How to reach 1,000 Beers: A counterpoint
A response to Nuffield's recent piece
July 25, 2003
Written by ClarkVV
I read quickly and zealously Nuffield’s article, “Reaching 1,000 Ratings” and was impressed. Here is someone who loves good beer, and has the numbers to show. So, you are thinking,
<P>“I love good beer, should I follow his detailed, and well planned out advice? Will this let me hit that 1,000 beer milestone in a timely manner?”
<P>It will most certainly allow you to make it to that daunting 1,000-beer mark, and quickly, but is it the best way to go? That is a completely different question, one to which I would propose a different approach.
<P>A little bit about my credibility. As I write this, I have logged 352 ratings. As to when I’m going to hit 1,000? Who knows. As far as I’m concerned, slow and steady wins the race. But let me qualify this silly catch-phrase. First let me say that I respect what Nuffield is saying. There is no doubt that, following his advice, you will reach 1,000 beers at an above-average pace. But something doesn’t seem right about all of this. Pouring out beer into a water jug? Fighting to reduce the sample size? Refusing to try already-rated-beers on tap?? I was horrified when I read this!!! Sure it serves the purpose of getting ratings down, but wait, what is this site dedicated to? Beer. Drinking, and enjoying beer. Beer was made to be drank, not sipped and poured out. I do all I can to sample as much of a beer as possible before rating it. Let me give you an example. I recently purchased a 12 pack of Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. Being a huge porter fan, I was eagerly awaiting this one (having heard great things about it), especially it being from my home, the Midwest. Did I have to buy a 12 pack to rate it? Of course not, I could have simply bought one 12 ounce bottle. And then the actual rating of it. I will probably not rate this beer until after I have drank nine or ten of them. Why? I firmly believe, THE MORE OF A BEER YOU HAVE TRIED, THE MORE ACCURATELY YOU CAN RATE IT. I can’t stress this enough. To dig myself in to the trenches on this topic let me make this next statement. If one goes about rating beer, quickly, by small sips and with an aim to get as many beers rated in as short of a time as possible, they have missed out on the joys of drinking beer and arrived at a quantity over quality mindset. Let me avail myself of attempting to crucify Nuffield. I am not. He even states,
<P>“<U>Though I personally do not subscribe to this approach</u>, if you are truly ruthless, you will rate beers on the basis of a sip.”
<P> I am, however, attempting to show that this ruthlessness he speaks of, is folly. When discussing beer with someone, I greatly enjoy being able to recall and describe a beer, with wonderful detail, when it is mentioned. Many people I speak with say something to the effect of,
<P>“Yeah, that is a pretty good beer from what I can recall, I don’t know, though I’m pretty fuzzy, I’d have to pull out my notes to really see what I think about it.”
<P>And sure, it’s understandable that if you are rating 20 beers per week and only taking a sip of each of them, you are not going to have much to say about each of them, months or even years from now. What made me even more alarmed was Nuffield’s comment,
<P>“And never, never drink a beer you’ve already rated just because it is on tap.”
<P>Wow, for the love of beer, please don’t follow this advice!! There is nothing I enjoy more than trying a beer on its own turf; the way it is meant to be served (in it’s own brewery, own state, on tap, on cask, etc. . .). Sure some beers are better in the bottle than on tap, but on tap adds an element of freshness and clarity, often times, which can make you rethink your ratings. I will almost always take a fresh, lesser-known beer on tap, over a more famous, bottled beer. Why? Again, because it adds to the experience of drinking beer. It tastes fresh, gives me a new perspective and I know that I am improving my overall knowledge of the beer.
<P>What knowledge can one gain taking a sip of beer, or even a few sips of a beer? Not enough, in my opinion. Beer is a dynamic thing. The few sips you take may be of a skunked beer, it may be with the wrong food, you may be drinking it at the wrong temperature, you may even be drinking it at a temperature at which you dislike the beer, and would otherwise rate it higher. These are only a few of the problems that stem from this approach. Now, how about pouring your beer into a jug and dishing it out to your friends? Nonsense! Drink all of that barley wine damn it! They didn’t make it three times the alcohol so that you could drink 1/3 of the beer! The huge alcohol, and high gravity of this beer, (and the experience of drinking the whole thing) is all part of rating the beer. Did it get too cloying towards the end? You certainly wouldn’t know if you only had one sip. That is exactly what I am saying when I say it’s all part of the experience. It’s not about being able to say,
<P>“I have sipped 4,000 beers! And you, you lowly Ratebeerian! You have only had 1,000.”
<P>If it came down to it, I would put more faith in the person who has tried 1,000 beers, but had each of those 1,000 beers four times, than in the person who has tried 4,000 beers but had only 2 ounces of each. As for the argument that a high numbers of ratings means better knowledge, again, I disagree. To some extent ratings make a difference. I would argue that there is a huge increase in knowledge of a particular style from your first to fifth samples of that style. From five on, it decreases exponentially (Does your 26th I.P.A. really make you that much more knowledgeable about IPA than your 25th?).
<P>So to all you new Ratebeerians, don’t get too caught up in the numbers. Seek out new beers, strive to try new styles, and if you happen to take a sip of the best Belgian Strong you’ve ever had, and decide to have a few more sips, and a few more sips . . . . . .and a few more sips, don’t worry if your slight overindulgence caused you to only rate 8 beers that week instead of 15. You got more out of that experience than someone who just took a sip and poured the rest out. In the end, think back to when your mom said,
<P>“FINISH YOUR DINNER OR NO DESSERT!” then remember what I am saying,
“FINISH YOUR BEER, OR NO RATING!!!!!”
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If one goes about rating beer, quickly, by small sips and with an aim to get as many beers rated in as short of a time as possible, they have missed out on the joys of drinking beer.
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