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    Thursday, 24 July 2008

    How Important Is Apperance?

    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?


    The Beer Nut said...

    Of absolutely zero importance. I don't buy beer to look at it.

    David said...

    You raise a good point. I won't necessarily disount a beer based on appearance, but a beer that looks exceptionally good will get better marks. I agree with you that dark beers with thick tan heads are the best in the looks category. Likewise, if I'm drinking a lighter-colored beer, I like to see a crisp, pure white head.

    Appearance is important. That's just one reasons beer shouldn't be consumed from the bottle or an opaque plastic cup.

    Joe said...

    Hmm. Important but not that important. And almost completely unimportant if it tastes good enough.

    Seems like how much you enjoy a beer is partly based on mood. A pretty one can certainly help you get in the right mood.

    And a lambic can look unbeatable in the right glass. Tart, bubbly kriek in champagne flutes tends to impress our houseguests.

    Paul Garrard said...

    It's an interesting topic. I would have said that looks are important, but about a week ago I had a beer from Wolf called 'Wolf in Sheeps Clothing'. It was quite a dark ale but with a taste that belonged to a golden ale. I liked it despite its colour.

    Ron Pattinson said...

    In my personal scoring system, appearance counts for a maximum of 5 of the possible 100 points. I think that's about right. How a beer looks is just the icing on the cake. The taste is what really matters.

    Boak said...

    I think it's a perfectly good topic!

    We brewed an ESB-style beer the other month, but we'd run out of finings and it still hasn't cleared. It pours a fairly cloudy, dirty brown, and just doesn't look very appetising. It's perfectly drinkable, but I think the look of it has definitely affected our judgement.

    One way to force yourself to concentrate just on the flavour is to use a stone krug. We served the same beer slightly chilled in a krug and managed to convince ourselves it was an interesting Franconian village brew.

    There is something very sexy about a dark beer with a massive head, though!

    Tandleman said...

    Get ready for a few generalisations. Most brewers will tell you most people drink firstly with their eyes. Appearance matters. To me a cloudy looking beer, no matter how tasty, just doesn't cut it, with the exception of wheat beers - who said I'm consistent?

    I find a beer with a good head more attractive than one without. Appearance does matter to me.

    maeib said...

    Some interesting comments thanks.

    Of course when ordering a beer we don't always know what colour of beer we are going to get (unless it's obvious from the name). I'm not sure that once I've parted with my money I'm going to allow a dodgy appearance to get in the way of my enjoyment of the drink. A hazy real ale isn't always a sign that it's not going to be right of course.

    I certainly agree with Joe's point. Beer enhances mood. If you're up, a few beers makes you happier. If you're down then prepare for more depression!!

    Ron - I'm fascinated by your scoring method. I know you've scored beers way more than 100/100 and some score minus points I think. Perhaps a blog article describing your scoring process is in order?

    haddonsman said...

    Yes, looks are appealing. A fluffy-headed, sparkling gold beer ticks my boxes just as much as a very very very dark brown cappuchino-headed one.

    But, fundamentally, I'm a T&A man - taste and aroma ;-)

    Ron Pattinson said...

    I score by number of flavours I can discern. I knock off points for off or nasty flavours. It usually gives results in the range 10 to 90. The odd one has got outside the bounds of 0 to 100.

    This is an example: