Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Fetishization of Beer. (My)

For a while now, I've realised that some of/perhaps most of the fun I get from beer, isn't actually always the beer itself.  Very often I get a real buzz from all the peripheral stuff...... I present the following evidence:

i) I am hoarding beer.  My cupboard overfloweth.  I so cherish the idea of having a large and splendid collection of beer in my stash, that I am often loathe to drink any of my 'treasures'.  Even when I know that I have a cupboard full of lovely beer at home, I still desire to go beer-shopping.  I dream about it in fact.  Generally I only allow myself to drink the really good beers, when (due to over shopping) I can no longer hide* my beers in my cupboard.  Having to drink the good stuff however, makes me feel a bit wretched.  This, in part,  leads to second phenomena (see ii)

ii) The sourcing, acquisition and discovery of beers.  As often stated, it gives me enormous pleasure to find an obscure Polish or Lithuanian beer in an obscure local shop.  The pleasure of finding is very often larger than the pleasure of drinking these 'finds' - BUT they serve the purpose of allowing me to consume beer regularly, without having to eat into my 'treasures'.  DOUBLE WHAMMY!

iii) I take photographs of the beers I drink.  I'm not sure when this started, but it's getting worse.  Now, not only do I take photographs of particularly noteworthy beers, I also snap pump clips, glasses of indistinguishable liquid and anything that I buy from a beer shop.  Not only that, but a new breed of beer photography has been spawned from this - artistic beer photography.  Twitter reveals that I am not the only one who likes to snap their beers.

iv) I rate my beers.  This is a very longstanding symptom: for ten years I have been reviewing and recording every different beer I sample.  This gives rise to a whole panoply of statistical beer geekery, allowing me to tick off countries, beer styles, drinking establishments and actual beers.  This pretends to give legitimacy to the innate, blokey need to hunt/gather beers and shout about it to the other members of the 'tribe'.  Even though it pretends to be cooler, Untappd fulfils this function also; so for all you Untappd dudes, please be assured you are just as sad as me.

v) I talk endlessly about beer.  Whenever I can, I do this with people in the room with me; when this isn't possible, I go online.  In fact, by seeking out and forming a peer group of like minded beer geeks, I have fundamentally changed the dynamics of my friendship circle, via the medium of Twitter.  Again, and rather obviously, I am not alone in this.

Now points iii), iv) and v) are connected: they are clearly outward expressions of the need to be a part of the crowd and feel accepted.  However, as for points i) and ii) - your guess is as good as mine.  Perhaps I didn't have enough Star Wars figures as a child.  Perhaps I am overvaluing each beer too much, instead of drinking them and yielding to their dirty pleasure.  Perhaps my inner puritanical streak shrinks from the wanton lust of actual beer consumption, and therefore turns the acquisition of them into a guilty, exciting pleasure.  Others in my 'circle' are less obsessive than me and are able to buy, consume and enjoy: but for me, the possession is part of the excitement.

I also love 'the choice'.  In life generally I often find that 'the choice' is much more exciting that 'the choosing'.  What does this mean?  Well, when I walk into Cotteridge or Stirchley Wines and behold the shelves stacked with colourful treats, my heart is aflutter.  When I have to actually select 5 or 6 bottles, I feel constrained, limited and cut short, because the wide expanse of 'the choice' is behind me and and I must live with the results of 'the choosing' (forever wondering whether the grass was greener on the other side)**.  This torment repeats itself in my beer cupboard - the thrill of having a really healthy stash, somehow seems more boundlessly exciting than the rather limited excitement of having to select just one to actually drink.     

Am I a complete weirdo?  Am I alone?  No. No I'm not alone.  Twitter proves this.  And in fact, even for those who do not obsess about beer, they are free to get jiggy with trainspotting, or go wobbly at the knees for vinyl.

I accept that I am a beer fetishist.  After all, I actually sat down to write this blog piece about the subject - that's how twisted I am.  You (yes, you!) on the other hand have read this article.  You're a fetishist too.  Accept it.   

*from wife
** rather horrifyingly, this seems to correspond with aspects of my romantic life, during the mid part of the Noughties.  Epiphany!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Beer of the Year 2012

The ever excellent Campaign for Really Good Beer recently issued their call for Beer of the Year selections (**and then announced the winner, which I'll mention at the end). 

I'm a stats geek, I love lists and I use Ratebeer to record every new beer I try.  In short, I was built to choose my beers of the year.  In fact, I took the whole nomination process so seriously that I ended up writing copious notes for myself, to ensure the rigorousness of the submission.

Here then, for your information and 'enjoyment' is a schemata showing how I came to settle on the eventual selection of my 3 beers of the year for 2012.

