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Your Opinion Is Incorrect

Each new year brings both a sense of retrospection and anticipation. As we pause to consider the havoc of the past 12 months it becomes natural in its simplicity to sum things up via lists. The top 10 Clickhole posts. The best three brioche burgers from around Brisbane (OK, that’s a joke, there were none). The hottest 100 songs and, of course, the hottest 100 craft beers brewed in Australia. It has been intriguing to peruse peoples early responses to what beers they enjoyed and didn’t, and why. This whole gimmick did get me to question the very nature of peoples opinions and whether, as a brewer, they are informative or superlative. Indeed, this goes to the very heart of what we love about beer, the difference in people’s tastes, preferences and enjoyment and the debate that invariably ensues.

Over the last 12 months I’ve enjoyed a feisty relationship with the commentary on beer rankings via social networks and rating apps such as Untappd. I’ve been amazed and bewildered at what people rate highly and lowly. My biggest pet peeve was, however, people rating a beer lowly but amending a comment such as “excellent for the style”, “a great mid-strength” or “I don’t like lagers”. This raises the bigger question of whether you should rate a beer based on its adherence to style and/or technical quality or your own personal enjoyment level. The number of beers laden with fermentation faults but receiving positive overall ratings is high and indicative of a green collective consumer palate. Or am I just being a douche? Does it matter that these products contain flavours in them that shouldn’t be there if the consumer enjoys it? I’m unsure, still.

Generally we do fairly okay at beer awards, considering we are still young and inexperienced. Experts in the field judge such awards and the criteria are strict, as is the requirement of technical quality. These beers have largely failed to capture the imagination of the more discerning beer nerd, in comparison to other offerings from Brisbane, including our own special batches. We have released some special batch brews that I have not been happy with or even particularly enjoyed. And yet, ironically, those beers always seem to do the best. All you need is powerful flavours, be that alcohol or hops, little else matters. It is intriguing to me that subtle and clean beers never do so well on the beer nerd palate. Are these not consumers, after all, who should appreciate technical quality more than other plebian guzzlers? But lets get to the crux of the matter, does it matter if the vocal minority only appreciate a solid oral bludgeoning, should it affect how we approach the core range of beer that we make, or should our focus continue to be on technical prowess?

People become brewers for many reasons. The love of beer, the creativity of it, the passion for the culture, the flavours, the science, the desire to make peoples lives a little more enjoyable. For me personally, it’s the process. I love the idea that a grain kernel, growing in the field is harnessed by science and art to extract energy, given to a microscopic eukaryote in an infinite array of compounds and encouraged to produce an equally infinite array of catabolites. The brewing process is a rare thing of beauty, both devastating in its demands and intoxicating in its results. We relentlessly seek to improve all our beers, constantly tinkering, constantly sampling, constantly conceiving of new avenues to improve. We look for fermentation faults, how they may have arisen and how to ensure they never occur again. It is frustrating and shameful, therefore, when you try one of your own beers in the trade and it is laden with acetaldehyde, or is oxidized or has diacetyl. It happens to everyone, but it is even more shameful when people rate that beer highly because it has punchy flavours.

So what does it all mean? Should I just relax, being satisfied with my own personal goals and ambitions? Do we need to push education, trying to collectively improve our understanding of and appreciation for the brewing process? I am undecided. If people enjoy it then at the end of the day mission achieved, right? Would you be more satisfied garnering the praise of your peers or of the masses? I guess it boils down to being satisfied with what you want to achieve. These days, I approach people’s praise and criticism much more philosophically then when we first opened. I no longer see it as a personal assault and am appreciative of the time and effort people put into tasting and rating beers. Without the beer nerds we would have no culture, no fanaticism, no passion for beer in Brisbane. So I look forward to the hottest 100 craft beers brewed in Australia of 2015, after all Hop Hog is awesome.

Mark Howes.

All six of our core range beers are included in the entries for the 2015 Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers. To vote for your favourite five from the past year click HERE.