During this wedding weekend, someone asked what my favorite beer is.
I can answer that question in two ways. The first is as a critic. When I taste a beer as a critic I am trying to see how the beer matches up with the BJCP/GABF/Cicerone guidelines. I am tasting a beer and trying to break down its constituent parts and compare it to the style guidelines. I’m not necessarily trying to tell you if you will like it, but if it is a well-constructed beer. People are sometimes surprised at the GABF winners list. They will see a beer local to them and wonder who did that win. What you have to understand that a competition is trying to find beers that are perfect distillations of the style guidelines. That is why in the last paragraph of my reviews I give my overall impression to help you know if you’ll like it or not.
My favorites list and my best lists are different. There is overlap, but they are not the same. Unless I’m doing a real tasting for publication or competition, I turn off my critic’s mind after the second sip. At that point, I just want to enjoy the beer.
You need to remember the difference between favorite and best when you read a beer review. If you are reading a review that breaks the beer down into its component parts, skip to the end to find the overall impression. That’s where you will find out if you should drink it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t read the rest of it, especially if you are trying to learn more about beer. If, however, you are just trying to find something to drink at a bar you don’t need to worry about whether it has good head retention, you just need to know if someone else likes it and why.
Your favorite beer should be more that. It should be more than how it hits certain checkboxes on a rating sheet. It’s about where you are, who you are with, and how you feel. Finding your favorite is about why we drink.
We drink because it makes us feel good. We drink for social lubrication. We drink to hang out with friends and loosen up with strangers. When you combine the best of those things you find your favorite beer. Favorite is some kind of combination of who, what, when, and where that you can’t measure on a tasting form.
My two favorite beers involve sitting with good friends and drinking good beer. First up, Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti. It was with my best friend since high school in the old Great Divide tasting room in Denver. It was my second time in town and my first trip to the GABF. One of my favorite people, in one of my favorite cities, during my favorite time of year.
Number two on the list is, Oskar Blues Ten Fidy. Again, I was with best friends in a cool spot, Oskar Blues in Brevard. I was drinking great beer in a great place with great friends. Honestly, that is pretty much all I want out of my life.
Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.