The paradox of experience

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by draheim, Jan 28, 2013.

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  1. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,431) Sep 18, 2010 Washington
    Beer Trader

    With tasting beer, as with most other things of a sensory nature, it seems that the deeper and broader your experience level, the more critical and difficult to please you naturally become. The more different beers you've tasted, and especially if you're making an effort to evaluate them critically within the parameters of "style," the harder it is to really enjoy most of them. Their flaws become more pronounced, their positive qualities eclipsed by shortcomings. Just as a film critic will pan most movies as pedestrian tripe, or a food critic will slam restaurants that most people would enjoy, a beer connoisseur will see every beer he drinks through the lens of his/her aggregate experience, and will naturally find most of them wanting. I think the most experienced aficionados on BA are more likely to trash a beer that most noobs think is very good.

    So here's the question. Is this inevitable? Are the beer "experts" still actually enjoying the beer they drink, or do they constantly have to go to greater lengths, expense, and effort to find beer that's worthy of their advanced palates? Can you still just enjoy a beer for what it is, without judging it against every other beer you've ever tasted? Once you're at the top of the mountain, can you only look down? Or is there no top of the mountain?

  2. CityofBals

    CityofBals Initiate (0) Sep 12, 2012 Illinois

    I don't know. I just drink because of the feel.
    bryanole27 likes this.
  3. Northlax3

    Northlax3 Initiate (85) Aug 19, 2012 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Well, in the last year, as well as over this winter, I've had a ton of huge stouts, barleywines, double IPAs, and other big beers. But I still love me some Victory Headwaters Pale Ale. There is a time and place for most styles, and when I'm in the mood for a pale ale, which I still am regularly, nothing hits the spot like a fresh Headwaters.

    I also have probably drank more Yuengling than any other single beer, and will continue drinking it a ton.
  4. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,113) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    You asked a lot of intriguing questions to which I don’t have any ‘good’ answers.

    Below is a post I made in a past thread which relates to this discussion:

    “Firstly let me provide the caveat that I am not a certified beer judge.

    It seems to me that “training and process of judging” can be a double edged sword. One aspect of judging beer (whether it be homebrewed or commercially brewed) is to ‘look’ for “technical flaws” (as was mentioned in hopfenunmaltz’s post). Even though I do not have “training” I often find myself judging while I drink a beer (as part of my beer appreciation). So, last evening I ordered a Dark Horse One Oatmeal Stout Ale. I like Oatmeal Stouts (I homebrew two batches a year). As I was drinking this beer I took note of a ‘sour tinge’; it was not real evident but it was there. Overall the beer was tasty but I just couldn’t get over this taste (which I would personally judge to be a “technical flaw”). About midway through the pint my wife asked: “What do you think about your beer”. I then went on to say that overall it was a very good beer but that the sour tinge bothered me. My wife offered to switch beers (she had an Ithaca Flower Power which was absolutely yummy). She happy finished the Dark Horse Oatmeal Stout while I finished the Flower Power.

    I must confess that there is a part of me that wishes I could ‘get over’ things like a slight sour tinge in an overall tasty beer.”

  5. ThirstyFace

    ThirstyFace Initiate (0) Jan 11, 2013 New York

    I'm not like this. I will drink a BCBS in the evening that I drink a Sam Adams Irish Red. Likewise, I'll indulge in some some Olivia Tremor Control then follow it up with Cheap Trick.

    It's important to not become an insatiable asshole.
    dennis3951, Kaz646, albertq17 and 7 others like this.
  6. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,035) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    IMO the real paradox is that ticking an extremely large number of beer samples is somehow equated with having a high level of experience or expertise. This belief -- which seems endemic here -- never ceases to amaze me.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: there simply is no substitute for traveling to the world's great brewing nations and drinking their beers in the original setting. Since my first year abroad in 1993, I've returned to these places as frequently as I could afford to and have never once felt the slightest desire to trash even the most readily available artisanal beers.
  7. leedorham

    leedorham Crusader (701) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    I am by no means an expert, but I've consumed a diverse range of fine craft beer and homebrew at ~100gal/yr pace for a good many years now and still enjoy it immensely. Sure, those "wow" moments are fewer and farther between, but it's not like I'm saying "meh" every time either.
  8. Longstaff

    Longstaff Initiate (0) May 23, 2002 Massachusetts

    I can only speak for myself - but the more experience I have, the less I experiment with new to me beers and the more I stick with the ones I know will satisfy my desires at the time. I have to say that I am enjoying beer much more now than I did during my discovery phase - 1. I drink less clunkers and mediocre beer 2. I appreciate the beers I do drink for what they offer not so much for a "new" experience. 3. I am happy to drink the same (one or two) beer(s) all night instead of worrying about what's next. 4. More focus on the experience and those around you instead of hyper focusing on the beer itself. 5. And most importantly, a lot less worrying/dreaming about the beers you can't get. Not chasing the "latest/greatest" is much more relaxing and satisfying imo.
  9. Gassygunslinger

    Gassygunslinger Initiate (23) Dec 20, 2012 Maine

    Don't forget, as your palate expands, the range of beer that you will enjoy contracts in some areas, but expands in others. Something you might have spat out as an early beer drinker, might be something just extreme enough to get you excited as an experienced beer drinker. Though I would say that the mid-range between expert and noob is where you'll find the most enjoyment out of the widest range of beer.

