THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUTH:

All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.



Sunday, May 13, 2012

BLIND BEER TASTE TESTS (Or, BEER BATTLES: WHO HOPS TO THE TOP?)

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This is Part 3.
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If you missed Part 1, you can read it HERE.
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If you missed Part 2, you can read it HERE.
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Our official slogan:
“Stop listening to your heart and your mind, and start listening to your taste buds.”

OK, so we’ve reached the Semi-Final Rounds and the final eight beers still standing face off against each other to see who advances to the Finals and then the Championship Round on Tuesday.

But before I show you what happened in the Semi-Finals, there’s . . .

A QUESTION OF “CLASS”

Those of you who are old horse players already understand this, but for the benefit of the others, I want to explain how class impacts the grades, or to put it another way… to explain why the beer grades are “relative”.

My Pa was a lifelong horse player, but even so, Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded not to marry him. (Happy Birthday and Happy Mother’s Day, Ma!) It was from my Pa, while hanging out with him for years at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park race tracks, that my brother Nappy and I learned about “class” in a horse race (and wherever else it might apply).
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In explaining to us how to read The Daily Racing Form, Pa told us why the seemingly fastest horse in the race, with the best times on that same track in other races, might not necessarily be the favorite to win the race if he happens to be “moving up in class”. Class in a race horse has to do with previous races for bigger purses – bigger races involving more money determines the class a horse is running in.

A horse who is moving up in class, facing different horses who have raced in more expensive races can sometimes be intimidated and lose a race despite having better times than the other horses at that same distance.

“But how does the horse know?” Nappy and I both questioned our Pa. His response: “Have you ever heard of ‘horse sense’?”

Well, it sounds crazy, but I saw faster up-and-coming horses lose to slower, higher class horses so many times that I became convinced my Pa knew what he was yakking about and betting on. Not all horses will be intimidated by the other more well-established horses when they move up in class; some will run the “classier” horses right off the track. But not always. It’s a variable that MUST be taken into account when attempting to handicap a horse race.

It’s a bit like Heisman Trophy winners in college football. Every Heisman Trophy winner is a superstar in college football, so why are so many of them selling cars or insurance 4 years after being drafted by a professional football team? It’s because although they may be superstars at the college level, their talent doesn’t always translate or hold up when they move up in class to the professional level of football. Suddenly the competition is better; this is the cream of the cream, and sometimes the Heisman Trophy winner’s talent and skill, while notable at the nonprofessional level, reaches a plateau there and can’t make the leap into the highest class of competition.

This has been the scenic route way of explaining why the beer grades Nappy and I have affixed to some of these better beers don’t always seem consistent with the grades they scored when going up against lesser competition.

For example, in Test #9, I gave a “B-“ twice to  Dogfish Head’s ‘90 MINUTE IPA’. I also gave a “B-” minus twice to ‘NOMAD PILSNER’ in Test #11. Does this mean I like both of those beers equally? Not at all. I can tell you that had ‘90 MINUTE IPA’ gone head-to-head against ‘NOMAD PILSNER’, I would have had to elevate the grades of ‘90 MINUTE IPA’ if I had continued to give the grade of “B-” to ‘NOMAD PISNER’. Because although I didn’t really care that much for either beer, I did prefer the Dogfish Head brew. You see? The competition the beers are facing will also have an impact on the grades they receive; it’s a variable that must be kept in mind when evaluating the grades these beers are receiving in the Semi-Final and Final Rounds where all the beers are really the best of the best, in our opinion.

Alright, now that you understand how “class” affects the beer grades as we move forward, let’s see what happened in the Semi-Final Rounds:

“THE BEER BATTLES CONTINUE!”
(Or, “Nappy And Stephen Continue To Sacrifice Their Livers In A Search For Truth”)

Our scoring system looks like this:

A+ = “Goes up to Eleven” points (Think: ‘Spinal Beer Tap’
A = 10 points
A- = 9 points
B+ = 8 points
B = 7 points
B- = 6 points
C+ = 5 points
C = 4 points
C- = 3 points
D+ = 2 points
D = 1 point

TEST #12: MAY, 2012

Lagunitas Brewing
Co., ‘LITTLE SUMPIN’ ALE’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = A-
Total = 33 points

Green Flash Brewing Co., ‘WEST COAST IPA’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B
Total = 29 points

Post-Test Post-it Note:
This is a good example of what I was attempting to say about how “class” can alter our perceptions of a beer and cause a change in its grades. WEST COAST IPA is a fine beer, and it is certainly worthy of more than two “B” grades from me, but not when it’s being compared to LITTLE SUMPIN’ ALE, which seems to score 33 points no matter who it goes up against. LITTLE SUMPIN’ must certainly be considered one of the favorites to win as it advances to The Final Four.

