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The Theory of Things That Matter: Barleywine isn't supposed to be hoppy.





The theory of things that matter states that all matters consist of many, smaller opinions that are constantly moving whilst being in a continual state of not mattering.

I've used Untappd since 2012. There are many aspects of it that I find both useful and enjoyable. Mostly though, my use of it is for personal cataloguing and reference. Remove the "toasting" capability or the chance to read the reviews of other users and I would still have this app on my phone as a useful database. It is my personal log; one that I use as I see fit.

Review sites have long existed on the internet. In my youth I remember such a web page as "Rate My Teacher" existing, something I don't particularly fancy googling now in order to link to. For this reason I knew as soon as I started taking an extra interest in beer that there was always going to be a website called "RateBeer," it was just a case of who won the race to the domain. Whether they saw Macro riches from it would not come from the owners themselves, but rather the users and how much matter they applied to the reviews. 

I've learnt over the years how much more there is to the seemingly innocent beer logging application Untappd for other users. The immediate example for me exists in the Beer o'Clock Show Hopinions podacast that mentions and uses it frequently, even coming up with their own user commandments. I don't disapprove of their enthusiasm for the app, but it does somewhat show the difference between that and my own personal usage.


This tweet from Peter Sidwell (one third of Torrside Brewing if you didn't know) led me to discover Untappd Allstars. If you are unaware of it, it should be an always humorous analysis of some of the more ill-informed or comical reviews on this particular review app. And it is... mostly.

Until you see their frequent take-down of those that use onomatopoeia to describe beers as meh. A beer that they have drank. A beer they have found to be lustreless. A beer that they have found to be worthy of this review. How dare they.

Meh.

I've used it.

Because sometimes you do just drink a beer that makes you say nothing but...

Sometimes you're checking in a beer in a social situation and want to recall what you thought of it in the morning so quickly scribble... 

This is where the world of those trying to sell the products and those drinking shouldn't meet. In my head, that one word review was for my own personal take should I ever have the beer again. It has indeed happened where I have found myself enjoying a beer that I previously found only worthy of this articulated shoulder shrug.  It interests me. Of course it interests me - it was for me.

The idea of Untappd - or any of the other websites, ABInBev involvement or not - being taken more seriously confused me for a long time. I can recall my friend David at @yesaleblog brewing a beer with the aforementioned Torrside a couple of years ago; a wonderful Black IPA named Blackstar. To my perverse hilarity I found pleasure in rating the beer as low as can be on my Untappd app whenever I drank it, citing the involvement of my friend for the reason. In my mind it was just me having a crap joke with some friends of mine, but I could tell that Dave wasn't as amused as me. "You're bringing my overall average down" he would tell me whilst trying to force a smile. But I couldn't understand why that mattered.

It turns out that it does matter.

But ultimately it doesn't matter at all.


Playing by the rules.

Inappropriate glassware

The matter with kinetic matter is its constant motion. Just when you feel things that matter will matter the same to all, the matter changes. So it is easy for me to say that Untappd doesn’t matter but then some matter matters more to some.  

I had previously thought that the running social media jokes about inappropriate glassware (#inappropriateglassware) had been exactly that; jokes. As it turns out some people actually get unreasonably annoyed about this. Some forum commentators have referred to using the wrong glass as disrespectful to the brewer. Another called having a brewery’s logo on a glass of beer that is different to those that brewed the beer inside deception. Deception. Downright lies. You're a big fat phony. 

I've spoken to somebody recently who was entirely unabashed to inform me that they don't like smoked beers despite having never tried a single one. How do they know? Well because their friend doesn't like them and he trusts his friend's opinion. The comment may have had me wanting to drown myself in a bath of Schlenkerla, but now I'm just fascinated that this matters. The glass branding, the friend's opinion, beer-logging phone apps, they matter...

The fact that the Hopinions podcast has managed to fashion two full shows discussing the rules of using Untappd shows how much the App matters to them. Large portions of each show were dedicated to staunchly defending how they use it - which is great. They can use it however they choose as it's for their personal gain. It isn't for anybody else's. 


Some of my Best Friends are Barleywines 



Perhaps I was expecting a rant to unleash on this topic or a gentle mockery of the Untappd hopped barleywine hater. There is an awkward line when confronted by some misinformed comments or opinions. I often use the hashtags #overheardatthebar or #overheardinpubs to regale some of the quite incredible remarks I hear from other customers whilst I'm propping up the bar. I love reading the comments in posts such as this from Crema's Beer Odyssey where we read some of the interactions those on the other end of the bar deal with regularly. 

It isn't taunting or meant offensively but it is humorous to highlight. That is all it needs be though. I've had to learn this myself through many of the comments on the variety of Facebook forums that exist now. Heck, I wrote a post highlighting some of the more jaw-dropping moments. 

It is more difficult when somebody is passing judgement on a product that you have devised and are satisfied with. I've seen some brewers who seem marginally obsessed or unable to cope with the comments coming from the Apps; one whose career was almost ruined by it. All I have wanted to say for many months to all those brewers is not to take personal indignation to those comments, as irritating as they seem.


Just as I began to talk about this topic, this appeared in my Twitter feed: 


Original Tweet

Tegernseer Hell ... rated this low... and then tell me that this stuff matters... 


This is a present day beer climate where I recently read that Saison Dupont wasn't a very good example of a saison; that Westmalle Tripel isn't really a Tripel. These sort of comments are allowed to go unchallenged and always hide behind the famous "That's the great thing about taste - it's subjective. And if we all liked the same thing, the world would..." Oh fuck off. there's subjective taste and then there's being plain wrong. Maybe writing about that topic will turn into a rant... 

If we are to accept an existence where those comments are allowed to be matter, then we have to accept that reviews formed of onomatopoeia matter. Therefore explaining that an American Barleywine isn’t supposed to be hoppy matters and a Black IPA described as featuring too much David is equally important. The truth is that, just like this blog, they don’t matter very much. Don’t allow your beer producing enjoyment to be reduced by fools with a phone app. Meh.

Disclaimer: There is no Scientific fact behind anyhting here, nor any pretence that there is. It doesn't matter.

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