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What makes a good tasting note?

Beer umpireThis review of Three Floyds Dreadnaught Imperial IPA tickled the heck out of me.

Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive gave it a 3.5 out of 10 and explained why. After reading his comments (please take the time to read the whole thing) my only question would be, “Why so high?”

He’s pretty persuasive, writing among other things: “What I do have a beef with is the exaltation of extreme beers that taste like garbage, simply because they’re BIG and DARING and OUTRAGEOUS.” Can I have a Hallelujah?

So I’ve got an assessment from somebody whose palate I find myself in alignment with more often than not, a blogger I take the time to read because he doesn’t always follow the crowd. Does that mean I should pass on Dreadnaught?

Since I’ve had the beer I could tell you that it would have been a mistake. I don’t love Dreadnaught as much as the legions at Beer Advocate or Rate Beer, but I enjoy it.

Does this mean this is not a good tasting note? Or perhaps not a good one for me, but a good one for you?

(I think we can agree Nick Floyd wouldn’t like it.)

11 Responses to What makes a good tasting note?

  1. Loren April 13, 2007 at 4:19 am #

    YMMV, as always. This stuff is also MUCH better (juicier and drier) on tap than in the bottles.

    Plus…I heard Nick ships all the old, rejected stock out to all the hop experts in CA. So therein lies your answer. Or not.


  2. Hank S April 13, 2007 at 4:36 am #

    Why should I care what this guy has to say?

    Looking at Beer Advocate (484 ratings right now) and Rate Beer (739) is much more useful.

  3. KevBrews April 13, 2007 at 4:55 am #

    I agree with Stan in that you should find folks who have similar tastes to yours, in addition to tools like BA. In fact, when I check BA, I usually look to see the highest ratings, the lowest ratings, and the top reviewers. The top reviewers are often the same folks, so I’ve started to develop a good sense of how my tastes align with theirs.

    I’ve found that tasting notes can sometimes sway my opinion and can be invaluable in helping me put my finger on what exactly it is I like or dislike about a given beer.

  4. Stan Hieronymus April 13, 2007 at 6:05 am #

    I happen to like the Jay’s post, (or I wouldn’t be writing about it). It makes you stop and think about beers with intense flavors.

    KevBrews make a good point – whether you agree with somebody’s notes those notes might help you hone in on qualities you like or dislike.

  5. Loren April 13, 2007 at 6:55 am #

    “whether you agree with somebody’s notes those notes might help you hone in on qualities you like or dislike.”

    That is, of course, if you haven’t already deemed the person who took the notes…an idiot with no tongue.

    Opinions are like? Grain of salt and all that, as well.

    But yeah Stan…I enjoy the Hedonist blog, if not solely because of Jay’s location.

    Cheers to varied taste buds!

  6. KevBrews April 13, 2007 at 7:32 am #

    In fact, for me, reading other tasting notes goes beyond just determining the qualities you like and dislike. Good tasting notes require a very precise and specific vocabulary. I like to read other notes as I’m tasting a beer and writing my own notes because I find it often helps me put words to the sensory experience–it gives me instant access to a more or less mutually agreed-upon vocabulary that others will understand.

  7. SteveH April 13, 2007 at 9:20 am #

    Since no one has concurred Stan, Hallelujah!

    Oh, and:

  8. Stan Hieronymus April 13, 2007 at 11:03 am #

    Good tasting notes require a very precise and specific vocabulary.

    Kev – I think this might be another topic.

    There’s real value in a shared vocabulary. But some of my favorite drinking notes stray off that course, but I like them because they successfully convey the experience.

  9. KevBrews April 13, 2007 at 11:41 am #

    Alas, you are probably correct. I wondered if I was potentially stirring a hornet nest with that post.

  10. Stan Hieronymus April 13, 2007 at 12:34 pm #

    Kev. I like the idea of a consistent approach (like you do at your site).

    I’ll dig out a couple of “experience” descriptions I also like and post them (tomorrow, I hope), but I would consider those the alternative. Particularly if somebody tells me nothing about aroma, flavor, finish and then says, “By the way its a 74 (or a 91 or whatever).”

    Then I got no basis for comparison. Had Jay done that (remember where we started) I wouldn’t be linking to his post and writing I like it. The number made his point. The description made his post.

  11. KevBrews April 13, 2007 at 12:44 pm #

    I’d love to see them, if nothing more, than to see how others are writing them. It does seem that one can go overboard in either direction–too much narrative, without enough sensory detail or too much sensory detail, without enough personal narrative. I know I currently fall into the latter category. It can sometimes be a struggle to find that middle group.

    Of course, in real life, I’m an editor and a writing instructor, so I’m big on finding the precise wording to describe the experience.

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