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Acquiring a taste for beerEdit
Hi you guys,
I have an idea for a part of the site that visitors might want to add to, but i'll leave it up to you to figure out what would be the best format for it here, or how to categorize it.
The topic is Acquiring a Taste For Beer, although if you can come up with a better way to say it, that's cool. I probably should have extracted two or three articles from this writing, but at the moment all of this seems inseparable. The personal drinking history thing might be more appropriate for a seperate topic, if at all. I'm just throwing this all out here.
Here is what would be my initial contribution to it: These statements are very subjective, so i imagine others might want to tell their point of view on how and when they acquired a taste for beers and ales, as distinct from enjoying other types of fermented drinks.
Most people don't like the taste of any alcoholic beverages when they first try it, hence the great amounts of mixers that people use to dilute and flavor hard liquors. There are afficionados of very specific flavors of fine liquors, such as those who like to sip single malt scotches. To those of us who never developed a taste for the stronger drinks, a cheap scotch and an expensive one both just taste equally nasty!
My memories of youth were not very alcohol oriented, as my parents were not recreational drinkers. Both of them had alcoholic fathers, so they probably had fairly negative mental associations with beer, wine, and liquor. My mother liked to have a few beers each summer, only one or two at a time, because she liked the flavor of it with pizza. Very light pilsners. I vaguely remember sipping some of the foam off of her beer when i was in third grade and i thought it had a really bitter unpleasant taste. One of my friends in high school was explaining to me what he liked about beer, and he said it's like a really good bread, he liked the social aspects of drinking beer with others, but also the grainy flavor had a lot of appeal for him. He didn't drink anything fancy, just ordinary beer. I always thought of him as drinking bread-flavored soda pop.
I will be interested to know what other beer enthusiasts have experienced, in their attitudes toward drinking in general, and how their tastes have changed over time, or over the years that a greater variety of high quality beers has become available where they live. Do you drink to get drunk, or only have one with a meal? Do you always drink the same brand, or do you try something different each time, or change what you drink depending on the season?
The Beginning of Beer in my Life
It was in college that I began to experiment with various forms of drinking, like most people that age, with the specific intention of getting as drunk as possible in the least expensive way possible. After some bad experiences with hard liquor and wines, beer ended up being my drug of choice. One of the girls i went to school with liked to drink beer not so much because of the flavor, but because of the lower alcohol content as compared to wine and liquor. As she put it "you always know where you're at with beer." (This was in the 1980s, before such beers as Autumnal Fire and Ale-on-Lees were invented, so, other than the occasional splurge on EKU28, we had no experience with the brews that sneak up on you and hit you over the head.)
A Short (Hic) History of Drinking Habits Through The Ages
In my early to mid twenties i drank copious amounts, at least three days a week, of cheap beer or wine, then moved away from my hometown, and made other improvements in my life and drinking just didn't appeal to me as much. For about ten years I would get six or twelve beers on a weekend, and not pay too much attention to what brand it was, as long as it was drinkable. Sierra Nevada. Corona. Blue Moon. I do remember that Sprecher seemed like a real find when i moved to Wisconsin, and I was delighted when their Octoberfest beer became available each autumn. Then as I got older (I'm in my early forties now), I started to be quite a bit more choosy about flavor and quality of beer. By the time I was in my mid thirties, the expansion of both my income and the selection of full bodied microbrews here in Wisconsin coincided. Like my early twenties, my mid-to-late thirties were intense years, filled with great amounts of both fun and stress, and I took to shutting down the brain about every other night, but this time it was with better quality of beverages.
Having adopted a much simpler, happier lifestyle in my forties, and being more healed from much of the grief experienced in my thirties, I still like to drink beer, but only on Saturdays, and in amounts that are still voluminous, but usually stop short of producing a miserable hangover on Sundays. The great thing about cutting back on drinking is that you can spend the same amount of money on a much better quality smaller amount of beer. The downside is that when you drink once a week your tolerance goes way down, so you are more likely to not remember the end of the evening, which can be disconcerting. Since I don't drive my car when I drink, the worst that usually happens is noting with chagrin how terrible the scrawl is on the taxicab account receipt that I don't remember signing the night before. People who don't drink at all do think of me as a drunkard, I'm sure. The handful of people I know who drink daily in significant amounts don't bother to label me, bless their fun-loving hearts. I have long thought of myself, during all the years of various amounts and frequencies of drinkage, as a responsible hedonist. That sounds better than drunkard, doesn't it?
With the availability of single bottles of imports and domestic microbrews here in Madison, Wisconsin, it's really fun to try a number of different flavors in the same sitting. As I found out last night when writing a review of a couple of white ales, the level of flavor discernment goes way down as the level of intoxication goes up. So usually I get something cheaper for the last few beers of the evening. The autumn and winter beers that are overly spiced are probably best for people that drink only one in a sitting. My late friend John loved beer, but after a heart attack in his fifties, his doctor advised him not to do more than one drink per day. So, for the next two decades, John drank every day, but only one bottle. He loved to get a number of different flavors of really strong ale, and try a different kind each day. His alcohol tolerance got so low that he felt quite a buzz off of that small quantity of it that he would have with his lunch. Not my style. I'll stick with the iced tea, coffee, and fizzy water most days, then pull out the stops when time off from work rolls around. I know it's healthier to have a small amount each day than a large amount all at once, but for me that just doesn't usually work. Occasionally, if I am dining out with non-drinkers, and eating spicy food I'll have just one or two beers with the meal, but usually when i drink it's an all night bender with four really strong ales, and then at least six milder brews over the course of the night. I think of it as making myself temporarily stupid. One of my former coworkers calls my kind of drinking "turning off some of the channels." Occasionally, a few times a year, I skip a weekend and don't bother getting any beer, and just drink decaf or tea on Saturday night, and enjoy a much more energetic Sunday. But then, getting things done and having your wits about you is so overrated...