    That being said, sometimes you want something easy to drink, and quaffable. You can't always have filet mignon, and sometimes you just want a fricken burger.
    thecraftculture, MEW, LeRose and 3 others like this.
  10. JuicesFlowing

    JuicesFlowing Poo-Bah (2,078) Jul 5, 2009 Kansas

    I enjoy almost every beer I drink, because I just love beer. I can still be critical and objective while reviewing a beer and enjoy it even if its technically not as "good" as other beers. If you're seriously enjoying beer less the more you drink it, I'd seek out another hobby.
  11. beerborn

    beerborn Initiate (0) Jan 22, 2012 Georgia

    I can see the feeling your getting, but in my experience this mostly always happens to me during the winter season. A lot of great, top notch beers, that are my personal favorites seem to come out during the chilly months of the year. Naturally I opt for those every time I can, by the time February and March hit, boom I think I've exhausted good beer. But then a magical thing called summer and the sun happen and I switch styles completely, making even previously had beers seem new again.

    Its a rough life drinking beer, but there's always a beer to make me happy about it.
  12. Gassygunslinger

    Gassygunslinger Initiate (23) Dec 20, 2012 Maine

    The point was that you get one at a cheap burger joint, and the other you get at a classy establishment. One might be made from mass-produced paddies from cheap ingrediants and put together by a 16 year old frycook who hates his life right about now, the other made by a well trained professional who loves his craft and is intent on quality over quantity.

    The spices aren't really the issue :slight_smile:

    (EDIT: Not sure if the post that I'm replying to is still here... Oh well)
  13. stealth

    stealth Zealot (507) Dec 16, 2011 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    I find myself enjoying a broader array of brews as I try more and more. My palate has improved, and thus the styles I appreciate have grown immensely. I do notice that beers I thought were extreme in the past are no longer such (ie: Guinness was such a dark, heavy extreme brew when I first started into craft beers), but I still enjoy and appreciate them. I've never found a beer I found to be great or good in the past, fall into 'bad' or 'unappreciable' down the road just because I've had better beers.
  14. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,431) Sep 18, 2010 Washington
    Beer Trader

    I think this is more or less where I am and would like to remain. I'm not especially impressed by a beer that is tongue-scouringly bitter or sour as vinegar; but one that manages both complexity and balance will usually get my attention. I didn't want to focus too much of the discussion on the "technical" side or "style," but thought I should at least mention it in a thread about evaluating beer. I can't give concrete examples, but it still seems like the more critical comments about various beers come from either the noobs, who think every IPA is too bitter, or the connoisseurs, who seem to be very hard to please (perhaps understandably). That's why this strikes me as sort of a paradox, but one that's not unique to beer.
  15. LeRose

    LeRose Meyvn (1,183) Nov 24, 2011 Massachusetts
    Supporter Subscriber

    Good comments here and excellent questions.

    I'm not at the level of most BA-ers who've been around a while, so a lot of what I do is still exploration. I agree with Longstaff, even though I am probably still much more in the trial and error mode of my beer journey. I like trying different things, but I also have my "go to" list that I will drink no matter what. I don't go a-whalin' - I know there are fine beers that I will probably never get to experience but why stress over it? I treat a new beer as an experience (and catch no end of grief over it from the missus) and don't rate or even "had" based on a taste. I just don't think that is fair to the beer or the community. If I just want to have a beer, I go to one of the regulars.

    Doing the reviews and trying to understand the flavors and nuances of the different styles - I take it seriously, but I also find it fun, and I might suck at it who knows? So at the end of the day it comes down to one simple thing - how much did I like the beer? I keep an extra rating on my personal notes - a simple 1 - 5 liking and that tells me the ones I will go back to regardless of hype, score, style, or rating. And I hope I never get to the point where I can't enjoy a "regular" beer when that is the situation, either. Do I notice the difference more - absolutely. Do I try and educate and advocate - of course, but more by just offering/showing alternatives and if it doesn't work out so be it.

