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Beer: Simple or complex?

French wine philosopher Pierre Boisset once said:

“Wine is at the same time simpler than people say and more complex than they think.”

Pretty easy to plug in the word beer for wine and make as much sense.

The quote comes from Hugh Johnson’s delightful memoir A Life Uncorked and he bring it up to make a point.

“Any fool can make a subject complex and any fool can say it is simple. But how much do you have to understand to grasp the essentials?” Johnson asks.

He goes on to write that most people try either too hard at wine or not hard enough, that it is an all-or-nothing passion.

“So what does the reasonable, perfectly balanced person need to know? That wine is not one thing, but many. To appreciate it you don’t have to swallow an encyclopaedia, but you do have to pay attention.”

Again, the analogy holds up well, just as it would for cheese, jazz or … pick your passion.

2 Responses to Beer: Simple or complex?

  1. Donavan Hall July 26, 2006 at 5:31 pm #

    I was listening to Graham Sander’s brewing podcast (Craftbrewer Radio) yesterday and he suggested that the recent success of craft beer is because we beer people have kept beer simple (and fun). The context of his remarks was a report that the wine industry in Australia faces some possibly bleak years ahead precisely because they have “out-snobbed” themselves and made wine so complex that the “younger crowd” is turned off.

  2. Stan Hieronymus July 27, 2006 at 12:34 pm #

    A great point.

    It makes it pretty obvious why breweries like Dogfish Head and Stone are growing so fast (quality products, but equally strong in the fun department).

    It’s also an example of remembering “context,” of where beer belongs in the conversation. That’s why I like these two quotes.

    Fritz Maytag (Anchor Brewing): “It’s very hard to get pretentious about beer. You can become knowledgeable and start to talk with a highfalutin’ vocabulary. But you can only go so far with beer, and I’ve always liked that.”

    Brock Wagner (Saint Arnold Brewing): “We want you to think about what you are drinking. I’ll think about the beer when I first taste it. After that I’m sitting there with my wife and with friends shooting the breeze and it becomes background. But periodically I will think about the beer again.”

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