Friday, 7 December 2012

#102: The Session - Don't Believe the Hype

This month's Session, and my first participation, is hosted by Good Morning, and questions the role of hype in the life of a beer.

Now, I'm well aware that almost everyone and their mother is going to be writing about Westvleteren 12, particularly with the release of the six-pack 'bricks' earlier this year, but I can't possibly avoid the subject. I did a little write-up on this beer in the past where I briefly discussed it's reputation, but I'd like to expand on that.

So, you may have heard that this is the best beer in the world. It's highly rated on RateBeer and BeerAdvocate. It's generally highly rated in the blogosphere. Those YouTube reviewers tend to go nuts just talking about it. It has to be amazing, right?

Specially branded bottle & glass
Then, you hear the news. Super-special limited collector's gift packs are going to be released for export, far beyond the the boundaries of the brewery's own cryptic, clandestine sales operation.* Finally, now's your chance, beer nerd! Buy the world's best beer, it will only cost you €50! You can't afford to miss this!

And so I bought it. I poured the first glass of Westvleteren 12 and had one of those beer-drinking experiences that I adore, where I'm perfectly happy to spend the first minute or two enjoying the aroma of the beer. As nice as that is, it's an experience I'd had a few times before and I've had it many times since, for a lot less than €50. Your money buys you an undeniably nice Quadrupel, a style that can be so temperamental that it can be difficult to find your own favourite, let alone the best in the world. To me, it is neither of those, although it must be given credit for being the nice beer that it is.

So where does hype come into all this? For me, it was a small catalyst in influencing the purchase, with the greater factor being the seemingly limited output. I knew I'd never, ever go to the trouble of buying a case in Belgium, so it was a chance to get my hands on a relatively rare beer. I reckon some beer 'enthusiasts' approached it with preinstalled disappointment, before they had even so much as opened the bottle, in a bid to show that they could withstand the hype. To give a true evaluation of a beer we must be objective and without bias, whether for or against the beer. 

On that note, I'd say hype can unfairly add weight to either side of a beer's reputation, influencing customers and drinkers. As such, I'd say it's a bad thing.

* If you think that's good, take a look at this madness.

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