View Full Version : Are You Tasting the Pith? - Beer Is A Continuum (or The Bell-Curve of Style vs Consum

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09-06-2012, 22:03
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I wasn't born in a mash tun. I wasn't bottle-fed wort when I was a nipper. I've learned to love beer, the same as everyone else, although I did it back-to-front compared to most. I cut my teeth on real ale, and didn't drink lager for the first 10 years of my drinking career. There are some styles I still struggle with, and although I may acquire a taste for them later in life, being in my 40s makes that unlikely. There are some styles that I've grown bored with - I still LIKE huge barrel-aged beers occasionally, but these form a tiny part of my drinking repertoire these days.

For everyone immersed in the beer world - and readers of this blog are mostly that, rather than casual passing traffic - there is a particular segment of the market that we like to drink. Chris Mair touches on that in this post (http://wortnall.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/exciting-edinburgh.html), so there's no need for me to reiterate it. I agree with his sentiments. And as I'm sure I've said before, there is a tendency for any group centred around a communal interest - food, technology, lifestyle - to assume that they are the peak of sophistication for any given phenomenon. It's called having an opinion, and it's a human trait.

But one thing that I'm really keen to stress is that we're in a niche. If the world of beer is a pint, we're probably no more than the head on it, if that. And at the risk of being branded again as "cheery-beery", someone is drinking all of that other beer and enjoying it. You can take the view that all that beer is being drunk for want of an informed alternative, and in my experience this is true in about half of the cases. Most people don't have the information and experience available to them to make the leap to something difference. That's my experience from 10 years of retailing, and I was unsurprised to see Young Dredge reflecting that in a recent post (http://www.pencilandspoon.com/2012/06/pint-please.html).

OK, I'm rambling a bit. What prompted this train of thought was the comment on my previous blog about Mikkeller Not Just Another Wit being a witbier with "everything turned up to 11". It prompted a response from Jon at Stringers asking if that was what we wanted in a beer (http://thebeerboy.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/witbier-mikkeller-not-just-another-wit.html?showComment=1339241534096#c45159200615487 08370).

And my response to that is, of course we do, but that's not the only thing we want. I want all the options to be available to me, all the time. I want anything from a pint of Carling or Carlsberg (I'd guess I only drink those a few times a year) to a monumental barrel-aged barley wine or tart lambic (which, equally, I only drink a few times a year). Those are my outliers which frame the bell curve of my consumption. The existence of those outliers doesn't threaten what's in the middle. And in the style of Boak & Bailey (http://boakandbailey.com/), I've prepared a graph to illustrate that idea:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-9cuspXG20_c/T9PEyUtGsgI/AAAAAAAAAKQ/4QR5xTPVkR8/s640/My-Bell-Curve.GIF (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-9cuspXG20_c/T9PEyUtGsgI/AAAAAAAAAKQ/4QR5xTPVkR8/s1600/My-Bell-Curve.GIF)


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