How much is our taste or opinion of a craft beer affected by what friends and the craft beer community at large thinks? What beer do you love that no one else seems to get? Or what beer do you say “no thanks” to that everyone can’t get enough of?
I can find myself wondering sometimes when I’ve had an extremely popular beer, but haven’t been all that “wowed”…is it me? Am I missing something here? Was there too much hype? Could there be such a thing as taste inflation? If we really want to dive further into this, is it really only “good” if a large portion of the craft beer community says it is or is our own opinion and taste enough?
Let’s get this one out of the way immediately: our own opinion and taste is enough—if the beer is good to you, no matter what it is, then that’s all that should matter; it isn’t only as “good” as the community says it is. I try to abide by this viewpoint and also balance that against respecting others’ opinions as well—after all, “taste” is entirely subjective and the things I may taste in a beer could vary wildly in the same beer for other people.
Of course, one only has to look at the “top beer” lists at sites like BeerAdvocate and RateBeer to see exactly how much the collective opinion of beer affects people. Ask yourself, would The Alchemist‘s Heady Topper be as well known and as coveted if it weren’t highly prominent on these “best in the world!” type lists? Would Pliny the Younger? Just me, I’d say “no.” (And I’ve had Pliny the Younger, and I don’t consider it one of the best in the world.) But the reality is we live in a world where people are influenced by friends, and crowds, and hype—the trick is to ignore that and focus on what you really like.
And if that bucks the trend, or no one else seems to get it, then relax, don’t worry, have another beer (to paraphrase Charlie Papazian). Personally I make no apologies for the beers I drink, especially if they raise eyebrows—and if other people like beers that just don’t do it for me, more power to them.
Except for “Lite” beers. Those are just plain wrong.