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Asprin, cat piss and getting moist

Beer reviews often baffle me. I was at a CAMRA beer festival looking through the list and one description kept jumping out at me: “…a chewy mouthfeel”.

The other beers were described with self-explanatory words like ‘hoppy’ and ‘coffee’, but chewy?

The drink in question was Orach Slie from Harvieston Brewery in Central Scotland, a 6% variant of Shiehalion and it was easily the nicest ale I’ve tried. But even after sampling it I still have no idea what was chewy about it.

I have this problem a lot. I don’t always know what beer reviews are talking about.

One half of me is envious – I want to understand the descrptions; I want to to be able to sip beers, identify the characteristics and describe them in colourful detail. But the other half of me thinks reviews often border on the ridiculous.

I’ll illustrate my point with excerpts from some recent beer reviews from sites like Beer Advocate and RateBeer. Genius or madness? Make your own mind up.

The strange tastes and smells

I can say in all honesty I’ve never tasted a beer and picked up on any of these obscure flavours or aromas:

“charred Butterpine cone and prairie fire”

“a little aspirin & mango as this warms”

“a twinge of stoney flintiness”

“cooked vegetables”

“a tiny ration of butter in the finish”

Not to mention the two baffling reviews below which (despite appearances) were fairly positive reviews when you read them in their entirety. Who am I to judge?

“…nice pissy dank edge to it.”

“Smells like cabbage, caramel, soap, sweet tea…if you nose it deep you catch some cat piss.”

The storytellers

I love and loathe dramatic reviews in equal measure. You know the ones – the language reads more like a novel than a review. Take these for example:

Butterfly“The peppers are up front but not sticking their stems in my eyes… I haven’t felt this moved by cinnamon in a beer previously; I’m a bit moist.”

“…as it breaks the barrier of your mouth hole…”

“…evades obscurity and reemerges as a deep and dark butterfly.”

“Waves of dark brown streaks within the head took on an alien brain likeness.”

“Taste is hop driven with the grapefruit/floral hop engine pulling the train. Malt and wheat are present in the baggage cars…”

“…it still seems ready to shout at a stout in the way a kitten will still swat the big dog’s nose.

The snobs and dictators

These are the worst. I hate beer aficionados who see everything in black and white and forget beer is a matter for personal taste. There is no right or wrong. There are no beers you HAVE to like or dislike. This beer review sums it up:

“I am amazed that people seriously have the audacity to come on here and hate on this beer.”

I’m more amazed that anyone has the audacity to tell people what they should or shouldn’t like. Rant over!



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