Paste Magazine has a repository of well-written beer reviews by writers who really know their beer. Here is an example of one. This review of the Deschutes Red Chair NWPA is clear and solidly written. There are other examples on Paste’s website and you can find still others at All About Beer magazine. They are all examples of what modern reviews look like across a spectrum of disciplines. From movies to books to television to beer, good reviews in the internet age are tightly written explanations of what the reviewer liked or disliked about the object. If it is on the higher end of the quality scale, they go on to describe why they did or didn’t like it in a quick entertaining way.
There are times I don’t think I’m meant for this age. I have little to no interest in the things most people do in today’s world. I listened to one of my favorite podcasts yesterday as they talked about the Golden Globes ceremony from the night before. There was a little talk about the awards themselves, but mostly it was about the gossip and the celebrity of it. Somewhere around the talk about Tom Hiddleston and whether he really dated Taylor Swift, I realized I could not give less than two damns about that stuff. This obsession with celebrity and fame is how we ended up with the president-elect we have. The elevation of celebrity is a symptom of people having a superficial understanding of competence and skill.
Another symptom is how we review art and craft. While I like reading reviews like the one for Red Chair, they seem superficial. Now, I understand they must be for the needs of most magazines in the internet age. A review is an attempt to express to a hurried reader whether they will like a movie or a book or a television show or a beer. A good writer will explain quickly and clearly why or why not. A critique is different. It is an attempt to explain to the reader and the wider world whether this thing was successful at being what it attempts to be and why or why not.
A good beer critique will do exactly what this review of Red Chair does. It will go over the appearance, the aroma, the flavor, and the mouthfeel/finish and tell you whether those things added up to a pleasurable experience. Then it must go further with two questions. First, is this beer a good example of a beer of this style according to the guidelines? Second, does this beer achieve what the brewer set out to achieve when the recipe was created? Why or why not?
I haven’t written any reviews in a while because I got tired of writing the same thing as everyone else. I have taken a step back the last couple of months and now I think I am ready to try to do something different with my reviews. We’ll see if it works.