When only the rest will do

As a beer writer and ‘expert’ in the craft beer community* I am expected to know more than merely a thing or two about beer. “You must absolutely love the latest single-batch barrel-aged super-hopped Imperial Palate Shredder” released to commemorate the first-time-since-the-last-time they made a seasonal limited edition single-batch barrel-aged super-hopped Imperial Palate Shredder, you simply must!” I hear often in the company of beer fans.

And while it’s true that there are, indeed, times when a special release is greeted with the same child-like joy once reserved for the imminent arrival of the Scanlen’s Footy Cards, there are also times when the craving turns more towards what some would consider ‘the mundane’. It is on these occasions where ‘only the rest will do’.

A recent visit to the home of a new acquaintance led to thinking about what beer really is and what it can, or should, be able to do. Welcomed in warmly, the host then had what could be described as a sudden attack of ‘what-do-I-do-now?!’ as he made to offer his guest a beer. ‘I’m not sure what I’m supposed to offer a beer expert! I hope I don’t disappoint or offend you!’ he said as he searched the fridge, hoping something exotic would suddenly materialise to extract him from his predicament. ‘I hope {insert readily available and nationally distributed mainstream lager here} is OK for you?

He almost seemed visibly relieved when I assured him that whatever he was having would be just fine. “The best beer is the one in your hand” seemed to settle him somewhat and all again was well. But this did highlight to me that sometimes we can get a bit precious about our preferred tipple and, often, it is a good thing to appreciate the little things – even if they come from rather large sources.

Choosing stock for a tasting last week set the tastebuds tingling as the shelves of choice were perused. But, as often happens to me, the urge to buy what I felt like drinking there-and-then overtook me and, hot as it was, I grabbed a handful of what many would describe as ‘bland fizz’. Lager, even. It was not until I was paying at the register that it occurred to me that, sometimes at least, the beer is chosen by methods other than those expected of a ‘beer expert’.

Decisions, decisions. In the end I decided to pinch a pic from Brews News own James Davidson’s blog.

The weather was warm, the sun was shining and my work day was almost done. Reward was beckoning and the mouth was a little parched. Crisp, cool and refreshing lager with a firm but floral hop character and bitterness was what the craving demanded. And so lager it was.

I am more than proud to admit that sometimes beers for me are selected on what, to some, may appear an odd criteria. I’ll buy because I like the brewer or the brewery. I buy if I feel I may have ‘neglected’ the beer for a time. I buy because I heard someone somewhere speaking disparagingly of it or because I had heard it mentioned on that marvellous and informative podcast series, Radio Brews News**. Sometimes I buy a beer because it is the flagship beer of a brewery I support but whose ‘early efforts’ I feel are being ignored. Sometimes I buy a beer to see what the fuss is about and other times because.. well, just because.

So next time you’re searching the shelves for something ‘special’, take a step back and see if you can find a little nugget hidden among the shiny new toys. And enjoy it. Even better if you can find a mate who hasn’t yet discovered the joys of the beer you now perhaps take for granted.

*I saw myself referred to in print as one of Australia’s leading beer experts recently and, as it was someone whose opinion I highly respect, I am in no position to disagree. Feel free to disagree with my agreement, however.

**Yeah, whatever.

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