Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Untouchables

There's been a bit of chat lately about whether some of the more revered new-wave UK craft breweries are now "beyond criticism" - whether they're so widely respected that no-one's willing to risk saying a bad word about them for fear of being torn apart by the fanboys.

There's a fair objection that this rather depends how deep into the bubble you operate - being rude about the current in-thing is also a quick way to position yourself as a straight-talking speaker-of-truth-to-power. But it does hit a bit of a nerve regarding the craft scene's relationship to criticism - this is also a scene where people seriously argue that you shouldn't tweet your dissatisfaction with a bad pint until you've given the relevant pub or brewery a chance to respond privately. And to me, this doesn't seem like a healthy attitude in the long run.

I think the real issue here is that brewers and drinkers are both very bad at dealing with the fact that taste is subjective - that not everyone likes every beer, and that one person not liking some particular beer doesn't mean that no-one else does or that the brewer is incompetent or dishonest. As a punter, I generally try to avoid contributing to this when I'm talking about small breweries by putting a comment in context if I can - saying that I don't like this beer as much as their others, or as much I used to, or as much as everyone else seems to - or at least by trying to keep the language subjective. On the flip side I'd hope that brewers (and fanboys) can deal with the fact that sometimes someone just won't like one of their beers, and that saying in public that they don't like it doesn't necessarily mean they're being a dick about it. It's important that we can do this because fundamentally, if you've only got nice things to say then you haven't got much to say at all.