Making a great beer list is a bit like making a music compilation. And, as anyone who has lovingly created a mix tape knows, there is an art to the selection, grouping and delivery.
These days, the digitisation of music has changed the way we organise songs. It has made things easy for people to pull something together. You just tap and select the tunes you want to add. This, we understand, is a good thing – for accessibility.
Similarly, we live in an age where beers are now batched together by online shops. For ease, there are options to buy pre-selected boxes of ‘mixed craft beers’ or ‘mixed world beers’ and we no longer need to labour over the choices.
Although ‘accessibility’ should probably not be seen to be a bad thing, there is the feeling that, with each progression, there is something tangible that is missing. Sometimes, by removing the need for choice and selection other things get lost along the way.
Without the need for handwriting and the composition of mix tapes, music playlists are comparatively neat and more straightforward.
Without walking into a pub and chatting to people or perusing the drinks, online shopping cuts out the effort required to walk anywhere as well as never needing to make conversation. It speeds up dwell time too.
Playlists are to mix tapes what online drinks merchandisers and supermarket chains are to pubs and independent bottle shops. Easy, artless fixers.
Buying beers online is akin to playlist creation. But going to a decent bottle shop or pub and selecting a line-up of charms amidst a smattering of unobvious but brilliant classics is still the equivalent to making an old school mix tape.
For music, there is no longer any manual fading in and out or the deft of hand <play> <record> and slow release of <pause> and, similarly, there is no hand-scribed inlay for the track listings. There is no such thing as a B-side that glimmers with understated delight.
Don’t let it be the same for beer. Don’t overlook brilliant beers because they weren’t fitting for a Now album.
The choice and order of each selection each of us makes, with a nod to good taste (all with the underlying nuances of thought-provoking wild cards) gives back a little of what we are missing from being the armchair DJs of yesteryear.
Playing an active role in making considered choices for ourselves is something we should never give up on.
After all, remove the art of creation and you just have the template of someone else’s tastes.
In the Nick Hornby book High Fidelity, the character Rob Gordon says: “The making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do’s and don’ts. First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing. You’ve got to kick off with a killer to grab attention. Then, you’ve got to take it up a notch, but you don’t want to blow your wad, so then you’ve got to cool it off a notch.”
Guess what? That’s how you make a great beer list too.