For some odd reason, views of my long ago response the the sad fellow known in Seattle as “The Pour Fool” — no link provided because, frankly, he doesn’t deserve the hits — have been spiking of late. Rereading my missive and his response — “I don’t drink wine with food;” “I value food too much to simply use it – or wine – as ‘conversational lubricant;’” “those pre-game beers before Seahawks games – the only time I ever drink before 3 p.m.” — made me think a bit about beer and the nature of taste.
I’m off tonight to Belgium, where I will judge in the Brussels Beer Challenge, and thence to Rome, where I will sample as many Italian craft beers as possible during my short stay. (Thanks in large part to Manuele Colonna, co-owner of Bir&Fud, Ma Che Siete Venuit A Fa, and other Rome beer destinations, inlcuding the Domus Birrae beer shop.) I will do my level best to assess each brew impartially and to the very best of my ability, but even before I board the plane I know that what I will taste is not likely to be what you will.
Why? Because I will be tasting without context.
It is, after all, what we reviewers are supposed to do: detach ourselves from the moment and assess on a blank canvas of aroma and taste. But let’s face it, that’s not how beer or wine or spirits or cocktails are normally supped, and neither should it be. Unlike how Mr. Brody would have us drink, alcohol is meant to be a social pleasure, whether shared between keyboardists furthering a tweet-up tasting or enjoyed among friends at the pub or family at the dinner table. Taste can and should factor into the equation — otherwise, why not just drink water? — but the social side is of at least equal and perhaps greater importance.
That’s why I drink wine and beer and sometimes spirits with food (and friends) and value food too much NOT to use it or wine or beer as a ‘conversational lubricant’ and will certainly from time to time drink before 3:00 pm, occasionally well before, say, with lunch or at a morning beer judging in Brussels.
And as for the last, given that I will be with fellow judges who are also friends — including Lisa Morrison, Tim Webb and Lorenzo Dabove — I’m kind of hoping there will be at least a bit of a social aspect to that, as well.