Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pretention Examined: Nick vs. Gene

Gene and I have had a few comments back and forth about the new Sam Adams Winter Lager, which has the unfortunate subtitle of "malt beverage brewed with spices." Being a pretentious jerk, I take a rather Bohemian view of beer (and for that matter: life.) I think I walked into this winter 12-pack with a sever bias against anything that either sounds manufactured or doesn't meet my criteria of micro-brew (or hand crafted.) Gene's favorable review of this alchemic concoction (which I tried and didn't like) further shows this fundamental difference in bias. Let's examine this curious juxtaposition of the Two Brewers, who are so similar yet so different.
  1. Gene keeps an open mind and tastes a beer honestly, regardless of ingrediants, while Nick will automatically disdain beer that isn't "pure."

    When it comes to beer, chocolate, or basically any processed food my opinion is that chemicals and additives take away from the natural character of the product. I'm not saying that your McDonalds hamburger isn't delicious, but if you really think about how much poop is in the meat (from poor slaughtering practices,) how much sugar is in the bun, and how many different petroleum products are in the 'cheese' you might think it tastes a little different. Chocolate is the same: Hershey's is actually trying to change the law about what can be called "Chocolate" rather than "Chocolate Flavored" because they don't want to have to use so much real cocoa in their products.

    In the world of beer, malt beverages like Bacardi O, Smirnoff Ice, etc. are basically chemical concoctions with alcohol added. They most likely are sweetened with corn syrup and other low cost (low quality) products. Sam Adam's need to use the term "malt beverage" means that their beer is also artifically flavored. If I wanted to drink soda with alcohol in it I'd have a rum at coke, at least you know what's in it.

    In this frame of mind, it's no surprise that I'm going to hate any artifically flavored beer or mass market (i.e. Budweiser, Miller, etc.) regardless of any other factors. I think it actually tastes different to me than it does to Gene. The mind is a powerful thing indeed. I think Gene is able to taste at face value, since these factors might be less important to him than the flavor, aroma, and the inebriation the beer imparts.

  2. Nick is overly cautions in brewing, resulting in far fewer batches but no outright failures. Gene plays it a little looser, experimenting with homemade equipment and questionable root-beer kegs but nearly drowning in batches.

    I'll try to keep this short, but I definately notice a huge difference in Gene and my learning speeds. Practice makes perfect and Gene has just had a lot more practice. The reasons for this probably revolve around my limited space (Gene has a yard, and it's warm year round, while I'm in a condo.) However, Gene is the type who will plow forward and make a batch in untested equipment allowing for real innovation. I plan too much and although I've never had a bad batch, I only had 3 completed last year.

    In this regard, I think Gene's approach is by far the better for learning how to brew. We learn best from our mistakes.

  3. Gene revues beer that most hobos would turn their noses up at; Nick revues beer that hobos wouldn't buy, since they could get five forty's for the same money.

    I guess hobos wouldn't like either of our approaches, but since I don't fancy sleeping in a boxcar anytime soon I think we can fairly discount their opinions (except on religion or politics, those guys are brilliant!)

    I won't argue that more expensive beer is better, since it's not. The best beer in the world is still only around $11 per bottle. The really expensive ones are expensive mainly because they are rare, not necessarily because they are good. Imagine how much a beer from a 1700s shipwreck would cost, even though it's turned to brine by now.

    I will say that cheap beer is uniformly terrible, even according to Gene. It's funny to write about however, and I appreciate that. I'd call this one a draw, as far as approaches to beer reviewing go.
Part of the reason I think this blog works is because of our different approaches. It gives us full coverage of the spectrum of beer.

With all that background information, I hope it's easier to understand where we come from in our reviews. Depending on what kind of beer afficianado (or swiller) you are, you may agree with one or the other of us most often. That's fine though; I think the debate between quantity and quality has raged forever, but at least in this rare instance they both end the same way: drunkeness, gas, and a good old time.

Thanks for not being a pretentious jerk like me, Gene. Feel free to argue with any of these points. I wouldn't want to put words in your mouth.

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