"Yes, VIRGINIA, There Is Bad Beer"

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DEAR EDITOR: I am 28 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no such thing as bad beer.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in BEER SIMPLE it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there bad beer?

VIRIGINIA O’HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the optimism of an optimistic age. They do not believe in bad beer except they see a BA label.  They think that nothing can be bad which is local to their little palates. All palates, Virginia, whether they be beer geeks' or normals', are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his palate, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of hops and barley.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is bad beer. It exists as certainly as acid and fusels and oxidation exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its dullest mouthfeel and disappointment. Alas! how unrealistic would be the world in which there was no bad beer. It would be as unlikely as if there were no VIRGINIAS. It would take a childlike faith then, with no criticality, no objectivity to make rational this existence. We should have no credibility, except in ZIP code and neighborhood. The eternal foam with which beer fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in bad beer! You might as well believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch all the mash tuns on Brew Day to catch bad beer, but even if they did not see the pH coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees bad beer, but that is no sign that there is no bad beer. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the draft system and see what makes the bubbles inside, but there is a veil covering the bad beer world which not the strongest Cicerone, nor even the united strength of all the beer judges that ever lived, could tear apart. Only objectivity, palate training, education, social media pressure, polite feedback, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the infernal ugliness and gore beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else so real and abiding.

No bad beer! Damn Ninkasi! it lives, and it lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, it will continue to make sad the heart of adulthood.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The preceding is a parody of an item you might recognize.  Its inspiration was in hearing aleholes constantly exclaiming "the best beer is the one in your hand!" and "there's no such thing as bad beer - it's all personal preference!"  There are lots of things that can be wrong in a beer that have nothing to do with personal, subjective preference.  You might enjoy hot alcohols, rampant goat-crotch funk, ash-tray-like phenols, and more - but that doesn't make what you like a "good" beer.  I can burn a steak black and say I like it that way, but it's still a bad steak by the collective agreement of all Christendom.

I don't write this to bring you down - I do it to highlight the joy we should take in the good beers of the world, and that we should appreciate them even when they're not to our taste, like how I appreciate the quality of a lot of Belgian Strong Ales even though I don't like to drink them! 

Drink GOOD beer, not just popular, trendy, or local beer.

Keep it simple.

JJW

Please help support BEER SIMPLE by visiting the Support page and saving the links there as your bookmarks, especially this Amazon link!  Every dollar you spend will help keep BS coming your way, and more often (which is at least as much a threat as a promise).


Bring On the Pumpkin Beers

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I know it's fun to rip on pumpkin beers.  Hell, it's practically an annual tradition: too soon, too many, not really pumpkin-made, etc.  But you know what?  I really can't wait to see them taking over the taps this year, and the sooner the better.

Why?  Because for as much as we make fun of them, pumpkin (or pumpkin spice, or squash) beers have become, at least in my humble opinion, some of the better seasonal beers on the market, in a market where almost everything seems to be a seasonal beer (or an IPA...or both).  

It's September.  Bring on the pumpkin beers.

Changing of the Seasons

The "anti-pumpkin" crusades made a bit more sense to me when there were genuinely few seasonal beers on the market.  I don't mean one-offs or limited releases or beers generally made at a certain time of year, but actual seasonal beers.  Lately I've been seeing (in part thanks to my self-imposed no-repeat beer challenge for 2017) an impressive cavalcade of spring beers, summer beers, hop harvest beers, and more, all tuned to a specific available ingredient or seasonal affectation or condition.  In that context, it feels much more that pumpkin beers are simply a logical extension and progression and less like a kitschy gimmick.

Not only that, but the other seasonal beers aren't always well-tuned to the season in which they're offered.  A few weeks back I picked up a mixed "summer celebration" case from a major regional craft brewer, and the thing had a Pilsner (makes sense), two IPAs of 6.8 and 7.2 percent ABV, and a double IPA.  What are you "summer celebrating" there?  Alcohol poisoning and/or heat stroke?  

Say what you will about them, but at least pumpkin/spice beers are well-fitted to their season.  Temperatures start to drop, the beers get a little darker, and we all get that nice sense memory of pumpkin pie to get us primed for football and Thanksgiving.  Works for me.

An Island of Consistency

This is, admittedly, just my subjective interpretation, but it also seems that pumpkin beers are an island of consistency in the otherwise heaving, frothing maelstrom of beer quality.  

Last year I attended an event with about a dozen pumpkin beers available to taste and evaluate.  And you know what?  They were all at least OK.  None were exceptional.  But none were bad, either, and many were genuinely good.  

I've had to dump three beers in the last three weeks (the most recent a fruited Gose that tasted like it was brewed with straight seawater).  I'm ready for a little generic amber/brown ale with some obvious spice additions, even if it isn't the next "hot" thing.

At Least It's Not...

...fill in the latest craft beer trend.  Probably hazy IPAs.  Those damned things are everywhere, which at least might hopefully mean they'll disappear soon (except for the good ones, which with some luck the market might be able to sort out).  Pumpkin spice beers might be cliche and annoying, but you can't pretend they're trendy.  They're probably the most hated-on beer style in the world, and yet every September, back they come.

You gotta respect that.

So, it might not be a five-star, life-changing, Earth-shaking beer, but grab yourself a pint or a sixer of something with an orange label and a punny pumpkin name, and sniff deep.  

And know that the Christmas beers are right behind it.

Keep it simple.

JJW

Please help support BEER SIMPLE by visiting the Support page and saving the links there as your bookmarks, especially this Amazon link!  Every dollar you spend will help keep BS coming your way, and more often (which is at least as much a threat as a promise).