Monday, March 15, 2010

The Difference Between "Tasting" and "Drinking"

A lot of people are worried about me. Many people ask me about what I do for a hobby or what my site is about and I tell them, quite simply: "I review alcohol". For some reason, they immediately make sure that I'm not turning into an alcoholic. It's true. Not only my family but friends as well. It's nice to see so many care but they're missing a huge aspect.

There's a difference between "tasting" and "drinking".

A lot of people associate "tasting" something with an high-brow, posh mind-frame which confuses me. It's not seen as a bad thing, per se, but rather something "fancy". A lot of people associate "drinking" with straight up boozing. Pounding back beers and Boilermakers of Pabst Blue Ribbon and cheap bourbon at a local blue collar bar is something, somehow, that is almost iconoclastic to the word "drinking". Either that or swilling luke-warm cheap beer to the thudding bass of bad rap music in a semi-lit frat house basement as you try to hit on anything that moves. The breadth of descriptions of "drinking" is staggering. But they all seem to be negative in some unconscious/subconscious way. I feel, mainly, that in modern culture a "tasting" is far more appropriate than "drinking" and that "drinking" has far heavier moral and social weights to it.

I think this is wrong.

There is a distinct difference between drinking and tasting but both are equally important and neither are negative. I feel that they are mutually exclusive, however. I myself have a great difficulty combining both drinking and tasting. Let me explain:

Tasting is the act of trying a consumable (food, beverage, cigar, etc.) in order to evaluate a taste profile and to determine whether it is appropriately matched to your palate. You drink/eat/smoke a lot of different things to build your personal palate: a vast index of tastes and experiences both negative and positive that help you determine what food, drink, and smoke you enjoy the most. The negative is equally as important as the positive in this situation as the sum of all your experiences help you determine what you want to put past your lips. Simple as that.

Drinking is far more complex. At it's socially defined heart, it's all about getting hammered. Blitzed. Shitfaced. Tying one on. Drinking the gigglewater. Cutting footloose. But, let's be honest, how many of you really strive to get absolutely blotto past your college years and maybe even mid/late twenties. Probably not a lot of you. Hell, even I don't get intentionally drunk anymore (excessive tasting is, unfortunately, unavoidable in my line of work). For me, drinking is at its core more about camaraderie than the effect I get from ethanol consumption. It's about having a nice quiet drink with friends and/or family while chatting, reading, or enjoying each others company.

This is why I find it so difficult to both do tasting and drinking at once. They're mutually exclusive. Tasting requires you to focus solely on the consumable at hand. Drinking is more about shifting your focus to those around you rather than what's in your hand. Whatever libation or conflagration you're enjoying at the moment is but a prop in small play, so to say. This also brings up an interesting topic for drinking as well that will, undoubtedly, clash with quite a bit of the craft beer community:

Cheap beer isn't the bane of all existence.

I'm going to assume you've watched a beer commercial. If you haven't, please let me know where you've been living so I can move there. You'll note that a lot of the ads feature prominently social interaction in some form (party, gathering, something). Hell, corporations even made up a damn word to describe what I'm trying to say here: drinkability. It's a terrible word but it illustrates a point here. The point is that cheap beer (in this instance, mass produced "big name" beer) has its place and time and that's usually while hanging out with friends. I won't lie to you fine readers. I drink and enjoy a lot of craft beer but one of my favorite beers is still Labatt Blue. Not because it has the greatest flavor profile I've ever seen. Not because it shows impressive flavor layering and an intense but pungent aroma. Nope. It's because it's just something I can drink with the fellas. No one turns their nose up at it as "too frilly" and I don't feel pathologically obligated to focus on its flavors (which may be a firm case for my institutionalization but that's besides the point). I mean, the phrase "session beer" wasn't discovered by accident.

I'm NOT saying that I agree with the marketing and distribution of big name brands and how they have a tendency to push smaller, more interesting brands off the shelf but I am saying that a cheap beer now and then isn't a bad thing. And I plan on doing more "cheap stuff" in the coming months too. I've got an ice cold Colt 45 in the fridge that's begging to be popped open. Honestly, I'm not scared of 40s anymore because I know that a beer like Colt 45 has its place just like the rest of all beers. It can be neatly summed up by saying that all beer, no matter what the price or quality ends up in exactly the same place.

My stomach.

If you thought something else, shame on you. You're dirty.

1 comment:

  1. I have the same problem. Most people don't really know that good booze exists, except for single malts and top shelf vodkas. I had a coworker freak out once when I remarked that "I drink every day."

    Also, I definitely enjoy malt liquor once in a while.