Don’t let beer spill over into petty arguments
Published: Tuesday, July 12, 2011, 1:12 PM
By George Lenkermasslive.com
With apologies to Raymond Carver, this week’s column might be called "What We Talk About When We Talk About Beer."
I’ve written several times (if not more) about how tastes are subjective and that no one should be seriously telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t like. Although I still believe that with all my heart, I’d like to write today about how even that allowance for subjectivity doesn’t go far enough in some ways.
What I mean is this: It’s one think to be tolerant of what someone likes and dislikes, but can we be tolerant of tension that creates if we disagree with them?
Sometimes debates over any subjective opinion, be it about beer, art, or political beliefs, turn into either a win-lose debate, or worse, attempts to try and dismiss one’s opponent by defining him or her in an unfair manner. This is when phrases such as, "You don’t know what you’re taking about," and/or "You just don’t get it," get bandied about. Other dismissals include, "You’re a newbie," and the ubiquitous "Whatever."
While it’s tempting to try and make one’s case by undermining that of those who disagree with us, it’s a zero-sum game in which no one really wins. And although most aficionados of craft beer are open-minded folks who only want to enlighten the uninitiated to the wonders of craft brews, I still run into those who seem to think they’ve cornered the market not only on knowledge, but taste as well. But are they hurting anyone? It depends. Not all know-it-alls are as distasteful as they might seem.
Because I write this column, I am often engaged in conversations with readers who want to tell me about a beer they just had, or want to know my opinion about some new beer they haven’t tried. I enjoy and welcome all such conversations. Among these readers is one gentleman, however, who makes me smile to myself whenever we talk about beer. He is perfectly fine person and knowledgeable about beer, but I swear I never have spoken to him about brew where he didn’t have some nagging criticism of it. Now, that’s fine: his judgments are seemingly sincere, but I have to shake my head sometimes because I wish just once the guy would say, "Fantastic beer. Don’t have a bad word to say about it."
And there, my friends, is the rub: Why should I want him to be any different than he is? His negative swipes at even the best of brews are just his opinion. I certainly have my share of criticisms about some beers and talk about them when in a beer discussion. I think at the bottom of this is the fact that we all could find small things we don’t like about almost everything, including every beer ever brewed. I choose not to have that view of the world. So when this gentleman offers up yet one more petty shot at a pretty flawless brew, he challenges not just my tastes, but my values. But that is my problem, not his.
So the next time you feel that your beer tastes are being disrespected, ask yourself this: Is the person dismissing me, or am I dismissing myself by allowing a difference of opinion and/or world view make feel slighted. When those of us who don’t think we have a corner on all the knowledge make allowances for those who do—as far as innocuous debates, I mean—the world becomes a better place.
I’m talking in terms of beer here, but it’s not bad advice in general. Cheers.
The Beer nut and me.