Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Over Analysis Syndrome

Over at Brewvana (what, you haven't seen this blog yet?-you should put it on your regular beer reading agenda-it's insightful, perceptive and aimed in the right direction), J. Wilson taps into a HUGE theme which I see running rampant in the craft beer community, that of over analyzing beer, breweries, and the craft beer world. His post was prompted by one of his past posts entitled, Arm Chair brewer (make sure you read to the bottom where you are supposed to contact a brewer and tell them thanks ;) )and also a thread on roughly about the same thing. I certainly can't state it as eloquently as he, but I will touch on a few points.

First of all, we, the craft beer community, have started this crazy snowball rolling and it's hard to slow it down. (So don't get all crazy thinkin' I'm hatin' on all those we lovingly refer to as beer geeks-I'm one too! and I just blamed myself here). What I mean is that craft beer makers and fans alike have asked new converts to the wonders of beer to actually taste the beer, and smell the beer, and experience the beer. And then asked them to talk about the beer and discuss the beer. This is a major juxtaposition to normal behavior found in most swill beer drinking people. No, in many a beer drinking circle, people aren't ASKED what they THINK of the beer. They just ask about the funny commercial where the horse farts right at the crusty proper people in the buggy (that was funny though). So, going back to those who we DO ask their opinions on the beer, just talking got boring and beer websites with ratings and forums started popping up and what began as a little critiques, discussions, ratings and rants turned in to a whole new monster of it's own(BTW, IMO this monster of a beer rating sites is great in many ways-free marketing for one and a great exchange of thoughts ideas and experiences.) Suddenly, with the help of the exploding craft beer thing, people want more, expect more, and seem to be getting more. But the question is, are we over analyzing it all? Are we taking beer drinking, which is supposed to be a release and and relaxed pastime, too seriously. In the end, will it lead to stress, anxiety, and a possible deep seeded hatred of all things beer? Well, maybe not that far, but here's your little quiz that might help you diagnose your own symptoms:

1) Do you get angry if a beer tastes different than the first time you had it? (remember,it's diversity that turned you on to craft beer in the first place)

2) Do you exceed the speed limit to get home to rate the beer you drank at a pub because your laptop battery died?

3) Do you stay up late at night agonizing over how to make a homebrew clone the latest Award Winning small craft brewery X's beer?

4) Did you lose a friend this year because you said SNPA was so yesterday?

5) Do you only drink a beer once and then move on to the next one?

6) Have you considered picketing your local distributer because they won't carry your favorite craft beer?

7) Did you consider boycotting that brewer who won't make the Imperial Double Mocha Triple Stout a year round offering?

8) Did you spend more money traveling this year for beer than with your family?

9) Do you read beer websites and blogs before you pick up the daily paper? (whoops, guilty)

10) Do you REALLY fantasize about dropping that CPA from your name and becoming a brewer? (ok, that one's not SO bad)

If you said yes to most of these questions, I'll bet you are suffering from what J. Wilson has light heartedly dubbed "Over Analysis Syndrome". And the cure, in which we've learned so long ago from Charlie P.-Don't worry and relax and have a beer. It is just beer you know. I'm lucky I get to make it for you, but I make it to help enhance your life, not turn you into a twisted mess.

Relax and raise a glass. Now, do you feel any better?


Bob said...

The whole appreciation of craft beer has sadly turned into a Frankenstein monster. Everyone's an expert.

What particularly galls me is a beer drinker/critic who "analyzes" a beer, usually with all its "faults" and then has to immediately post on ratebeer or beeradvocate to roundly criticize the beer because it doesn't meet the artificial style guidelines created by a bunch of geeks from Colorado.

Here you have a brewer who has put himself in debt or near debt, worked hard to create a decent product and taken a substantial business risk, only to have some geek post a negative review, using all the tired buzz words, most that he really doesn't understand, but it makes him feel better to slam the product because, after all, he knows.

What about the brewer, brewery personnel or pub owner who has worked hard to get where he is, only to be chastised by a guy who took a 2-day course in beer styles and now can pontificate because of his vast wealth of knowledge?

Hey Mr. Beer Expert. Why not walk in the shoes of the people behind the creation of that beer you don't like, that doesn't meet the high criteria of your "expert" status as a beer critic, ignoring the most important fact of beer enjoyment---taste is subjective.

Of course, when a certain group makes sweeping pronouncements that suddenly, well-established breweries are no longer considered "craft" beer operations because they hooked up with A-B or Miller for better distribution or took a cash infusion for more capacity, that only helps to foster another form of "over analysis syndrome," beer snobism.

It's not the craft brewers who are causing this ugly part of the industry, it's certain elements of self-serving trade organizations and some beer writers and hanger-ons who promote this stupidity---this snobism, this elitism.

You don't like a beer...maybe I do, but you don't have to make critical grand prouncements and start posting negative reviews as though you know more than the guy who's put his money where his mouth is.

BrewerM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Beware of over-analyzing the over-analysis. A lot of the rating (or note-taking, or whatever) is done in good fun, and it's done to amplify the enjoyment of beer rather than detract from it. Nobody appreciates brewers more than beer drinkers.

And you don't have to "walk in the shoes" of a brewer to know whether or not you like a beer -- or even to analyze what you do and don't like about it. If you are producing and selling a beer, are you not asking the public what it thinks of your creation?

One more point: As the cost of beer goes up, it's nice to have sites where you can read lots of people's opinions to help inform your decision as a consumer.

Anonymous said...

Bob, I guess you don't appreciate criticism in anything then. You'll buy crappy video games because you don't trust your friends. You won't rip Gigli because, well, a lot of people worked hard and paid a lot of money to make that movie.

And don't forget to give your compliments to the chef at that shitty new restaurant that just opened. I mean, that guy probably sunk a ton of money too, and is also probably in debt. If you ate a terrible meal there, would you not tell your friends not to go?

You only treat beer differently because you know the product and the people behind it more personally. And maybe it's a real nice crowd that gets along well. That doesn't change anything, though. It's still no different than anything else, and it is hypocritical and wrong for you to chastise its critics just because you know a few folks behind the scenes. Come down off your high horse, it's not so bad down here.

Stonch said...

I can honestly say I wouldn't answer yes to a single one of those questions (the last one just confused me as I don't know what "CPA" means, however).

Does that mean I'm not really into beer after all?

Anonymous said...

I'm not a beer expert, but I know what I like. It has nothing to do with how well the beer was made or how much debt was endured to make it. I just like some beers and especially beer styles better than others.

Or does it take an true expert to have an opinion of if they like something or not?

Unknown said...

Brewing is a creative endeavor.

Movie directors, actors, architects, authors and artists all learn to deal with their critics.

Brewers should sift through the criticism to find the constructive criticism that helps them improve, instead of being defensive. Yes, there are ignorant critics, and most of them can be safely ignored. Becoming defensive just signals to me some insecurity...

Anonymous said...

Well i can only speak for what i see on Ratebeer, and people do not just log on to trash a beer. People log on and rate a beer, how they see it. As a purly personal opinion. Good or Bad, and if some one does log in just to trash a Brewery, any time ive seen that happen the ratings are pretty promptly deleted. I dont think you'll find many rating that gets personal or nasty. Yeah some times some one doesnt like a beer, but so what Bud scores poorly amongst beers geeks (it still seems to sell quite well). Craig

Lew Bryson said...

Is it just as bad if I lose a friend because THEY said Sierra Nevada was so yesterday?