First task was to scour my reviews on Ratebeer, to see which beers earned the best marks during 2012.  The results are as follows  (showing which beers scored 4.7 out of 5.0 and so on):

{I'm not doing links in this post, otherwise I'd be here all night.  I have been here all night anyway, but .....}

1.                        De Molen Mooi and Medogenloos
2.                        Mikkeller Beer Hop Breakfast
3.                        Kernel Black IPA III
4.                        Lindemans Cuvee Rene Gueuze
5.                        Brodies Hoxton Special IPA

6.                        Brewdog/Mikkeller I Hardcore You
7.                        De La Senne Jambe de Bois

8.                        Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast
9.                        Lion Stout
10.                    Kernel Double SCCANS
11.                    Nogne India Saison
12.                    Ska Modus Hoperandi
13.                    Mikkeller/Grassroots Wheat is the New Hops
14.                    Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor
15.                    De Ranke Saison de Dottignies
16.                    Kernel IPA Summit
17.                    Tiny Rebel Urban IPA
18.                    Brodies Smoked IPA

Now aside from beers specifically falling within those three highest score 'brackets', I also felt that there were some which, though they had scored lower, left such a positive impression on me, that they deserved to be included in this conversation.  These are they: 

Selected highlights
19.                    Kernel Brick
20.                    Brodies London Lager
21.                    To Ol Raid
22.                    De Molen Amarillo
23.                    Buxton Imperial Black
24.                    Beavertown 8-Ball Rye IPA
25.                    Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (Nigerian)
26.                    Arbor Single Hop Citra
27.                    Brodies Hackney Red IPA
28.                    Nogne Imperial Stout

Now inevitably there will have been other beers which I really enjoyed but have missed.  I've tried to minimise that risk, but it's still an outside possibility. That's life.  I'll live with it. 

Having selected the contenders, I still needed to pluck three from within.  The most straightforward thing would be to pick the 3 beers I liked best, from that group which scored 4.7 - such a trio would look like this:

Top 3 by score

De Molen Mooi and Medogenloos
Kernel Black IPA III
Brodies Hoxton Special IPA

The other [alternative] thing to do, would be to nose through the whole list and then pick the three which give me the warmest, fondest feelings - such a list would look like hence:

Top 3 by ‘hunch’

Brodies Hoxton Special IPA
Tiny Rebel Urban IPA
Nogne India Saison

OK, have you noticed anything?  Yes, we have a clear winner, which is Brodies Hoxton Special IPA.  Well done to them, very well deserved.  However, in terms of submitting a trio to CAMRGB, I still needed to make a decision.  It came down to one of my enduring internal wrangles - i.e. does scoring/reviewing a beer on Ratebeer always reflect exactly how much you enjoy it?  If you think yes, then the beers with the best scores are the best.  Simple as.  However, if you think that there is some contextual x-factor which impacts upon how much you enjoy a particular beer, then there is a real chance that your Ratebeer scores (based as they are on technical proficiency*) will not capture the pleasure gained from imbibing the beer in question.  Now obviously this is deeply boring and naval-gazing beer geekery, so I will cut to the chase and say that I decided to pick my three 'hunch' beers, i.e. the ones which I believe I loved the most this year.

But it's been a great year for beer.  No debating that.

Embedded image permalink

As an addendum, here is a list of breweries and how many times their products featured in my Top 28. 

Mikkeller - 4
Kernel - 4
Brodies - 4
De Molen – 2
Nogne - 2
Buxton - 1
Brewdog - 1
Guinness - 1
Beavertown - 1
To Ol - 1
Arbor - 1
Tiny Rebel - 1
De Ranke - 1
Gouden Carolus - 1
Lion - 1
Dottignies - 1
Ska - 1
Lindemans - 1
De La Senne – 1***

Almost as equally fascinating (I think), and by this measure then Mikkeller, Kernel and Brodies are joint top of my tree - which pretty much sums it up.

**The Overall Result

In the time it took me to write this post, CAMRGB performed the much more impressive feat of counting up all the votes and publishing the results.  According then, to the members and supporters of the Campaign for Really Good Beer, the beer of the year was Kernel S.C.C.A.NS. IPA.  I must admit, that even though it wasn’t on my list, I’m pleased that a Kernel beer won, as they are a magnificent brewery. 

So I didn’t back the winner, but ho hum it’s no biggie.  The main thing is that loads of people have managed to identify loads of lovely beers this year, which made this year a 12 month celebration of erm lovely beer.  [unbelievably poor sentence].

*I have always intended to write a fulsome blog post, which attempts to explain the fascination of and the mindset required for a full appreciation of Ratebeer.  I daresay I'll do it, once I perform some significant self analysis.

***Eagle-eyed UK beer fans will be aghast to see that no Magic Rock beers made my list of 28 finalists.  I’m a bit surprised myself, but there is good reason: almost 11 months after beginning this blog, with the aim of trying to bring Magic Rock and other top breweries to the pubs of Birmingham….. they have still not arrived.  Aside from the odd [extremely] isolated occasion and at beer festivals, I have still never, NEVER glimpsed a Magic Rock beer on a handpull in the city.  I have witnessed not a single one of those lovely Magic Rock pumpclips winking at me, as I entered a bar.  Surely, surely this cannot go on for much longer?  Next year’s new batch of Birmingham ‘craft’ pubs must surely right this wrong (surely).