their own drinking styles. It took me a while to figure this out, but not all beer drinkers are made the same. Some people are intense analysts, wanting to dissect the beer (its flavour, aroma, mouthfeel, etc) and discuss. (And no, it just isn’t beer raters that do this. In fact, some raters are able to make their tasting notes and talk about other subjects at the same time.) Others don’t really care to talk about what they are drinking, but just want to be social while enjoying a fine ale or lager. Obviously this is a spectrum and a lot of people fall somewhere in between, but I have noticed a personal preference develop over time about the type of drinking partner I prefer and that people tend to cluster around those with similar drinking styles.
- The Beer Store Problem runs deeper than I thought. I learned two interesting things about the Beer Store this year. 1) If a bar wants to buy a bottle or can of a beer and it is listed at the Beer Store, they can only buy it at the Beer Store. The LCBO will turn them away if a beer is sold at the Beer Store. 2) All keg imports come in through the Beer Store, must be ordered en masse (I don’t recall the exact number, but it was something like a minimum of 92 or 96 kegs) and must come through one of five approved importers. There is currently a moratorium on the number of importers that can bring in kegs. Basically, the Beer Store affects beer drinkers beyond just retail.
- This has been mentioned before, but I became fully converted to the re:cap this year. As a fan of big, boozy beers, this plastic bottle cap has helped me enjoy many a beer over the span of two nights. The re:cap is perfect for when you don’t have anyone around to help you drink a 750mL bottle of an 11% imperial stout. I haven’t noticed a deteriation in the beer when the rest is consumed the following day. As an added bonus, you get to spread out the enjoyment of a beer over two days. The one problem is that the caps aren’t big enough to re-cap a lot of corked Belgian beers that have thicker tops.
Check back tomorrow for my final thoughts on 2012.