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Oakes Weekly - August 7, 2003
Do you like rants?
August 6, 2003
Written by Oakes
A lot of little things this week so I’ll get right to it.
<P>First up – awards. I think that most awards in the brewing business are crap. You’ve all seen the mediocre pale lagers with award medals on their labels from some competition or another (sometimes from 100 years ago!). You’ve all seen awards dished out to every macrobrew under the sun. You’ve seen ones where it seems like everybody who enters gets a medal. And I’m sure you’ve come across the odd couple where the judges aren’t even knowledgeable beer drinkers.
<P>Unibroue was boasting on their website about how they won Brewer of the Year at the Canadian Brewing Awards. Yippee, guys. You won six medals in a contest where over 50% of the entries won medals, and only 2 of 7 judges know what a hop is. Who cares? Never give any credence to an award until you know where it came from. You know that Ratebeer is the real thing. We’ve got the experienced beer lovers who know the product, and we cover the world better than anybody else. There are other resources out there that will not steer you wrong either, but there are fewer of these than you think. Be wary about where you get your beer advice from – just because it’s in a book or magazine, or a competition has a fancy-sounding name or pedigree, does not mean that the results therein are worth a damn.
<P>Which leads me to the Champion Beer of Britain. Some of the previous winners of this award are quite good – Landlord and Chiswick especially. But too many times you see good, but not great, beers winning. This year’s winner, Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted, is a nice beer and well worth drinking, but I can’t imagine that it’s the best in Britain. Have the tasting panels gone soft? Deuchar’s IPA, last year’s winner, is even more underwhelming. They need to get some hardcore tasters on the panel next year (I’ll volunteer my services now) and put a killer beer like Cain’s Mild or Smiles Best at the top of the chart. Or better yet, a big, bold stout or strong ale. I know these are reserved for the Winter Beer Festival in Manchester, but if they’re the best, then they’re the best.
<P>Another thing which caught my eye from the GBBF this week was the statement by CAMRA that English brewers should focus more on developing product for the female drinker. My question is – why? First, I’m not entirely sure what they mean. Around here, you have “chick beer” like Mill Street Organic Lager (basically Coors Light in a tiny little bottle not big enough to pour in a thimble, but costing the same as a 12oz bottle), or KLB Raspberry Wheat. Who needs that? I don’t believe in dumbing beer down to appeal to any segment of the market. I’d rather convert people with Aventinus, St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout or Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen than some dainty, fruity beer served in small portions. The people you want to attract to beer are people predisposed to trying new things, and enjoying sophisticated flavours. Attracting macro drinkers with equally bland pale lagers or golden ales, or seeking out female drinkers with fruit beers may boost sales (or maybe not – see Black Oak Lager), but it does nothing for the cause of good beer. Dumbing down your product cheapens it. This is what the big guys do, and quite frankly they do it well. Celebrate beer by turning out high-quality, full-flavoured product. By showing some balls (if you will), you’ll probably find that a lot of macro drinkers and a lot of women like stouts and porters, because they like coffee and chocolate! Or rauchbiers, because they like smoked meats and cheeses. Or saisons, because they like complex, funky flavours. But they might never know this if all they’re fed are bland and fruited products.
<P>Speakings of women drinking beer, for the long weekend last weekend, my girlfriend decided to drink animal beers. So Tiger, Kingfisher, Dogfish Head, Colt 45, Mongoose – quite a variety really. I was obliged to help out a bit, and decided to re-rate some of these. I know that Tiger was one of the first 100 beers I’ve had, and probably haven’t had it since. Ditto Kingfisher (well, I’ve had it since a few times but only after a plate of vindaloo so I wasn’t about to rate it then).
<P>It got me thinking about what the statute of limitations on a rating was. I mean, Kingfisher seemed better than I pegged it before. Tiger seemed much worse. So clearly eight or ten years is far too long for a rating’s validity. What about five years? I’ve amazed myself in the past with beers that I re-rate for the first time in five years and my notes are pretty much the same. I’m also amazed that beers I tasted at a festival usually get the same rating when I try them on their own by the bottle later on. Granted, the notes are usually better the second time round, but the rating doesn’t seem to change much. So at least I know whether or not a beer is any good, even if I’m not in prime condition when tasting. That is a valuable piece of information, in part because it allows to me keep a mental list of beers that I thought were quite good but didn’t get optimal notes on. That makes re-rating a little more focused.
<P>My methodology for re-rating doesn’t change very much. The big thing is that I never look at my previous notes ahead of time. I don’t want to be influenced any more than I already am by the previous experiences with a given beer. Thankfully, I don’t have too many qualms about changing a rating dramatically if need be. The big qualm would be that the beer probably requires an independent third sample, from a different batch, before I’d want to give a beer a big downgrade. Strangely enough, nobody seems to question the validity of a big upgrade the way they do a big downgrade.
<P>At any rate, I would argue that any time you find a beer that you feel your rating does not do proper justice to, don’t be afraid to re-rate it. It contributes to a better site, and enhances your knowledge.
<P>Another thing which has pissed me off lately is the propensity of newspaper editors to allow people to write about beer who clearly know nothing about the subject. I think the editors of the Boston Globe, Toronto Star and Globe & Mail are incompetent. The Globe’s incompetence has been amply demonstrated by allowing brain-dead bimbo Leah MacLaren to write anything for their paper, much less a weekly column, much less one about a pub (that happens to be Michael Jackson’s local, as he wrote in a recent issue of All About Beer). The following two articles appeared in the other papers this week. Neither writer has any business writing about beer. While the author of the Boston article has a tin palate (Cantillon is sweeter than champagne?) and shouldn’t be allowed to so much as hold an opinion, much less write, about food and drink, the Toronto one is even worse. The worst Oakes Weekly makes that gibberish look like it was written by a cat. As a beer piece, it is atrocious. As a business piece, I would have been embarrassed to turn that in for my first-year marketing course.
<P>Newspaper editors – get your heads out of your asses, please. Make sure your writers know something about their subject matter. It makes me wonder how much else of what appears in your papers has been pulled randomly out of someone’s ass. We don’t write about crime and politics here at Ratebeer, so why are you dipshits writing about beer?
<P><P>Lastly, here is a recipe of mine to be appearing on the site soon. I have a couple other killer recipes I’ll be adding as well over the next couple of weeks. Enjoy!
1 bottle witbier
4 green onions
4 sticks lemongrass
<P>1. Chop lemongrass and green onion
2. Place trout in cooking dish
3. Add witbier (I usually use a 750ml of Blanche de Chambly, but a 12oz bottle might work just as well)
4. Add lemongrass and green onion, let soak for three hours in the fridge
5. Bake at 400F for 20-30 minutes (depending on size of trout) with all of the ingredients still in the dish.
<P><P>Hilpeä Hauki is the name of a beer bar in Helsinki. The name means “The Happy Trout”, and it is quite evident that whatever trout is given the treatment in this recipe will be very happy indeed.
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I’d rather convert people with Aventinus, St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout or Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen than some dainty, fruity beer served in small portions.
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