TEST #13: MAY, 2012

Prescott Brewing Co., ‘PONDEROSA IPA’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B
Total = 29 points

Big Sky Brewing Co., ‘BIG SKY IPA’
Nappy:
Round 1 = A-. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B+
Total = 33 points

Post-Test Post-it Note:
Despite PONDEROSA IPA getting beaten by 4 points (a considerable margin), this match was much closer than the score would seem to indicate. In fact, Nappy and I both gave PONDEROSA IPA a “B” in the first round but we both, independently of each other, said that we had wavered between a “B” and a “B+” before each of us settled on the lower of the two grades. Had we gone with the extra plus (+) which we’d seriously considered for a few moments while PONDEROSA IPA’s grade hung in the balance, it would have lost this match by only 2 points. That’s darned close.

Nevertheless, in a surprising turn, BIG SKY IPA knocked out the favored PONDEROSA IPA and moves into the Final Four. We’ve got one of two underdog stories brewing here.

TEST #14: MAY, 2012

Odell Brewing Co., ‘ODELL IPA’
Nappy:
Round 1 = A-. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = A-
Total = 33 points

Four Peaks Brewing Co., ‘HOP KNOT’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = A-
Stephen:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B+
Total = 33 points

Yes, we had our first tie! The few degrees variations of the beers’ temperatures in conjunction with how incredibly close they were in quality (which is excellent) seemed to wreak havoc on our grading. So, for the first time in these Beer Battles, we had to go to “Extra Innings” to determine the winner. And this damned contest between these two beers turned absolutely MONUMENTAL! People will be talking about THIS contest long after Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series has been forgotten.

EXTRA INNINGS

‘ODELL IPA’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = B. Round 2 = B+
Total =  31 points

‘HOP KNOT’
Nappy:
Round 1 = A-. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B
Total =  32 points

Post-Test Post-it Note:
Incredible! After four rounds (that’s eight rounds total, counting both Nappy and me together), HOP KNOT finally managed to beat ODELL IPA by one measly point. And we have our second underdog story brewing as HOP KNOT, which really only got entered into these Beer Battles by a kind of fluke, has advanced to become one of the final four warriors.

This contest between ODELL IPA and HOP KNOT caused an unforeseen necessity to consume more beer than usual in determining the outcome, and by the time HOP KNOT was found to be a one-point winner, I was too intoxicated to go into work. So I called my boss and told him that my Brother Nappy and I were conducting these Blind Beer Taste Tests and we had to go into Extra Innings on one, and now I was too drunk to make it in for work.

My boss, being a typical Irishman, said: “A’right, mate. Take the day off, but don’t be late on Monday. And don’t forget to bring me a six-pack of the winner.” (It’s good to be the employee of an Irish employer.)


It was a shame there had to be a loser in Test #14. ODELL IPA may be gone but he won't be forgotten. 

TEST #15: MAY, 2012

Odell Brewing Co., ‘ODELL RED ALE’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = A-. Round 2 = A-
Total =  34 points

Lagunitas Brewing Co., ‘HOP STOOPID ALE’
Nappy:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = B+
Stephen:
Round 1 = B+. Round 2 = A-
Total =  33 points

Post-Test Post-it Note:
Another super-close one! Poor HOP STOOPID scored 33 points (An A- and a B+ three times) and STILL lost! ODELL RED ALE scored 34 points - the most in a Semi-Final Round - and so going into the Finals, I think we can say it might be the favorite to win.

Our Final Four finishers are . . . 

ODELL RED ALE (Colorado)


 who will battle BIG SKY IPA (Montana),



and the winner of that match will meet the winner of the match between . . .

LITTLE SUMPIN’ ALE (California)



and HOP KNOT IPA (Arizona).


Well, this Tuesday night we will have our champion; Tuesday night we will know “WHO HOPS TO THE TOP”. 

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

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