Honesty, Trust and Beer

Yet again, I'm blogging in response to an external stimuli. I promise I will come up with some original material soon. In this case, it was Boak & Bailey's thought provoking post on how some in the beer universe react with cynicism and distrust when they see others within the same sphere evangelising about a particular beer, style, brewery or venue.

Firstly, let me lay my cards on the table. I am a beer empiricist. I will trust the opinion of others but I will only cement that opinion with my own experience. So if Person A says Beer X is great, I will happily go along with that only to a certain extent until I am able to taste Beer X for myself.

Also Person A must be a person of good standing and excellent credentials within the enthusiast community. And the only judge of Person A's standing is me and me alone, for similar reasons, be they that I judge Person A to be of good standing based on their track record in beer appreciation, reaction and evangelism. That opinion is subjective and it really helps if they follow me on Twitter.

Let's not forget I AM A COMPLETE AMATEUR and borderline hostile ENTRYIST in the beer community. I have little to no real-world appreciation for the brewing process, the business needs or the ebb and flow of trends in the beer world. I am just one consumer, in one little corner of the country, who happens to chat to a few folk on the internet.

But in many ways I am the perfect example of the kind of person who, removed from the vagaries of the industry and the pressures placed upon it by external forces, can have a sort of blessed ignorance which can lend itself to fashioning a more objective form of opinion. I am, in some ways, lucky.

I don't feel lucky, punks.

However, some folk are going a step further, and wandering into some seriously dangerous territory bordering on slanderous. There are some seriously deep assumptions and false insights being created, propagated and reinforced by some in the beer community at large, let alone in our little cliques, which serve no useful or practical purpose except to create and reinforce schism, divide and compartmentalisation which, as far as I can see, is just plain nuts.

Firstly, there is the assumption that beer drinkers fall into neatly pigeonholed categories, which is plainly and demonstrably false despite the desire of certain folk (on both sides of the unnecessary and entirely artificial trad/craft schism) to keep things nice and organised and traditional.

As a result of this divide, secondly there is the horrendous and insulting assumption that modern "crafty" beer types only drink beer for the likes and #NUMBERS, just because some of the most visible and vocal beer "enthusiasts" are cravenly and unashamedly Untapping and Instagramming 7 days a week.

As I said in my reply on the B&B blog post earlier this week, only a tiny minority of the beer community do this hobby purely for self-aggrandisement. They're the ones who think their reviews matter, that they have sophisticated palates because they once went to Belgium, that their refusal to drink anything tainted by big beer is a virtue. Their evangelism and decrying of anything "lesser" is as irritating and as unhelpful as any militant cask ale inquisition footsoldier.

Trust me when I say there are those of us in the wider community are just as p*ssed off with that type of behaviour as are those who, for whatever motivation, seek to apply the stereotype to everyone else. It's no wonder there are adverts for Fosters painting crafty types as unbearable hipstery w*nkers. We're actually normal, believe it or not! The rest of us like what we like because we like it, end of, and to accuse us of any different is to exhibit the kind of aloof snobbery that for some reason is seen as a virtue by certain sections in all persuasions of the community.

Those of us with internet and other presences share our experiences for the community but the better ones never enforce their beliefs on anyone else. Those that do are given short shrift because subjectivity.

As for the argument that blind taste-testing can provide a level of objectivity to the beer tasting and appreciation world, that's only useful for beer award judging which is performed by sommeliers and people who actually do have skills in deducing beer quality, skills which the rest of us, despite our best intentions, do not have.

I am the first to insist that to like a beer you must like its taste, but even I must admit that taste isn't the be-all and end-all of liking a beer. There are so many other things that surround a particular beer which can enhance its standing in your estimation such as locality, branding, brewery ethics, availability and even more intimate things such as nostalgia, familial connections or other personal semiotic triggers.

When Matthew Curtis writes about liking Harvey's Sussex Best, I am inclined to believe that he really likes it. I won't question his motives and the level of detail entered into leads me to believe this isn't a flippant attempt for mouse-clicks, ad revenue or #NUMBERS. It's a genuine insight into a very genuine emotional, non-quantifiable phenomena.

While not in the same league (Matt is Premier League, I am Combined Counties Division Four East), my love letter to Guinness came from the same place, a place of love and appreciation and wanting to share a story. We are not philistines. We are not shysters. We are real, and we write real opinions and real thoughts and real feelings. The minute you try to second-guess OUR motives betray YOUR motives.

What would I like to see happen? Just stop, would you? Stop dividing us, stop second-guessing your fellow beer lover, stop creating unnecessary barriers. Beer appreciation should be a classless, genderless, nationality-neutral ethnicity-neutral, encompassing, open, inclusive and diverse community. It harms NO-ONE if these tenets are included and embraced. It actually helps the survival of both "trad" and "craft" camps if we all embrace (not necessarily physically) each other.

Please, for the love of whichever deity you believe or disbelieve in, let's not let this carry on.

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