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Friday, May 20, 2011

What is "good beer"?

A few days ago I announced this blogs existence on my Face Book page. I debated announcing it for a week or so, not being overly confident in the contents, and wondering how people would react. It gave me a whole new world of respect for those who blog, especially those who talk about far more personal things than beer. So I threw it out to the FB world, and reaction was good, people were supportive, which was cool. But an old friend checked out the blog and asked a great, albeit simple question. He asked "what do you mean by "good" beer? Good price? Good taste?".

It was a brilliant observation on his part, to point out a glaring flaw with this blog- being that if I want to spread the gospel of "good beer", I should probably define "good beer".

I acknowledge here that "good" is a completely subjective term. Whats tastes "good" to me, might not taste "good" to you. (But boy, doesn't that Guinness look very "good" to Prince Philip? shown here with Queen Elizabeth at the Guinness Brewery on their recent trip to Ireland)

To me, "good beer" is beer that tastes good. That means it has flavor, color, smell, and is usually brewed in a traditional style- ale, larger, stout, etc. For me, that usually means beer made with the classical ingredients- malt, hops, barley, wheat (not to say that I don't respect brewers who push the envelope and add insane ingredients- Hello Boston Beerworks Jalapeno Black IPA).

I am not a fan of "malt style beverages" made with rice and corn. To me, good beer smells super hoppy, is a healthy color of some sort (usually amber, copper, orange) and has a bitter finish. Clearly,  I prefer IPAs.  To me, good beer has a distinguishable texture and mouth-feel when you drink it. It doesn't feel like carbonated water in your mouth.

I don't consider price at all when defining a beer as "good". Good beer comes in all price points, high and low.

This is in stark contrast to my college days, when "good beer" was any beer you can afford. Ah, the days of Natural Light, Black Label, and Red White and Brew. I drank these happily in college. Back then, these were good beers to me. I never complained about the taste of these mass produced, pale, and somewhat tasteless (by comparison to days craft brews) beers. It was all that was available to me, I drank them, and was happy.

Then one day I got a phone call from a friend who had recently joined a frat. He and his brothers had gone to the newly opened Boston BeerWorks on Brookline Ave. He was all excited about a beer he had tried that was made with oatmeal. He loved it, raved about it. I was totally confused. "Did you need a spoon to eat it?" I asked, envisioning a bowl of oatmeal soaked in beer. My friend tried to explain- "no, its brewed with oatmeal, not served in it. They pour it in a glass, its a stout, very thick". Brewed with oatmeal? I didn't grasp it all all. Al I knew of brewing was what I saw in tv ads. Budweiser clearly brewed beer with wheat, corn, rice, all the best ingredients. They never mentioned oatmeal. This was the very first clue I was given that perhaps there was more to beer than what I was being told by tv. This was my first clue that perhaps there was better beer out there. Seemed ridiculous. Budweiser was the biggest brewery in the world (to my knowledge, at that time. Boy was I ignorant..), who made better beer than them?

A few weeks later, I turned 21, and this same friend brought me the Boston Beer Works. I tried the Buckeye Oatmeal Stout. It did not taste like oatmeal with beer. It tasted awesome. And so began a 16 year beer passion that would eventually lead to this blog. 

But enough about me. What is a "good beer" to you?


me said...

I like a beer that is wheaty or a stout. You can keep your hops - I find them too bitter.

Anonymous said...

Good beer is...Olde English 800, a fine malt that it is...