The Stereotypical American Palate
Of course, with each type of alcoholic product, there are those who are looking for quantity, not quality, and they actually acquire a taste for the bland sort of products. Without mentioning brand names, suffice to say that the beers that come in 30-packs, and wine that comes in gigantic jugs, are not likely to have enjoyable flavor, let alone complexity. It has become something of an American stereotype to prefer intensity and quantity over sublety and quality, in terms of food and drink, and in pop culture and consumerism as well. The unsophisticated modern palate is dulled by constant consumption of the sweet, sour, and salty tastes, and almost completely unfamiliar with the bitter, astringent, and pungent flavors. In auyervedic medicine, bringing the diet into balance is accomplished by blending all six flavors into meals, thereby reducing cravings and increasing the nutritional content. As you introduce whole foods into the diet, the msg, high fructose corn syrup, and other additives in processed food become less appealing, and your taste buds start to be more discerning and accepting of many more flavors.
Similarly, if one is used to very bland drinks, some of the more complex ales will not be appealing at first, but once you become accustomed to a better quality of beer, you find that you can enjoy a much more interesting taste sensation when drinking beer. Fortunately we live in a time where the craft breweries and microbreweries are offering an unprecedented variety of great ales which are almost limitless in their flavors, alcohol content, and degrees of robustness. The difference in what it's like to taste really fine ale, as compared to agreeable-enough cheap beer, is somewhat analagous to hearing the rich sound of a musical chord rather than just hearing the pitch of one note. Try New Glarus's Enigma (a.k.a "unplugged") while it's still available, and notice how different it is from any other cherry-influenced drink you've ever had, and that will convey my message better than my words ever could.
I am looking forward to hearing everyone else's thoughts on this topic!
Cheers, Betty Pipetti
Slowwave comic Edit
Last week's episode from Jesse Reklaw's series where he makes a four-panel comic out of dream stories that people send him, is beer-related in funny ways. Enjoy.
Betty Pipetti 11:23, 8 January 2007 (UTC)
New feature idea: beer diary Edit
Hey guys, Betty's post above gave me an idea for an ongoing serial feature: a beer drinker's diary. The idea would be for people to share their experiences under a variety of categories: "My first beer," "Acquiring a taste for beer," "My relationship with beer," "My worst beer experience," "My best beer experience," etc. --StBacchus 04:13, 20 December 2006 (UTC)
- Yeahhh mannn!!! Thanks for helping make my long beer garden rant into two topics that others might want to join in discussing.
- Also your addition of the "Brew" button to the site helps a lot, especially in the instance of places like Dark Horse, which has a restaurant, but not living in their area, I don't know if they would identify as more of a Brewery or Brewpub.
- Obviously I pay attention to different facets of beer enjoyment on different beers. Next time I review some ales, I'll note as much as I can of the aspects mentioned in your fine formatting, in the interest of standardising the discussion(s).
- Betty Pipetti 13:43, 22 December 2006 (UTC)
- I think you had the idea, and I just thought I had it, but really I was just reading what you said really well. Oh well! Maybe in the case of breweries that are mainly breweries but also have a pub, we should just review the brewery and the pub separately. I mean, in the bright future where there are all kinds of people contributing from all over the world. --StBacchus 15:14, 22 December 2006 (UTC)
- I don't know how useful other people would really find such a thing. People who are really keen to share their beer journey usually have a blog, which is probably a better venue. I'd think something like that would go on user pages or, if someone writes a series of them, user subpages. AlE 15:26, 11 June 2008 (UTC)
So, am I correct in surmising that the founders of this wiki have abandoned it? AlE 13:31, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
- Well, they're not editing it, but they've promoted me to janitor. AlE 23:26, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
Discussion on how to present breweries, brewpubs, and brewsEdit
I'd like to improve the standardization for these types of pages.
For brews, I think the "flavoring" stat should be removed. Based on what I've seen other contributors put in there, it's too confusing. Better to including that information in the description. Other stats I'd like to see are malt, hops varieties, and yeast used, IBUs, and possibly original gravity. Color might also be useful. Annual production would be good too, if we can get it.
I think the "Would taste good with" section should be renamed "Suggested pairings".
Reviews? Rather than encourage contributors to add their opinions to articles, we should put links and/or excerpts from outside reviews. Ratebeer and Beer Advocate spring to mind, but there's also reviews done by newspapers, blogs, etc. Wouldn't it be great to include the comments from a competition where a beer won a medal? And contributors as well, although I would encourage them to use the subpage feature of MediaWiki to keep it in the user namespace ( non-existent example User:AlE/Brooklyn Oktoberfest) and link to that from the article on the beer.
Lastly, I suggest a section called something like "The Brewer says...". This would get used to include whatever marketing blurb the brewer has included on their website/label/literature.
For breweries and brewpubs, I'd also like to see "The Brewer says..." section included. Slogans and mission statements from the company would be good to include. In addition to the official home page, we should link to other reputable websites that have profiles of the company. If the company is publicly traded, to a stock profile page. (Yahoo finance, perhaps?)
I'm not sure that the "Packaging" and "Branding" sections for brewers are really all that helpful. "Branding" is too vague. As for "Packaging", well, if they do something unusual (e.g., only cans, only kegs, no bottles) then it should be mentioned in the opening description.
Thoughts? Al E. 20:53, 14 June 2008 (UTC)
Online resources Edit
Here are some resources for editors to find information. I think this deserves its own page, as it can certainly be expanded. For now, I offer these:
Al E. 13:51, 16 June 2008 (UTC)