    Do I expect to keep having "home run" moments - not really. I do expect less strike outs and more doubles as I learn and experience more. Ruination, Backwoods Bastard, and Palo Santo Maron come to mind as at least foothill experiences. I am sure there are many more yet to be had as I am still a whippersnapper (beerologically if not chronologically). I don't think, at this stage, I have had a real mountaintop experience. Ruination was probably close - that one was a real game-changer in the IPA area. It didn't make me say this is the end and I am done with DIPAs, rather it opened me up to possibilities and was a real awakening about the style.
    Immortale25, stoney1031 and Nutwood like this.
  16. frazbri

    frazbri Crusader (740) Oct 29, 2003 Ohio

    I'd say as a general rule, the more experienced BAs are more likely to enjoy the well made classic beer styles than noobs. Sometimes the experience of chasing down every crazy thing you can helps you appreciate the subtle, well crafted standards even more.
  17. tectactoe

    tectactoe Initiate (0) Mar 20, 2012 Michigan

    I follow three rules: (1) always keep an open mind, (2) never be afraid to try something new, and (3) when all is said and done, drink what you like.

    I'm no beer "expert" by any stretch of the word. But enjoying beer doesn't have to be something that's calculated with a metric - as long as you're enjoying your beer experiences, you're doing it right. There's no rule book on how beer is supposed to be enjoyed, so never limit yourself by thinking otherwise.
  18. Bluecane

    Bluecane Initiate (0) Dec 30, 2011 New York

    You know that feel, bro?
    yamar68 and MarkIntihar like this.
  19. CityofBals

    CityofBals Initiate (0) Sep 12, 2012 Illinois

    Just figure out what the long time beer-heads drink on a yearly basis, and you've got yourself covered for the good shit.
  20. imbibehour

    imbibehour Poo-Bah (6,277) Mar 18, 2008 Maryland
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    What you really find more satisfying is going to things that are tried and true. Every new beer is a new experience, to me its never boring.

    I will occassionaly take a break from beer.. in general, but it always comes back.
  21. CityofBals

    CityofBals Initiate (0) Sep 12, 2012 Illinois

    IamMe90 and Bluecane like this.
  22. MacNCheese

    MacNCheese Initiate (0) Dec 10, 2011 California

    I'm becoming a total snob...I've moved from Miller Lite to New Beglium Shift Pale Lager.

    It's becoming harder and harder to please me.
    IamMe90 likes this.
  23. sjverla

    sjverla Devotee (490) Dec 1, 2008 Massachusetts

    I've been spending more time with my "go-tos" lately. Also, more bourbon.
  24. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,248) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Your focus is only on the down side. The other side of the expertise coin is the sensitivity to and the ability to pick up the extraordinary, the subtle, the fine touches that distinguish the good from the great. True there are fewer you find that are without flaw, but that can be balanced nicely by the ability to find the singular beauty in the simple clean expression of the best of the brewers art. It can create great satisfaction, just as can the contemplation of a single perfect blossom or the reflection on a great painting or poem.
  25. MusicaleMike

    MusicaleMike Initiate (0) Mar 17, 2008 Pennsylvania

    This is not inevitable. I am an example of someone who has been working on my BA reviews since 2008 (back when Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen was the worst thing I thought I had ever tasted) and I have come to appreciate all the different types of beer out there. I drink all styles of beer (yes, including adjunct lagers) and enjoy them all the same amount now. When I come across a severely flawed beer (infected, way too much diacetyl, etc.) I pour it out and move on, but I don't swear off any beers because you may come back to it someday and find it to be the opposite experience from what you once had.

    Tasting and experiencing food products should be inclusionary and not exclusionary, and if you are having a hard time liking a beer such as Anchor Steam Beer because your palate has seemed to "move on," than I feel bad for you.
    devlishdamsel and Nutwood like this.
  26. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,431) Sep 18, 2010 Washington
    Beer Trader

    Do you really mean this? You don't favor certain styles or specific beers over others? That seems almost impossible.
  27. leedorham

    leedorham Crusader (701) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    He's in Seattle and it's January.
  28. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,064) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Whatever you are going through, I'd say it's just a bump in the road. Like many have already suggested- once you are over it everything is totally groovy on the other side.
  29. MusicaleMike

    MusicaleMike Initiate (0) Mar 17, 2008 Pennsylvania

    I really do mean it, though I will say that I drink what feels right for the moment. There are a number of beer styles that would go equally well on a hot summer day (Adjunct Lagers, Gueuze, Hefeweizen, Cream Ales, etc.) and a number that wouldn't quite work for me personally. Among those that would work, I don't find that I favor one significantly over the other.
  30. MusicaleMike

    MusicaleMike Initiate (0) Mar 17, 2008 Pennsylvania

    However, given the choice, I would pick a Cantillon Fou Foune over a Budweiser because of the rarity factor.
  31. iKasey

    iKasey Initiate (0) Sep 2, 2012 Pennsylvania

    This is a very great thread, it'll be interesting to see people's responses to this. My buddy used to have a 300+ bottle cellar and in the past 6 months, has continually drank most if it, claiming he just isn't into it as much anymore and is just depleting his collection. I believe he fell victim to the pursuit and was victimized by ticking more than he actual craft itself, but he's to the point now where we go out he won't even order beer because he usually doesn't like much of what is on tap. He claims he's had so much of the best, rare beers in the world that nothing else does justice.

