Monday, April 14, 2014

still hamstering

Happy Monday! I am trying to muster up the energy tonight to go see 3-6 Mafia, but I don't know when the last time I got 8 hours of sleep was. I stayed up late Friday and Saturday and then had to get up for B52s practice both days. By the way we are ripping it up to the trillionth degree squared. Not calling out any other bands. I view the Halloween show as a collaboration and scene love-fest not a competition.

Stop reading here if you are really bored of reading about the ongoing debate over our SNR IPA tasting panel or if you have no idea what I'm talking about. I keep hearing a few negative comments and there may be a rebuttal column in a local beer publication so I just keep hamster-wheeling about it.

A real sticking point is one single comment that a beer had a "butterscotch nose" in the positive side of the notes. Some people are searching for a reason to discredit the integrity of the whole panel because this can be a characteristic of diacetyl, an organic compound that can be a natural byproduct of brewing, and which is sometimes felt to be desirable in English pale ales, but in other styles is often considered a flaw.

I admit I had to look up what diacetyl is when I heard this rebuttal. I tend to evaluate beers as a gestalt, both because my palate is not exquisitely sensitive and also because that level of beer nerd-ery bores me. I can pick out an ester aroma and I hate it. I can sure detect a hop smell (which about 2/3rds of these IPAs did not have). I hate a buttery chardonnay and now I know that this is probably because of diacetyl.

There are debates on beer advocate about diacetyl sometimes with some raters noting it in beers where others don't, or some noting it as pleasant, even in an IPA. OK, just rando beer raters, but surely some of them are credible.

On to another point of mine: this column is viewed as a slap in the face to "supporting the scene". Ay yi yi.

When the music scene in Sac was smaller, people were supposed to support the scene in all writing - even bad or mediocre bands. All hell broke loose when Christian Kiefer criticized a few bands in the SNR. Now everyone just writes positively for the most part (including me) so most of the writing gets little notice.

We're supposed to support the art scene, and since it's still pretty small that's remained the party line. Maybe that is part of the reason it's stayed small. How can someone stand out if it's all good?

Some mild criticism of the theater scene seems to be acceptable, although I don't think anyone ever gets a really poor rating. I don't know if I've ever seen the Shakespeare barfing icon or whatever denotes zero stars in the News and Review.

Harsh criticism of movies is OK cuz they're not local.

Critics are supposed to support the restaurant scene, with no humorous snark or sarcasm ever. BAR gets raked over the coals for this sometimes. The restaurant scene is exploding, so now people are getting used to real criticism. It will take time.

Keep in mind that this only refers to on-the-record criticism. All critics, people in the industry, and serious fans all criticize, talk shit, and gossip like mad but will never go on record as doing so.

I chalk this up to growing pains. There is no room for mediocre or bad beers locally anymore. I stand by all our letter grades. I will openly say that I will give the Rubicon IPA a C- or D+ and most beer nerds if they were being honest would, too. I say the HopSac and River City also earned their Fs.  I think the top 3 (1 Berryessa 2 Bikedog 3 Track 7) are exactly right and I was chuffed that I rated them that way in a blind tasting.


Anonymous said...

The irony is that 'supporting the scene' actually equals offering constructive criticism.


Anonymous said...

People can't handle criticism in general. But a good way to contribute to mediocrity is to refrain from pointing out anything negative and just like everything because it happens to have been made by a friend or someone local.Being critical is good as it forces people to step up their game, I think.

Also, maybe a panel of non-experts is a good way to judge beer, unless the brewers only care if other brewers like the beer. It's a fine line, I guess, though, because obviously a Silver Bullet devotee weighing in on IPAs probably isn't very enlightening.


Anonymous said...

I welcome some criticism in the beer world. I hear so much behind the scenes comments but then everyone is like nice beer dude, to the brewer/owner's face. that sort of behavior doesn't help anyone. So maybe 70/30 on positive and negative is a good way to plug the industry but allow for some constructive feedback.

beckler said...

It's kind of funny that I respond to the criticism of my criticism so negatively. But it's because it's just a criticism of criticism in general, using a few perhaps valid points to disguise that as the reason for the feedback. I heard that some people were commenting we should all be certified judges.

All I know is that I am about to head home and have a Faction brew from our backyard kegerator and I can certify that I am going to enjoy the fuck out of it.

Anonymous said...

I tried to "like" your comment but I can't figure out how. What the hell is this site?