My sister once told me a story she had heard about a sculpture exhibit: on the winter day it opened, the artist placed a coat rack next to the door. Predictably, the patrons hung their coats on it. Each day the artist moved the rack a bit closer to the rest of the exhibit, until the day came when the visitors chose not to use the “piece of art” for their coats. That day the artist placed a sign on the coat rack that stated simply, “Art begins here.”
Imagine persuasively describing craft beer to someone who has until now entirely missed out, maybe in a sales situation. Perhaps it’s a brown ale and you can can describe the caramel and toast flavors, or it’s a pale ale and you have fruit or herbs from the hops. You might start having to defend yourself if it’s an IPA and those hops taste earthy, resiny, or particularly bitter. You’ll definitely meet some resistance if your favorite is an imperial anything, brimming with intensity and a sharp kick, or if you’d like to convince a person of the credibility of a sour beer or anything for which you must use the word ‘funky’. Each of these descriptions is inevitably an attempt to ‘frame’ the beer, putting the consumer in the proper state of mind to drink it.
For better or worse, in everyday situations beer comes with a label. This label very really ‘frames’ the beer inside. The fact that the beer comes commercially-produced signals the presence of investment (if not skill). A style name or tasting notes indicates the general characteristics to expect. If you know the brewery the beer is framed with your past experiences. Even the label art will affect your expectations for the beer.
What role does this framing play in beer tasting, especially for ‘professional evaluators’? Relate an amusing or optimistic anecdote about introducing someone to strange beer. Comment on the role a label plays in framing a beer or share a label-approval related story. I have not done much blind tasting, and I would be intrigued to hear about this ‘frameless’ evaluation of beer.
And drink a beer. Ideally drink something that you don’t think you will like. Try to pick out what it is about that brew that other people enjoy (make sure to properly frame the beer!). The Session #33 will take place here 6 November 2009. Leave a link to your post as a comment here or else e-mail it to me at couchand at gmail dot com on or before that day.
Extra credit will be given for specific mention of the Post article prompting this topic, or for use of the phrase “priming the pump”.
For more information about The Session inquire here.