The Session No. 84: Alternative Beer Reviews

This month’s Session* topic is hosted by Oliver Gray, creator and author of the award winning blog Literature and Libation. For the 84th Session, he asks us to branch out. 

As Oliver notes, many beer bloggers (and I’ll add beer lovers in general) tend to get caught up in the cataloging of beer via incessant quantification of a beer’s data – to the point we lose the memory of the experience we had while enjoying it.  Thus, Oliver asks us to review a beer without actually reviewing it. Here’s the task in Oliver’s words:

I ask all of you to review a beer. Any beer. Of your choosing even! There’s a catch though, just one eentsy, tiny rule that you have to adhere to: you cannot review the beer. 

I know it sounds like the yeast finally got to my brain, but hear me out: I mean that you can’t write about SRM color, or mouthfeel, or head retention. Absolutely no discussion of malt backbones or hop profiles allowed. Lacing and aroma descriptions are right out. Don’t even think about rating the beer out of ten possible points.

But, to balance that, you can literally do anything else you want. I mean it. Go beernuts. Uncap your muse and let the beer guide your creativity.

Sorry for the lengthy recitation of Oliver’s instructions, but if you’re going to have any ability to understand what I’m doing here, you’ve got to understand the context.  Unfortunately, Oliver is not done.  Just when you think you understand the task, he carries on with this tidbit:

I want to see something that lets me know what you thought of the beer (good or bad!) without explicitly telling me. Write a short story that incorporates the name, an essay based on an experience you had drinking it, or a silly set of pastoral sonnets expressing your undying love for a certain beer. . . . .  Show me the beer and how it made you feel, in whatever way strikes you most appropriate.

Okay, that makes sense even if it doesn’t exactly line up with the first set of instructions.  I could probably understand what the heck I’m supposed to do if he’d stopped there, but, no, Oliver didn’t stop there.  He added more:

My goal is to push you out of your default mode, to send you off to explore realms outside of the usual and obvious. I want you to create something inspired by beer without having to worry about the minutiae of the beer itself. Don’t obsess over the details of the recipe, just revel in the fact that you live in a place where you have the luxury of indulging in such beautiful decadence.

Push me?  Good grief, Oliver. Do you want me to review a dang beer without reviewing it, or write something about my experience with beer?  What if I don’t even remember what a sonnet is? Why the confusingly disparate instructions?  Are you trying to host two Sessions at once?

I’m going to warn you right up front you’re probably not going to like what comes next.  I know you’re an unusually talented writer, Oliver, especially in the realm of beer, but you don’t have to prove it by making us all feel so inferior. To so aggressively challenge us to try something you deem “out of our default mode” is a gigantic affront to the camaraderie of beer writers.

Who are you to tell me this is not my default mode?  What gives you the right to suggest I typically stick to safe, familiar territory? Heck, I rarely even do beer reviews, you yellow, fizzy beverage drinker! I’ll bet your lips move when you read mass market romance novels.

Just thinking about this Session sends wave after wave of bitterness across my brain, leaving an awful taste in my mouth. It lingers wretchedly, too, like a remnant of a Captain and Tennille song playing endlessly in a lost corner of your brain following an elevator ride.

In fact, I’m so sick of this exercise I’m going to violate every rule you set and and explicitly tell you:  You are not worthy of my beer non-review.  You, Sir, are an Arrogant Bastard!


In the event you haven’t caught on yet, this is a joke, and it probably even sucks.  Oliver is not an arrogant bastard and there is a reason he won “best blog” in the inaugural North American Guild of Beer Writers’ 2013 Beer Writing Contest.  Head over to Literature and Libation and spend some time looking around.  You’ll see why.

And if you’re still reading this post, it’s true; I don’t like Stone Brewing Co.’s Arrogant Bastard. And, And, if you still aren’t getting it, click on that link. But I do like ketchup.
*Today is the first Friday in February which means it’s time to take part in The Session, a collective effort of beer bloggers around the world to write on a common topic once each month.