1) When it comes to beer tasting, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. If you try a beer knowing it comes from a loved brewery you’ll likely respond more favourably than you would if you can see the label and it says it comes from, say, the Woolworths brewing arm. Even though it’s the same beer. That’s why blind beer tastings so often throw up a few surprises, because beers are being graded purely on taste and not whether they come from a “cool” brewery.
2) Similarly, knowing what style a beer is can colour your impressions of it. Give someone a pale ale but tell them it’s an IPA and they’ll be disappointed. But hand it to them and say it’s a pale ale then the result may well be quite different. Even though it’s the same beer. That’s because knowing the beer style causes us to set our expectations accordingly. We judge it on how close it comes to style rather than if it’s a good beer.
3) Also, knowing the style allows those of us reviewing the beer to cheat a little. If we know it’s an IPA with lots of Galaxy, for instance, we can refer to “fruit bowl flavours” without really thinking about the flavours. And describing flavours is hard. I’ve heard it said that the sections of the brain responsible for taste and knowledge aren’t well-connected, so while we can find a taste in a beer we recognise, trying to access the knowledge section to work out what that taste is can be tricky.
4) Which is why I always like beers that don’t write their style clearly on the packaging. Sixpoint Brewery is a great example of this – check out their cans. They don’t write the style on them anywhere. Though I think they now put it on the boxes, which is a bit disappointing.
5) New business Collins Street Brewing Company is doing something similar with their first beer. It’s tagged as an “Urban Ale” – whatever that means. So it’s left up to me to work out what this is – though, with the benefit of hindsight, the name “Once Bitter” really should have tipped me off. But it didn’t, so I am pleased that I figured it was an ESB with its toffee-biscuit malt up front and perhaps a hint of marmalade sweetness. But there’s also a hint of some pale ale characters, because of some fruit tones brought on because it’s more highly hopped than most ESBs. It’s a good beer. And, BTW, I like the city skyline they’ve placed over the bar code on the back label.
Free or Paid For?: Free – the Brewers sent me a four-pack.
Categories: Beer of the Week