With the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver this week, we thought it might be fun to explore how preferences are formed using beer as a backdrop.
Like many people, I keep my own favorite beer list (top 3 below). Through the years, I have found that often the beers that make my “best” list don’t always score highly on the blind taste tests my friends and I put on. It could be that I have bad taste, but I prefer to think that there are many more inputs to account for when it comes to our preferences.
Preference, for beer and almost any product, is not based purely on tactile or sensory feeling (taste). What you choose is often based on an amalgamation of factors such as experience, emotions, sense of self and environment. A taste test will allow you to understand how the malts mix with hops to create a sweet or bitter beer, and give you one input, but it doesn’t take into account the complete story – the brewpub’s atmosphere, the bartender’s attitude, the fond memories of sipping that particular brew with friends. All of this impacts the experience, and in turn, perceptions and preferences.
With that in mind, I have listed three of my favorite beers and recognized that my preference for them lies in the experience and not just the taste.
My top 3 beers and their story:
#3 – Wynkoop, B3K: I had the pleasure of working at the Wynkoop and loved it. My co-workers were great, the customers were always excited to learn about beer and I knew that after a good hard shift, I could grab a stool at the bar and get a rare, crisp black lager.
#2 – Oskar Blues, Dales Pale Ale: The first time I had a good beer out of a can, it was the hoppy goodness of Dales Pale Ale. I remember sitting on my family’s porch and a friend handing it to me and learning that the can improved the quality of beer (less light reaches the beer) and that it was more environmentally friendly.
#1 – Deschutes Brewery, Black Butte Porter: When it starts snowing in October around Colorado, the first thing I do is walk my dog to the local liquor store and pick up a 6-pack of this flavorful brew. I enjoy it as I sit on my porch, dreaming of ski season. Other dark beers are good, but only this one makes me excited for the season to come.
Honorable Mention – New Belgium, Fat Tire: Though the flavor of this beer isn’t my favorite anymore, I fondly remember taking cases across the country in college. Fat Tire was the beer that introduced me to the greatness of beer. If I am offered Fat Tire today, I rarely turn it down if only to remember those days.
So for all those at GABF and pubs and breweries around the world, drink the beer for its taste, but most importantly savor the experience – it is likely to have just as much of an impact as the beer itself.
What are your favorite beers? What makes them your favorite?