I used to think food was all about the taste, and if it looked like a pile of crap on the plate it really didn't matter as it's the experience in the mouth which is all important. I still believe that flavour is more important than the visual aspect of a meal, but I have come round to the idea that an atractive plate of food does help the overall experience.
So what of beer? All the ratings sites out there ask you to score on appearance as well as the more familiar aroma, taste and palate. So how important are looks and how does one decide which beer looks better than another?
I have to admit I'm a sucker for dark beers and if it's got a lovely brown, tan or beige head then my mouth is salivating already. I'm likely to give those beers maximum score. An anaemic pale lager or a disgustingly (and unexpectedly) hazy beer is likely to score minimum marks. However, what about a hefeweizen or a Belgian Wit which is supposed to be cloudy? I have to say it's not as attractive as a stout, and the haziness immediately results in the beer losing marks for me. Similarly lambics are not as pretty as stouts. And as for the vast majority of British cask ales, they are just average looking and get a middle of the road score.
The problem with scoring appearance is that, for me, the best tasting beer in the World cannot score top marks if it's not dark with a good head. I know that food critics would take marks off if a plate of food is not wholly acceptable on the eye, but is it fair that beer raters like myself cannot give the vast majority of beers full marks?
I realise that fundamentally this is a debate for elsewhere, but how important are looks for you?