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But are they describing the flavor?

Relative to the ongoing discussion about the need for better vocabulary when tasting beer, an amusing comment from a wine blog. In this case, Mark Fisher asked, “What do you think the best Wine 101 class would include?”

The first reply was this:

I’d like to know if wine critics can really taste “a hint of raspberry dipped in chocolate and wiped away with old socks.” I think a wine should be judged on smoothness and depth. Cheaper wines can be smooth but better wines also have depth. I think wine reviewers make up all the descriptive language because they’ve got to fill the space with something.

Could it really be that simple?

For the love of yeast

Steelhead Brewing Company brewmaster Teri Fahrendorf has wandered into the blogging world as she begins work on the “GOOD BREAD GUIDE – Beer Lover’s Bread Book.”

A few of the basics:

What makes me want to write this book? I love yeast, and I love to experiment with the breads I bake. I love “pushing the envelope” with my breads, and with my professionally-made beers. (As long as the beer isn’t too far-out for our customers at Steelhead.)

There appears to be plenty of consumer guides for people searching for a good beer, but few consumer guides to good bread. I am interested in the smallest artisanal producers of both. And because I don’t think anybody’s put this slant on it before, I want to approach bread from a brewer’s perspective.

Anyway, the blog is subtitled “A brewmaster searches for the best local artisan breads and bakeries, and the best local pint of beer, with help from brewers and bakers all over the country.”

How’s that for a call to action?

The Curmudgeon on swillocracy

Roger Baylor (aka the Potable Curmudgeon) has a much more entertaining take on Miller new ad campaign to position Miller Lite “as a smarter, more intelligent light beer” than previously presented here.

You too should wish you could craft lines such as:

Miller is preparing to tout its eternally insipid Lite with a campaign that exalts rules of living for men, and features a motley collection of hack celebrities swilling alcoholic soda pop straight from the bottle.


In fact, the megabrewer’s current television advertising spots are so abysmal that they make the ubiquitous fast food and automotive envy blurbs seem Shakespearean by comparison.

Find time to read all of “Corporate bored rooms of the swillocracy.”

No, beer is the poor cousin

Some things are a matter of perspective.

At Wine Sediments, Andrew Barrow asks “Why do newspapers treat wine like poor cousin?

He’s talking about wine coverage in the UK. On the other hand, during a recent visit to London, Peter Haydon of Meantime Brewing talked about how little coverage beer receives in newspapers despite the fact that it accounts for 80% of alcohol sales in England.

“There’s a huge amount of snobbery against beer,” said. “If you open the Sunday paper it’s wine, wine, wine.”

Gooden apparently isn’t lamenting how much is written, but what.

Why is it that these magazines seem fine to review a restaurant with the final bill coming in at £60+ (US$110) per head, but the wine column on the same page is suggesting £3.99 or £4.99 (sub US$10) wines?

He’s not talking just about restaurants. He points to a story that “recommends a beauty cream that retails for £56 a tub and an eye-shadow at £15 (US$27)” while noting that wine writers mostly stick to suggesting lower prices wines.

Then he asks a more complicated question:

Restaurant reviews are often “bad.” [To summarize, wine reviews seldom are.]

In fact I don’t think I have ever read a poor wine review. They are always positive. Perhaps the limited copy space for the humble wine writer restricts them to writing up the good stuff.

Why are wine and wine critics dealt with so differently from other critics in newspapers?

Good question, and probably one that should be asked about beer as well.

The vocabulary of tasting

The tasting of lambics previously promised by the New York Times arrived today. Well worth your time.

Discussions about the article already include many more words than are in it. A few:

Burgundian Baggle Belt.

Rate Beer.

Beer Advocate.

At the Babble Belt there’s also side conversation about the use of wine vocabulary in a beer story, and the question pops ups, “Are we validated by them (wine snobs), or are we secure in what we know to be some of the greatest flavors and complexity of any beverage?”

That’s a fair question. The short answer would be, no, we shouldn’t feel validated just because a wine writer pens something nice about beer.

However, language is another matter. Those who try to describe beer in technical terms reserved for wine – and the Times article certainly does not – should be made fun of. But well used vocabulary is well used vocabulary.

Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson discussed this recently. Firestone Walker is located in Paso Robles, Calif., in the midst of scores of wineries. After the winery tasting rooms close at 5 p.m., wine tourists and winery workers often congregate at the brewery tasting room, which is open until 7 p.m.

“The wine world has an incredible vocabulary,” Brynildson said. “They seem to conjure up more of a food vocabulary.

“A lot of brewers pick it part by just talking about the technical characteristics.”

(I can certainly be guilty of that. The other day a brewer mentioned he was tasting a Belgian-brewed tripel. “Good beer,” I said, “but it could use more hops.” What I should have said is that I would like it better if it were a bit more dry, with a touch of bitterness to balance the beer’s sweetness.)

“I learn a lot when I drink beer with winemakers,” Brynildson said. “They talk about it and look at it from a different angle.”

That’s why even if you already know all you want to about lambics you should be sure to check out Lambics: Beers Gone Wild. You’ll still learn something.

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