The Good and Bad of Good Beer

I just opened and tasted a couple of bottles of beer. This in itself is unremarkable – drinking beer is a big part of what I do and it’s not uncommon for me to have sampled several brews before most people have even considered whether or not to order a pint with their lunch. Neither is it important what the identities of these particular beers were, although they were both broadly of the same style descriptor.*

The first beer I opened to review for the autumn edition of a magazine I write for, while the second I opened to enjoy with my lunch, simply because I seldom drink the same beer twice in a row. The first was also tremendous, the kind of beer which, when you take that first sip, causes your eyebrows to rise and your senses to excite. After the first sip, I greedily went back for a second, and then a third, before I reminded myself that this was a time for evaluation rather than hedonistic indulgence.

Even parsed and analyzed, however, it remained a truly wonderful ale.

All of which proved rather problematic for beer number two. Because, you see, while my second choice was in and of itself a decent enough brew, relative to its predecessor it was extraordinarily ordinary, dull in its hopping and muddy in its maltiness. Where the first beer shone bright, with aroma and flavour accents both asserting themselves independently and harmonizing beautifully, the second was just…there.

Had I sampled beer number two first, I likely would have enjoyed it well enough to finish what was in my glass. Given the contrast provided by beer one, however, beer two never stood a chance. After a couple of sips I poured the remainder down the drain.

*It’s worth noting, too, that beer one was significantly weaker than number two, falling right within the so-called session beer range.

4 Replies to “The Good and Bad of Good Beer”

  1. I’vev found over the years that the order of tasting can be determinative. A perfectly delightful session beer can be turned to crap on the pallet by preceding it with something big and bold.

    I remember an office party many years ago. We were drinking Lowenbrau Dark (this was before the Miller buy-out) when an associate came in with a case of this “wonderful” new beer from Boulder, Colorado (Coors, of course). Not to say that there is anything admirable about Coors, but after 2 bottles of Lowenbrau Dark, it didn’t even register on the palate as beer; just cold slightly carbonated, mildly alcoholic water.

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