Guidance for 2012

It’s 2012 here in Hong Kong, and has been for some hours. My resolution for this year is not to be such a grumpily aggressive bastard online, although I have at least one rant to get out of the way first. However, I have tried to put together a list of precepts to blog by over the coming 12 months, rules I hope we can all agree on. There are, in fact, just three:

1) It’s only beer.

2) It’s all about the taste.

3) You like what you like. I like what I like.

There: who could possibly object to any of that? You agree? Excellent. Now I’m going to test you. Have a brown paper bag handy, and read this, which is a genuine comment grabbed from the web during 2011:

So, under the recommendation of a few people online, I bought myself a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale. And I have to say… It’s one of the best beers I’ve ever had. Normally I stuck to more mainstream pale lagers, such as Corona Extra, Budweiser and Peroni, so was a bit cautious about trying this, and as I opened it up, the rich beer smell really hit me, and I was expecting a bitter, overpowering flavour. Nevertheless, I tried a gulp of it… And it went down like water! Yet, the flavour was there, and strong, but not overpowering by any means. It’s fairly refreshing, although I will say you should only drink it when it’s cold, it tastes much better to me.

OK, blow into the brown paper bag and place it over your nose and mouth … breathe in and out slowly … repeat after me: “It’s only beer … It’s all about the taste … You like what you like. I like what I like.” Feeling better now? Good.

Really, if people like things you don’t like, it doesn’t matter. And nor does it matter if they don’t like things that you adore. There are, in fact, amazingly few things a majority of people can agree on, and almost none that everybody votes for: we live in a world of pluralities and minorities. You can live with that, or you can drive up your blood pressure. If you enjoy something that someone else doesn’t, well, just enjoy your enjoyment. And if they enjoy something you can’t see the point of, that’s really not your problem. Have a good year.

0 thoughts on “Guidance for 2012

  1. My goodness! You are spoiling the hugely entertaining part of the internet! I like nothing better than seeing people pointlessly arguing about why their preference for something is so much better than someone elses preference for something!

  2. Well, for someone who only drinks Corona, Bud, etc. Newcastle Brown Ale will be a real flavour bomb, just like Guinness Draught was to me all those years ago. Everyone must take a first step.

    Oh, yeah, please, keep on grumping, it’s a lot of fun 🙂

  3. Well said, and spot on (especially “…it’s only beer…”)!
    Although, I do hope you will continue stirring up the muck just a bit.
    Cheers, and Happy New Year!

  4. Happy New Year Martyn and Everyone Else. I will say than I have become unable to stomach American (not really) mass market lager. I love craft beer and I love real ale. Having said that, one of my guilty pleasures is a bottle of ice cold Budweiser. It is the only Mass Market Lager I like. My go to beer is now Boulevard Pale Ale, but every now and then an urge hits and Budweiser hits the spot. That is my own personal heresy.

  5. I agree totally,but still have two questions.

    How about if you used Stella as the “example” beer rather than Newcastle?

    Or Hoegaarden White? I ask about that one because it is a flavorful beer, but if you talk to people who drank it 30 years ago not the same now as then. Does that make a difference? (That’s part of question 2, not a third question.)

      1. Last time I was in the UK, I saw more Stella being consumed than any other mass market lager. If I am a real ale man, Stella is the boogeyman.

    1. Beers do change/evolve over the years – if I have managed to learn one thing from Ron Pattinson it is that. However, Hoegaarden hasn’t changed all that much in the last 30 years. They’ve tweeked it around a bit (more/less botanicals for example) but not beyond what is normal – by which I mean that it is definitely not a radically different beer to what it used to be. It hasn’t changed any more over the last 30 years than Pilsner Urquell has, for example.

      1. Lots of beers that knocked our socks off when we first tried them no longer excite us the same way. I think people sometimes mistake their tastebuds getting jaded for changes in the beer.

  6. Speaking of beers evolving, ‘Newcastle’ Brown Ale is a perfect example: Originally brewed by mixing two worts, one of Amber Ale with a gravity of around 1036, and another dark but much higher gravity, with a final ABV of around 6% although no-one apart from the brewery really knew exactly. The double wort brew survived until the mid 90’s although the strength was gradually reduced over the years and the taste altered gradually to ensure it would offend no-one. Then, the double brew was changed to a single recipe before the Tyne Brewery closed in 2005 when brewing moved to the former Federation beer factory and then in 2010 to Tadcaster and despite Heineken UK’s assertions, the beer tastes noticeably different to that produced in Newcastle but careful blending during the moves ensured that regular drinkers became accustomed to the new taste over time.

  7. It’s only beer, yes, but it should be made as good as possible at whatever market level it seeks to serve. My quarrel with most American-style mass lager – I say American-style since it is made around the world today – is its acidic-like bite, from too little malt I think, or maybe too much 6-row malt. Also, there is little hop signature to most of this beer.

    Exceptions include Amstel Light which has a flowery taste and pleasant malt sweetness despite its low gravity. It’s a good beer and reminds me often of low gravity pale English bitter. Pilsner Urquel is still a great beer IMO. Hoegaarden still tastes pretty good, I think it is pretty similar to the brew of that name from circa-1980. Urquel proves that a widely distributed beer can be expertly made by a large company, but most industrial producers seem disinclined to go there. Still, that may change. One of the best American ales I ever had, Goose Island Winter Ale, is made by a craft brewer now owned by A-B.

    Newcastle Brown Ale. It was, for me, never a world-beater and I agree the taste has evolved seemingly over the years. The current version ain’t bad, and when on draft can be a good refresher with good “caramel malt” character. The hop tastes are subtle but well-confected.


  8. I would LOVE to enjoy my enjoyment and let others enjoy theirs. But I can’t get my enjoyment everywhere I’d like, because people who don’t actually enjoy their enjoyment but mindlessly spend money on ice cold Bud Light and Corona and Pabst Blue Ribbon because of TV commercials and perceived hipness force distributors and tavern owners to stock 15 brands of basically the same beer instead of something … enjoyable.

    1. No, I agree with Saint Michael Jackson that in a MODERN context, the general term for malt liquors of all kinds is beer. I just like to point out regularly that this wasn’t always true, and if you don’t take that into account you end up with complete nonsense like the Oxford Companion to Beer’s entry on “pale ale”, which is wrong from the beginning to the end.

  9. Only beer geeks would miss the point of an “It’s only beer/Like what you like” post; quibble about the named “example” beer; and then get into that beers evolution. We are a unique breed, indeed, and I love us all!

  10. Well, I for one am grateful for the obsession with accuracy that’s become your hallmark, and I can see the smiley face behind the grumpiness. You do still have a smiley face, don’t you? You managed one in Crawley, so presumably it still exists in more exalted climes …

  11. I agree with what Martyn said, indeed I use similar reasoning to defend beer choices often derided by the typical geek. But who can resist a chance to offer thoughts on Newcastle Brown Ale? 🙂 In part this is because of the beer’s renown and storied history, and I think many hope it to have a taste beyond what it does.

    After all, it only became a draft (keg) beer in recent years, and I doubt it was ever bottle conditioned. It is what it is but indeed to one familiar only with Corona and that type of beer it will have a pronounced flavour, so for sure the relativity of all judgments must be borne in mind.


  12. I absolutely agree with you. Just think of all those pleasures we may be missing if we don’t keep an open mind when trying new beers. Let’s hear it for experimentation!

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