Since the time mankind* has been able to contort grunts into grammar, we have developed the ability, unique amongst all earth’s creatures, to convey complex ideas and intricate, nuanced concepts, feelings and emotions through language.
We have become civilised, we have expanded our horizons – figuratively and literally** – we have shared ideas, conquered hostile environments, tamed the wild, domesticated animals and made the world smaller with every decade. Perhaps most importantly, we have attained a level of evolution whereby we are able to convey, in words others can understand, the joys and pleasures associated with brewing and drinking beer. Language; It’s the cultural equivalent of the opposable thumb.
We, as drinkers, can share with friends and strangers alike, the sweet breadiness of the malt, the smooth mid-palate bitterness as the hops kick in and the bracing thirst-quenching finish as the dry-hopping becomes apparent. We can attach adjectives to the yeast and make phrases like ‘a little bit of wet horse’ make mouths water. We can then expose our feelings, explain the sensations we are experiencing and share experiences.
It seems a little odd, then, to find so many examples of the misuse, abuse and incorrect use of language when it comes to chatting politely about beer. We are all probably familiar with the simile which compares the commonality of opinion to that of a universally-shared part of the human anatomy which allows us all to have an opinion but cautions against us placing undue weight to our own?
Good beer has something its predecessors never had: social media. It might be difficult for some young uns’ to appreciate but there was actually a time – not so long ago – when the release of a new beer was not nearly as instantaneous as it is today. Where, as you read this, you can ‘hit refresh’ and discover a new beer exists, in days gone by a completely separate, task-oriented visit to a website was necessary. Before that you might have waited on a text message from a loyal beer-nerdy friend and before that – if you had the patience of a saint – you could hope for an annual newspaper article.
Today, life is so much easier. We are being constantly apprised of new beers, venues and events and, in turn, we all have the ability to comment on same through websites, blogs and various Social Media platforms. In many cases this has given voice to a raft of beers and beer styles, some much-needed (and very inexpensive) marketing to the brewers and spread the word of good beer. Sadly, in the same way that there are exceptions to every rule, some have not yet grasped the value of the rare privilege they hold in their texting-thumb, smart-phone-holding hands.
Many novice beer drinkers with little worldly experience but plenty of social media savvy seem intent on using the Wide, Wide World of Webs to take cheap shots at ‘brands’ they don’t like, breweries whose beers they don’t rate, people they don’t like and styles that, quite frankly, they know too little about. Comments*** fly thick and fast in a frenzy that does little to promote the cause of good beer but serve mainly to highlight the lack of nous possessed by the author.
“This beer is typical of the crap served up by this brewery since they ‘sold out’”, “This beer tastes crap – I mean, WTF is it supposed to taste like?!!!” “Typical mega-swill bogan beer coz they want to be mainstream”, “This is the most overrated and overhyped beer since the Overhype Brewing Company brought out their Overhype IIPA”, “Defiantly used to make gr8 beers not anymore they contract I think IMHO LOL”.
You get the message.
Not liking a beer is very different to not liking a very competently crafted and perfectly acceptable interpretation of a style that is not your favourite. Of course it helps if you have a broad and varied experience of that style and can also distinguish between, say, a different take on that style and a fermentation or packaging fault in the beer. Either way, what is really to be gained by bagging a beer/brewer/brewery other than to create a stir, activate the chattering commenters or expose your own lack of understanding?
A famous Australian TV host used to sign-off each episode with the pithy but very worthy axiom; “It’s nice to be important – but it’s important to be nice.” There’s an argument for this sentiment to be adopted by bloggers, Twitterers, writers and Facebook users. Let’s all enjoy the beers we like to drink and spend our valuable online time sharing a virtual beer with our real friends.
*By ‘mankind’, of course, I mean ‘everyone’. Not ‘everyone but only those with an X and a Y chromosome’. Some people like to arse-about with language too much.
**By literally, of course, I literally mean ‘actually’ – not literally as in “literally every person who uses the word ‘literally’ when they actually mean ‘often’ or ‘commonly’ should literally be shot with rolled up balls of dictionary pages.”
***None of the comments I have included were made by any individual or group but are a mix-tape of generic instances I have noted over the past 12 months. I may have also taken some poetic licence with spelling and grammar for my own amusement.