Drink Magazine

What Smells in Here? A Few Words on … The ‘Bullshit’ of Beer Reviews

By Bryan Roth @bryandroth

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While beer thrives best in social settings, it’s still a very personal thing.

Whether it’s a pint with friends or unwinding alone at home, enjoyment of beer comes down to the individual. What do they like? What do they feel like drinking at that moment?

But what happens when a beer lover takes the next step – evangelizing the drink they love so much? I’m talking about the beer review.

Eric at Focus on the Beer posed the question last week: are beer reviews bullshit?

Maybe? Maybe not.

I have offered many beer reviews on this site, mostly because as a beer lover, I want other beer drinkers (not necessarily “beer lovers”) to have the best experience possible. I provide reviews in the hope that my subjective taste and/or opinion carries enough weight and description to offer a path to enjoyment for someone else.

After all, customer reviews have the largest impact on consumer behavior by a “considerable margin.” They also serve a psychological interest of consumers who actively seek information from an opinion leader. (There are many more esteemed “opinion leaders” than I, but I just love talking about beer…)

If a reviewer is able to break down barriers or at least set expectations prior to someone spending money on a brew, that could be a good thing. But I also wonder, do the thoughts of Beer Drinker A then influence Beer Drinker B’s experience?

Maybe it doesn’t matter.

One of the things I love about beer is that you don’t need to know anything about it to enjoy it. Yes, I can go on and on about malt bills and hops, but that information isn’t necessary to know if something just tastes good.

Ultimately, the beer review is an attempt to open things up for people. It’s about demystifying the idea that craft beer is fancy and you have to know something about it to really expand your palate and try all sorts of brews. Even more important – you don’t have to know a damned thing about craft beer to enjoy it.

It may seem ironic, but I feel beer reviews are (sometimes) an attempt to break down a barrier of snobbery between beer lovers and those who just want to find a tasty beer. It’s fun to share our passion. That’s part of being a beer person, but also a natural part of writing about it.

… and as Oliver over at Literature & Libation points out, like our personal tastes, a beer review can be more than numbers and nuance:

Don’t be so caught up in what people expect from a review. If you want to write about the hop characteristics because that’s just your thing, go for it. If you want to write about a memory that this beer brought surging back to the front of your brain, by all means. If you’re like me, and you want to write a story based on the taste and appearance of the beer, don’t let anyone stop you.

Beer is personal, as our the stories we tell. Maybe beer reviews are just a way of bridging the two.

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac


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