If the past two years has taught us anything, it’s that as human beings, we are full of irrational prejudice (apologies if that sentence is a bit inflammatory, depressing and lacking in yuletide spirit) This is as true in matters of taste, as it is in (slightly) more important matters like love, religion, politics and social division.
There are many things I rail against without any particularly good reason: Too much/any garnish on a soup or a martini, cheap French wine that pretends to be Aussie, expensive Aussie wine that pretends to be French, overly sweet breakfast cereal, American biscuits, liqueurs that market themselves as gins, beers that clearly base their branding on that of a more successful brewery, etc. If offered any of these I would have to battle my deep-seated bias before I could assess them fairly.
This is why all beer and wine judging is done blind, it really is the easiest way to let the drinks speak for themselves. Strangely, it has taken me the best part of two decades to extend this principal to our public, in-store tastings.
I suppose, as a sales tactic it sucks (depriving the consumer of any knowledge about a products origin isn’t the most obvious marketing ploy), but when embarked upon as nothing more than a fun little social experiment the results were really interesting.
We started with two beers, that are among the most popular examples of their respective styles: Punk IPA by Brewdog and Saison Dupont.
Customers were simply handed a glass of unnamed beer with as little ceremony as possible and asked what they thought they were drinking. The first thing to note about their responses is how broadly accurate they were. Almost everybody said “it’s an IPA” or, “it’s something Belgian” and although only a couple of people hit the nail on the head, many made really educated guesses.
This may be partly because Punk has slightly bent the public’s perception as to what an IPA is: limiting it to that creamy, supremely balanced, slightly fruity and not too bitter, alcohol delivery service. Likewise, the Saison Dupont is surely something of a classic, with many much younger breweries trying (and failing) to replicate it’s distinctive, bready, earthy and zesty character.
It’s also worth noting, that of the hundred or so folk who took part, the wildest, least accurate guesses came from brewers and other industry insiders, who all fell into the trap of other-thinking, other-analysing and ignoring their gut instincts