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One, Two, Ten, and Twenty-Four

April 2, 2015

I’m going to keep this short today because I’m a little tired from last night’s Official Yelp Event at Slidin’ Dirty. If you were there, you already know how great it was. If you weren’t there, you’ll be seeing pictures next week, and then you are going to kick yourself for not clearing your schedule.

The turnout was amazing. The food was delicious. The drinks were fabulous. The staff worked their asses off. The owners really got a better sense of the local Yelp community, and got to show off what makes their restaurant super special.

Last night I met a lot of new people, saw some old friends, and had great conversations. I even fell for one of the oldest April Fools’ jokes in the world. It was a ton of fun.

But today’s FLB post isn’t about that. I promised yesterday that today I’d elaborate on the statement, “Just having a few sips of something doesn’t let you fully experience it.” Maybe this is painfully obvious to you, but given the popularity of tasting flights, I thought I’d weigh in on the matter.

Don’t get me wrong, I love tasting flights. Having a few glasses in front of you and being able to go back and forth between several similar beverages really helps to make their differences much more dramatic, and makes subtle nuances a lot more prominent.

Flights can help you taste many of the beers a brewer makes, while reserving your critical capacity. That said, I’m unconvinced someone can claim they like a beer after only tasting it in in a flight. The reverse holds true too. Some great things can taste flat when sampled with more bombastic options.

To know if you really like or dislike a beer, I believe you have to give it a chance. And that means sitting down to at least a full glass of the stuff. That means you are going to spend some time with the liquid in your glass. You’ll see how it develops as the temperature changes. You’ll taste how it evolves. You can explore its depths.

There are some who may argue that to really know a beer you need to spend a lot more time with it than just a single glass. That would give you the chance to try it with very different foods at different times of day, in different moods. I find myself in this camp, and as a result have been buying six-packs (or sometimes four-packs these days) of the beers with which I would like to get better acquainted.

Something you like in small quantities may be less pleasant at the bottom of the 10th ounce. But it works in reverse too. The thin body of a beer when sampled next to a fuller-bodied ale may seem entirely unappealing. But it may be just the thing for Welsh rarebit.

The tasting pour can be instructive. It can help you decide what beer to pursue further. It can also reveal a beer where the realities fall short of the expectations. When I was in a beer bar in Pennsylvania, they had porter with sour cherries in it. It sounded fantastic on paper. What I wasn’t expecting was the aggressive carbonation.

I was expecting something with more weight and body, but all those bubbles really made it an entirely different experience. And a tasting pour told me that. So they aren’t completely without their merits.

Like anything else, beer has opportunity costs. If you want a broad sampling of beers, you’re going to give up on depth. And if you go deep into one beer or one brewery, you’re going to have to sacrifice breadth. Well, most people anyway. I’m continually impressed with the passionate enthusiasts who are able to consume copiously in both directions.

The thing to remember is that this isn’t a race, although mobile apps may make it feel that way sometimes. Take it slow. Commit to a full sized beer every now and again. Maybe by the time you get down to the bottom of the twenty-four ounce bottle, you don’t like it so much anymore. That’s kind of a shame, but it’s a great learning.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 2, 2015 9:39 am

    Beer should not be so worried over. All these attempts to transfer some sort of silly “wine experience” onto beer/cider/etc… are ill advised. Great marketing for the makers of ‘craft’ beer, but ill advised for the consumer. Don’t get me wrong, good beer is serious business and is something I take seriously. But all this nonsense my fellow American’s have got up to in the ‘craft’ beer world is counterproductive. I believe it actually stands in the way of having a real, honest ‘good beer’ culture in our lovely nation.

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