populist things and impossible questions

I swear to Crom that as soon as I clean out some kegs and get a day to myself there will be another brew day writeup, citizens – maybe even some how-to pieces – but for now, some gentle pontificating.

Recently, Collin at Brewed for Thought wrote about the problematic notion of “best” breweries or beers, as promulgated by those “Top 10” clickbait lists you see everywhere:

“The whole reason we have 3000 breweries in this country is because we, the beer drinking public, have rejected the Highlander, there-can-be-only-one conception of breweries.”

That resonated with me because shortly before his piece was published, I was asked by an 8 year old to choose a favorite beer style (not a  favorite brand, but favorite style! What a beer-literate 8 year old! His dad is a homebrewer and old friend, and we were visiting).

Whenever I get asked this, I generally demur: it’s an impossible question because the honest answer is a moving target that changes with mood, weather, food, season, etc. But his dad volunteered American pale ale, my wife nominated Helles, and I wanted to play ball for the sake of this sharp kid. So I rattled off a handful, which was as specific as I could get.

But what really impressed me, upon further reflection, was that an 8 year old boy knew to ask for “favorite” rather than “best.” He understood the role subjectivity has to play. I think Milo would agree with what Collin wrote a week later:

“When we threw out the concept of a best brewery, we also threw out the concept of beer authorities. While there are certainly people who pay more attention to the brewery world and try more beers than others, that doesn’t make their opinion more valid. An important part of the culture we’ve created is rejecting that concept, and we should work on maintaining that rejection. Sure, those who are focused on and immersed in beer should be telling people what beers and breweries are killing it, but beer is a populist thing and we should all be celebrating the fact that there is a brewery for everyone, regardless of what you like beer to taste like.”


12 thoughts on “populist things and impossible questions

  1. Great write up, looking forward to some how tos and what not in the (hopefully) near future. Favourite styles are always going to be massively subjective as there is no right or wrong answer as the guy that loves saisons and abhors ipa’s will probably love an ipa given the right set of circumstances. Also the highlander is awesome.

  2. I would answer what is your favorite style the same way I answer what is your favorite beer. The next one. Right now it is Koyt. Never had the stuff but hey I am going to make one.

  3. Indeed. I have often found myself drinking home brew (which I make no claims of being best anything) and found myself thinking, “Wow! This is a great beer.” Days later, the same beer would be “pretty good, but I’ll have something else next,” only to be back to great days after that. Best is what I enjoy, and enjoyment is very subjective. That said, some beers/brewers deserve to be in a “best” discussion, while others certainly do not. Much like Jordan and Lebron deserve to be in the best discussion, while I do not.
    – Dennis, Life Fermented Blog

    • This question isn’t really about beer styles but it at least involves hops. I have two hops plants. Neither of them started as rhizomes, they were purchased as small plants. The mt.hood hop is growing just fine, has a few cones starting on it, but my horizon hop is growing awkwardly. I’ve pruned it and pruned it, yet it still sends a ton of shoots of the 4 main bines I’ve allowed it to have, and the base of the plant, near the root crown, is rather bushy with leaves, in addition to random shoots from the 4 bines that keep sprouting up. Any advice for what I can so for this, aside from keep up the weekly pruning? I plant to build a 13 foot tall hops trellis next year, and add two more varieties to my hops garden, but would love some advice on what to do if they start to become bushy at the base like this again.

      • I don’t have personal experience with growing from transplants, only rhizomes; so I’m not sure if or how that might be a factor. Horizon is known to have pretty vigorous growth habits, so frequent pruning may be a fact of life … you didn’t mention whether or not there was a trellis this year, but I think making sure it has room to climb may help encourage vertical instead of horizontal training. Re: bushiness the crown, I think the conventional wisdom would be to strip or at least prune back around the base to help prevent rot or mildew. Hope this helps – good luck!

  4. In an afterthought, since posting, I realized I should have mentioned these are first year hops plants. I’m not expecting much for cone production, as I’m only concerned with growth while the plant is establishing itself, just curious about the odd bushiness, and random shoot production at the base, as well as from the main bines of the horizon hop.

    • Yes, this does help. I currently have the horizon, and mt.hood hop growing on some parachute cord. I managed to acquire a 1,000 yard spool of it on the way out the door from Iraq when I deployed there 5 years ago. This is just a first year growing support. Next year, I’m building the permanent trellis out of landscape timbers. The total height will be around 13 feet tall. I also plan on getting some hop twine (bailer’s twine) since the parachute cord isn’t fibrous enough. The hops don’t mind growing on it, the price was free to me, but I’d imagine they’d coil more tightly against a more fibrous twine

  5. So? What was your response to the question?

    My favorite of late (and for a long time) has to be a really nice British ESB. Alas my keg of it ran out the other day, so tomorrow is a brew day!

    • Ha! I think I rattled off saison, Helles, bitter … and one or two others I can’t remember now. But that was a sunny June weekend with lots of backyard time; if I was asked again a month or two from now, the list would probably be different. Cheers!

  6. Wonder how much this has to do with perceived memory and the context on when and where the ‘favourite’ was consumed?
    For example, a smell that you associate with your grandma’s house, good food and safety compared to a smell associated with fear or pain. It not a question of good or bad smell – its your brain linking it to a good or bad memory.
    A beer will (be remembered to) taste better drunk with good friends with good conversation than a beer drunk in a smelly bar with silent strangers.

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