Inspection- Of Beer, Wine and Society

by Ken Carman

  I’ve been pouring through Denny Conn’s book on experimental brewing. We started homebrewing in 1979. Books on homebrewing these days are light years beyond what they used to be, but I’m not writing this to dis old home brewing books. Let’s be honest: without them many of us early birds would have missed the worm.
  Hey, I’m experimental, but worms in beer? Ewe.
  One part of Denny’s book was quite fascinating beyond homebrewing. Denny wrote about studies that offered wine tasters samples of wine, some from high priced, very well respected, wine bottles. Another had tasters comment on various samples of dark beer. The control being it was all the same wine, and all the same beer, some with food coloring added.
  Even professionals were fooled.
  Tasters offered descriptors one would expect for fine wine or dark beer. Roastiness and esters were found in beer samples that, in reality, weren’t there. “Fine” wine presented that way was perceived as superior.
 Visual and mental cues easily deceive. I would argue dogma, political/social skews and preconceptions are like the food coloring, or the fine wine bottles, used to make some some pretty horrible opinions and policies palatable. As Jonestown proved years ago, some folks will prefer poison if it’s presented in deceptive ways.
  As a beer judge I’ve noticed how easily opinion can be skewed. After the quiet time when two judges assess a beer, we’ll discuss an entry. Often one judge will claim to have found something the other didn’t find. What’s the result? The other judge: the one who didn’t “find,” will reassess and far too often find what may not be there at all.
  Visual cues contribute: “gushers,” or those with a lot of sediment, or “floaters,” are assumed to be infected, or have some defect. Even though the object is to use all senses: independently, before a conclusion is reached, like the tasters with the food coloring, or wine from a expensive bottle, one can be too easily led astray.
 How does this apply to politics, to society?
 Accusation, framing and spin are like the food coloring, the cheap wine bottles, of life. But they work. Step back and think. Ever notice how many of the same accusations leveled at one administration are often leveled at the next administration? Doesn’t seem to matter what party was voted in. One might assume they’re all corrupt, but it’s more likely all this framing is food coloring, poor wine in expensive bottles. Really, does anyone think Rush Limbaugh, or Rachael Maddow, are objective when it comes to packaging opinions on Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, atheists, agnostics or theists?
 How much are you willing to pay for the Brooklyn Bridge again?
  In my short 61 years I’ve noticed the number of well paid cheerleaders who are merely out to defend or accuse strictly according to political labels has increased. It’s their job to put the food coloring in the beer, to put the fine wine in the cheap bottle. They poison the Kool Aid. And the more outrageous they get, the better paid they are, the more broadcasting time, or ink, digital space, they get..
 It becomes all about who can deceive the best, the most. Who can “do your thinking for you.”
 Although I find the claim too often becomes disingenuous, I understand the concept when people claim it’s just “humor,” or “entertainment.” When Bill O’Reilly attacks a certain group, or person, is it all that surprising? I’m sure you could say the same about Ed Schultz. To me, using a wider camera lens, it seems this form of “entertainment” is not unlike a verbal form of the Roman games. Sometimes it can be just as bloody when people with problems take the demonizing to heart and try to solve it all with guns, knives or bombs.
 Backing off enough to see the “big picture,” is this supposed form of “humor,” this kind of entertainment, really good for society? I doubt it. Perhaps we need less spitballs from a distance, and more consensus? I admit: consensus is tough sometimes, even in judging beer.
 But that’s one of the things I love about the best judging. Despite what we individually sense, or think, at the end we have to come to a consensus score within a certain number of points. The sheets can show just how different two or three people can be when judging any entry.
 Perhaps when pundits speak they should have warnings, like on cigarette packages, before and after they speak…

“The opinions and supposed ‘facts’ presented in this program may not be facts, or honest opinions, at all. They may be intentionally manipulative, even break any BS meter due to too high a reading.”

 They used to have something like that for discussion panels, “The opinions expressed here…”
 These days most discussion panels I’ve had the pleasure of turning off only seem to serve to feed flames of hate; all left, all right, or the worst: some marginally opposite panelist who gets run over by the rest, or their mic potted down level-wise compared to the rest.
 Again: is any of that, “…really good for society, considering? I doubt it.”
  Whether beer, social and political issues, it also comes down to balance. Relying on watching, or listening to, only our own, personal, skewed rhetorical nirvanas is like a Stout with way too much roasted barley in the recipe: harsh… or a pale ale with tons of hops that were boiled for hours, and hours: bitter, astringent.
  And that’s how I would define much of our social discourse these days: intentionally “harsh” and “bitter.” “Harsh” and “bitter” may make a lot of money, but is it good for us? No, nor is the fact that real balanced: not some “fair and balanced” marketing phrase, social discourse has fallen out of favor. No coincidenc: so has respect for anyone not perceived to be more like us.
  I find good judging an adventure where we learn from each other. We discover more than what one person’s palate may perceive, and adjust as much as we can to our differences.
 If only we could find that in our social discourse.

                                                    -30-
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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