While I realize that I’m Mr. Negative and always see the pint glass as half empty almost every time craft beer is featured on mainstream television, I just can’t jump for joy when there’s so little respect paid to beer by the media and so much misinformation. If I have to be the lone voice in the wilderness, so be it. The GQ Top 50 Beer List that the recently released — and which I initially applauded for the most part — has morphed into something else entirely for television. In print, it was merely 50 Beers To Try Right Now but on CBS it has transformed into 50 Beers to Try Before You Die, a very different list indeed. I liked the idea of just suggesting some great beer to try, but making it a “bucket list” gives it too much gravity, too much pressure for the choices to be just right. Plus there’s the whole copyright issue. I recently contributed to a book, 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die, and this seems like a pretty blatant ripoff by CBS. It’s not really copyright infringement, I realize, it just seems like a bad idea given how good the original framing of the list had been. But give the video with host Harry Smith and GQ’s style editor Adam Rapoport a look.
Okay, it started out with the copyright infringing re-named list, which is just plain odd since the actual list they’re talking about is not beer to try before you die. Then, they can’t help but mention that it’s too early to drink and snigger about it like school children. What happened to being professional? Then there’s the horror of seeing an Allagash White with a lemon and orange wedge in the glass, which GQ’s Rapoport characterizes as a wheat or weiss beer, even though it’s a wit beer. With the second beer, Ommegang, the host remarks, surprised or incredulous. “Look at this, it even has a cork!” OMG, a cork. Alert the media. Oh, wait, he is the media. You’d think Harry Smith had never seen a beer with a cork before the way he overreacts. Then there’s his reaction to the glass. “Wow, look at the beer glass!” Rapoport: “It’s like a wine glass.” Harry Smith: “Almost.” Then he references tasting with Michael Jackson several years before and talks about how he tasted, calling it “like drinking wine, you do the nose….” Geez, I’m so tired of this analogy, as if wine holds the patent on how to taste liquids. You don’t think that absolutely every drink that’s tasted critically — be it wine, beer, whisky, cocktails, coffee, tea, whatever — is tasted by smelling it and tasting it in virtually the exact same way. Are their nuanced differences? Probably, but not enough to matter and the point is anytime someone tries to drink a beer by some other method than swilling it at a tailgate party, it’s compared to how wine is tasted because apparently the mainstream media seriously lacks any imagination.
Moving on to Dale’s Pale Ale, Rapoport tells us that hops cause bitterness … and sourness? But apart from beers made sour on purpose from the specific yeast used, sour or acedic flavors are almost always a defect, usually a bacterial infection. Can there be a sour undertone from certain varieties of hops? Maybe, but it’s usually in combination with other factors and it’s certainly not the second thing you think of when listing hops’ effects on beer. Next up is Rodenbach Grand Cru, in the “fancy bottle” and then Anchor Steam Beer. Rapoport at this point claims he loves Budweiser, but says there’s “a role beyond Budweiser,” also stating that Anchor Steam is a lager. And while California Commons do use a lager yeast, nothing else about brewing one is like a typical lager, or anywhere close to a Budweiser or any other adjunct macro lager. Most people, if designating them at all, would place them in a hybrid category. They continue to laugh and joke their way through Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout. Now the last time I ranted about one of these shows, somebody commented that he wanted them to have fun and not be too serious. Fun, yes, I’m all for that, but laughing at the beer they’re tasting and acting immature is just not that fun to me. Couple that with the misinformation, and I’m not entirely convinced these shows do more good than harm for craft beer. Yes, the exposure is good, but it always seems to be at a steep price.