Trying a beer for the first time is an exciting experience. The color of the beer, the carbonation rising up, the aromas, textures and flavors are all unique and have their own personalities. Sometimes it’s hard to fully appreciate these traits if you have preconceived notions. Reading a review before trying a beer can sometimes cause this to happen, but can it also ruin the entire drinking experience?
Since craft beer gained popularity, websites like BeerAdvocate and Rate Beer have become the voices of craft beer. They allow beer drinkers to grade and review the beers they try and give each and every person a chance to be a beer connoisseur. In this format, people’s opinions matter and, although there are also “expert opinions” on these sites, average drinkers can be heard.
Staying away from reviews when you have a new beer in the fridge is hard. You want to know what other people thought of it and what you are getting yourself into once you crack it open. The only problem is that after you have read several reviews your mind starts to absorb the information and by the time you open the beer you know what to expect. If I read that someone tasted or smelled citrus in a certain hefeweizen, I most likely will too. The flavors become less unique and although the beer may be amazing, it could have been a better experience if the senses were left to do their own job, unaltered by someone else’s opinion.
It’s also very difficult to know whether a review is “telling the truth.” Every single person has a different palate and different preferences. Some like incredibly hoppy beers whereas others enjoy malty sweetness. Hopefully the reviews you read will give you an indication of the author’s preference and you can find one that fits your own.
People sharing their opinions is important to the craft beer movement. It creates a community of beer drinkers and anyone can express their love or dislike for certain beers. This creates a fantastic conversation and dynamic within the craft beer world and gives people a chance to understand that everyone has a different palate. I see less bickering about craft beer than I do about anything else.
Reviews can also act as important buying tools when deciding between beers at your local market. Craft beer is significantly more expensive than the mainstream brands (a Budweiser six-pack is priced around $10, whereas only a four-pack of 90 Minute IPA by Dogfish Head is the same amount) and a little due diligence may help in making the proper purchase. Finding the right beer to try is important and no one wants to walk home with a six-pack of buyer’s remorse.
I believe that the positives of reading reviews outweigh the negatives and if beer drinkers use them to help guide their purchases they can be a great tool. Reviewing is a necessary and important component to craft beer. Everyone has an opinion about the beer they drink and often feel the need to share it with the world. This sharing is a great thing for craft beer and creates an open conversation between drinkers. But if you’re reading a review on a beer you’ve never tried take it with a grain of salt, as one person’s opinion doesn’t speak for the collective. Try to find people that share your preferences and read their reviews. Also, start keeping a log or journal of the different beers you tried and liked (or disliked). It’s important to be able to understand your own palate. If you want to have a “true beer experience” simply avoid the reviews but understand that people’s opinions are here to stay.
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