    For me, I moved from Utah (where we don't have too much available). When I first moved to Philly, having Hop Devil for the first time blew me away, I didn't think it could get any better than that. Now, I think Hop Devil is just meh. On the better side of perspective I believe it's because I have settled on others that are better within that category. Someone kick me in the dick if I come here and say Two Hearted is "meh".
  32. fx20736

    fx20736 Meyvn (1,017) Mar 7, 2009 New York

    Agree with much of the OP, however, if your goal is to continuously try new world class beers then you are going to run into problems.

    My goal is to drink beer I enjoy. 80% of the beer I drink is from a handful of favorites. As far as new beers go, I tend to keep to certain breweries and styles and if not read the reviews first. I have no expectations for new beer, whether they are good, great, mediocre or bad. I could care less about hyped IPAs, new releases or hard to find bottles and I don't trade. I look for beers that are well made, balanced and flavorful.

    If you need to constantly be stimulated by new experiences I feel sorry for you.
  33. SaCkErZ9

    SaCkErZ9 Poo-Bah (2,148) Feb 27, 2005 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    You drink 100 gallons of homebrew and craft beer per year? Thats 3 per day, everyday. Man, that is moving through some beer.
  34. leedorham

    leedorham Crusader (701) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    You're new here, aren't you?
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  35. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,431) Sep 18, 2010 Washington
    Beer Trader

    FWIW, I can't tell if these excerpts were directed at me personally, or more at a generic "you"—but to clarify, this isn't something I'm experiencing; at least I don't think so. It was more a hypothetical question based on observations I've made, related both to beer and to other matters where subjective taste is concerned.

    And this post is just me being defensive.
    Mandark likes this.
  36. TheJollyHop

    TheJollyHop Initiate (0) Sep 2, 2009 California

    Agree, this "paradox" is definitely not inevitable.

    The more beer I have drunk, the more I have realized what a really well made beer tastes like. I have learned which styles to seek out and which to avoid, but have retained the knowledge to make recommendations for any style. I have learned how brewing processes change when brewing certain styles, and I have developed affection for certain breweries and the prowess of their brewers. With that being said, I might not be wowed as often as I was when I started (which is inevitable) but in no way have I become less adventurous in my beer choosing, or jaded with my beer purchases.
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  37. Zimbo

    Zimbo Initiate (0) Aug 7, 2010 United Kingdom (Scotland)

    In my experience tickers do not have sophisticated palates. There are excepions to the rule but for most its a numbers game with very little thought given to context or development over time.
  38. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,064) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    From a NYer's point of view that actually looks like such a peaceful and stress-free scene- so few vehicles! :wink:

    That's the bump right there, and if you are doing it that way now, there will eventually come a time when you are much more relaxed about what you are drinking. 'Style' definitely figures into the context of beer enjoyment, but you shouldn't allow the concept to totally control the experience. From my own point of view, I'd say that I am at the point where the analysis is pretty effortless yet takes so many more things into account than I used to. The way I tend to think of it is 1) figure out what the brewer is trying to do (in terms of style or regional variations, historical context, what's happening in the scene at the moment, are they doing something different, how do the flavors blend, any technical brewing flaws, intentional similarity to other beers, and a host of other things) 2) were they successful in that endeavor and 3) does it taste good. Damn near every beer has its own story or personality, and it gets to the point where one's experience helps to put all of those pieces together. Being overly rigid about stylistic 'flaws' can definitely cast a lot of negativity on what you are doing, and it is not truly a part of the end game.
  39. cbeer88

    cbeer88 Crusader (719) Sep 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    I think there are two groups that people choose between.

    Group 1 is the endless ticker. Always looking out for the new new thing, it is essentially required to get that high.

    Group 2 is where you eventually realize that you've already tried 99% of the world's best beers, and there is little point in continuing the quest for the holy grail.

    I'm definitely getting closer and closer to Group 2. I still like to try new things, but I no longer care if I try everything.
    Dope likes this.
  40. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,064) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    50/50 on my part, but that's just the way I read the OP. No need to get defensive, though- I have definitely made the same observations with people who make me wonder 'do they really like beer?'. With critics I think the problem is compounded by the fact that they are paid to have Ego seriously woven into their opinions.
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