Beer and Pavement

Writing Reviews

Posted in Intersections, Manifesto, Review by SM on March 13, 2012

I’ve dabbled here and elsewhere with writing reviews. The advantage of keeping a blog that focuses on both beer and music is that there’s plenty of material to review. Some of my better bits have reviewed both.

The trouble with writing reviews is that it takes some of the enjoyment from the experience. If I’m thinking ahead to my next blog post every time I place the needle on the record or pop the cap of a beer, I’m not staying in the moment. It becomes work somehow even though I fully realize that this here website is a hobby and not a source of income by any means.

Still, I’ve tried to write reviews. The music reviews have gone well… for the most part anyway. I’m pretty happy with the Believers review I just wrote. There was a pretty good Walkmen review I wrote a while back. Honestly, the music reviews are easier, even more fun to write.

Then, I considered why this might be. Stan has a list of newish beer rules somewhere. One of those rules suggests that one should drink a beer at least twice before passing judgement on it. This makes sense. However, I’d like to interject that some of the most rewarding discussions and reviews I’ve seen/heard/read have been based on one serving of a beer. The best beers can inspire mountains of content with a single serving. Still, I see the point.

To properly grasp a beer’s essence, once should spend some time with it. Drink the beer in a variety of glasses and contexts. Try it paired with foods or at different temperatures. I get this and endorse it. Write whatever review you want, but this is probably the best way to fully appreciate a beer.

What does this mean for RateBeer/BA fanatics? What about those blogs that review a beer a day? They should do what they want, but I probably won’t be writing many more reviews like that, if any. I tried a couple at the beginning of the year, but it’s time to move on. Reviewing beer is not what I do best. Enjoying beer? That’s another story.

So, how is this different than music?

For one, a record has a chance to be consumed over and over without consequence. I often have to drive for work and can give an album a good listen while driving 2-3 hours round trip. Then, there’s usually a session of listening once or twice on vinyl while my kid plays and we wait for dinner. When I write a record review, I’ve had time to let it marinade. A beer review is often a one-shot deal, especially with a rare brew.

Also, the beer review has a formula where record reviews can be whatever I want. In a beer review, it’s generally expected that one addresses the appearance, aroma, taste, and mouthfeel. Even when I’ve taken some poetic license with this format, I still generally come back to the basic review template. With records, it’s easier to write whatever comes to mind and go off on tangents or address each track. Thankfully, music is easier to perceive as something that doesn’t fit within a neat category like beer. Maybe beer scholarship hasn’t come as far as that of music writing. Maybe it has. I just find music easier to write about.

So, expect me to continue writing record and show reviews and cut back on beer reviews. However, there will be exceptions. I’ll probably review a beer and you won’t even realize it. We’ll see.

Now, I have a deadline that’s already been extended. I need to get back to that project.

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4 Responses

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  1. Lyrics, Libations, and Life said, on March 14, 2012 at 10:58 am

    I definitely appreciate your thoughts here. It’s funny because I kind of feel the opposite of what your saying. I like doing beer reviews a lot, and I definitely agree I would love to give the beer more than one taste before reviewing; however, that tends to be rather difficult. For me, I don’t get a whole lot of time to listen to music throughout the day, so if I want to review an album, I have to actually just sit down and purposefully listen to the whole cd multiple times. For me, it is time consuming to do that and kind of takes the fun out of it.

    Beer review on the other hand, I like heading to my fridge and thinking about which bottle I want to pull out. I like having a structured thought process. I guess it takes less time and then I get to put all of my thoughts down and do the rest of the review while I sit back and sip.

    I have a feeling each aspect fits better with our differing lifestyles.

    • Zac said, on March 14, 2012 at 11:05 am

      I think you’re right. I can definitely tell that the beer reviews come much easier for you. It’s not that your music reviews are bad. It’s just that you tend to be more creative and energetic about them. There’s a tone shift in your writing when it’s about beer over the music. Maybe that’s because you’re discovering a lot of great beer at the moment. I don’t know. Either way, it’s nice to have you as part of the coalition. We are the only two blogs I know of that regularly write about music and beer. Keep it up!

  2. beerbecue said, on March 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    I might occasionally be walking on stilts at the edge of the IQ/IBU cliff, so I am going to self-servingly disagree with that rule; but I couldn’t agree more with the drink it more than once rule (although sometimes price and scarcity makes that a little difficult). Luckily, by the time I can think of something about a beer that I find funny, I have usually had it more than once (one of many useful elements of my humor crutch).

    Reviewing does make it a little like work, and sometimes I just want to drink a beer without worrying about a review; but I find that the review helps me pay attention to the beer more and maybe appreciate its subtleties more than I otherwise would have. Without a specific reason to pay attention, my ADD would probably get the better of me…although I guess with beer, this is not necessarily bad.

    Despite the fact that it seems you feel restricted with the formulaic nature of beer reviews, and don’t find it as enjoyable as music reviews, I think you have done a good job of breaking out with interesting beer reviews. But no sense doing it if you don’t enjoy it as much. In any case, I will still stop by for your music stuff (you and LL&L are my only two regularly followed music blogs), and if there happens to be a beer review or beer-related item some days, it will be like a little bonus. As long as you don’t set-trip on my BBQ turf! 🙂

    • Zac said, on March 14, 2012 at 3:13 pm

      Yeah, the IBU/IQ rule feels a bit elitist to me. Either that or it’s meant as a cut-off for what is an acceptable IBU for everyone. I don’t know that I agree with all of Stan’s rules, but the “taste it more than once before reviewing” makes a lot of sense for me.

      That said, sometimes the immediate reaction we have toward a beer is the most honest. I’m actually happy to read others’ reviews – including yours – even if it’s from one serving. I just find it hard to do a straight review on one beer.

      Actually, you’ve reminded me of some fun reviews I’ve written where I write about almost everything other than the beer with maybe a paragraph or two on flavor profiles and such. Those kind of posts won’t disappear.

      What I made me write this post was the enjoyment I got out of writing that last album review.

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