Brewing beer and sharing beer are basically inextricable. I don't know any homebrewers that drink all of what they produce, like some kind of homebrewing hermit. But if you share your beer, you're going to get a reaction, probably whether you ask for it or not (though most do), and when that happens you're eventually going to get back some negative feedback.
I tasted your beer. And I don't like it.
And you know what? That's OK.
You Asked For It
OK, maybe you didn't (hang tight - we'll get to you in a second), but you probably did. We were at a party or a beer festival or you brought it to my house, and you said, "hey, would love to know what you think of my ______________ !"
What's crazy is that despite judging/evaluating lots of beers, in competition and professionally and as part of research for writing, I'm not really particularly judgmental when I'm just drinking. But if you ask for it, I'm going to tell you.
What's even more crazy is how often people get bent out of shape if I say I don't like it.
Look, if you're holding out for universal acclaim in life, you're going to have a long and disappointing row to hoe. Why'd you ask if you didn't want to know? I didn't spit it across the room and then give you the finger while disparaging your mother's sexual history - I just smiled and said, "I don't know - it's not really for me." If you don't ever want to hear that, don't ask.
You Didn't Ask For It - But You're Going to Get It
Then there's this. Let's say you didn't ask. Now, if that's me and you didn't ask, I'll just say "thanks" and leave it at that. But most people won't.
Beer is inherently communal. The context of it isn't "sitting at home alone with the lights off watching a Downton Abbey marathon," it's a pub, or a sporting event, or a party. When you hand someone a beer - whether you made it or not - they're likely to say something about it.
You might not be looking for a reaction, but (especially since there's alcohol involved), you're probably going to get it. Brewing beer for yourself and offering it up for public consumption takes a touch of bravery - own it. Smile, thank them for their feedback even if it's unsolicited or indelicately phrased, and either dismiss it (if you want) or take it to heart (if you want). But I think it's unreasonable to hold it against that person.
I Didn't Say It - But You Heard It Anyway
Maybe it was just a facial expression, or the fact that I didn't want more of it, or I didn't praise it and instead remained silent (though I'd point you to Sir/St. Thomas More's defense of "qui tacet consentire videtur"). But you interpreted my reaction as an expression of my dislike. Maybe that's not totally reasonable.
I remember being told, as many of us were, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." I don't remember that being followed up with, "...and if someone does that to you, act all pissy and snub them later if you can."
I Didn't Know This Was Yours
This one comes up fairly regularly, actually. As much as so many of us claim to want honesty, and/or we think the world has gotten too soft and politically correct, we ignore (to our benefit) the reality that lots of people aren't honest with us when they know they're directly offering feedback to the progenitor of a product, whether it's food, or art, or beer, or...ahem...a blog.
If I don't know you brewed it, I'm probably going to offer a pretty frank opinion - which might be good or bad. I think most people would. It's like how if I'm talking about the Cowboys I'll say that nothing gives me more pleasure than watching video of Tony Romo crying while slumped dejectedly on the field after falling JUST short of winning a playoff game. Now, if I ever met Tony Romo, I wouldn't share that with him. It'd be inappropriate.
So when you hand me a beer and say, "what do you think of this?," or if we're at a beer event of some kind and I taste your beer at a booth and don't know who brewed it and you seek out/overhear an opinion, I hope you'll cut me a little slack and know that I would have been a bit more politic if I'd known you were going to hear it.
That doesn't make me two-faced - it makes me human. Or so my "How to Act Human" pamphlet tells me.
I Don't Like Your Beer - and That's OK
Ultimately, if you're going to say (as so many homebrewers do) "I brewed this for me, and I like it," then you shouldn't get too hung up on what I (or others) think of your beer.
I'm not in that camp, though. I brew beer I like, for sure, but I also want you to like it. So if you have anything to say - nice or not, polite or not, accurate or not - I want to hear it.
But even if you're in the "care what people think of your beer" boat with me, it's still OK if people don't like what you made. Beer is diverse. Not every beer fits every palate, even if very well made. And some will find a supportive audience even if they're not well made.
At the end of the day, it's only beer.
I don't like yours - and that's OK.
Keep it simple.
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