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Saturday, 31 October 2015

A matter of taste

I've been a bit under the weather over the last 7 or 8 weeks: it's nothing serious, only my recurring sinus trouble accompanied on this occasion by a particularly nasty dose of conjunctivitis that has taken three courses to clear up (at least, I'm hoping it's cleared up). I don't have a very strong sense of smell at the best of times, but I have noticed on occasion recently that when I can't breathe through my nose at all, beer is either almost tasteless or actually unpleasant. I hadn't realised precisely how important even my limited sense of smell was to the flavour of beer.

I've sometimes taken the mickey out of some tasting notes (and doubtless will again) when they are excessively florid in their descriptions of the smell and taste of beer, but I have to accept that some drinkers will inevitably sense more from their pint than I can. This is not news, of course, as we all sense things differently from each other - obviously - because otherwise we'd all tend to have very similar preferences, and clearly we do not. To give a personal example relating to food, I loathe fish and seafood - in fact, the sight of the latter makes me feel queasy - to the extent that I cannot understand how people can put something that tastes so vile in their mouths. But as they do, they must taste fish and seafood very differently from me. Logically, the same applies to beer.

I draw a few conclusions from all of this:
  • Tasting notes only have value if you sense beers in a similar way to the person who wrote them.
  • The view of certain diehard CAMRA dinosaurs that, if you can only get people to try real ale, they'll be converted and never touch keg or smooth again, is misconceived.
  • Beer competitions that are based on panels of experts are of little real value.
Overall, though, vive la diffĂ©rence: the beer world would be much more limited and boring if we all had similar tastes.

1 comment:

  1. Yeh, I’ve read a few things that to a degree are about how many taste buds you have, that determine whether you prefer bitter or sweet tastes and thus determines preference.

    What is interesting is how this changes over time. There are foods I enjoy as an adult I didn’t as a child. Seafood being a case in point alongside tomatoes. It might be the flavour or maybe less queasiness over texture. I always liked ketchup and fish fingers.

    I enjoy bitter beer to a degree I didn’t as an underage drinker. When I drink a vimto cordial I know prefer it weaker/waterier than I did as a child. Whether this is because taste buds die, I don’t know.

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