You know the one. I’m sure you’ve been asked it, like, a million times. I’m sure you’ve stood there opposite the asker, beer in hand, squirming, trying to come up with your answer, readying a monologue and then cutting it back to a few stuttered and uncomfortable words along the lines of: “Oh man, that’s such a difficult question, there are so many great beers, you know, I can’t just pick one.” But, what is your favourite beer? What’s the best beer you’ve ever had? What’s your desert island beer? Come on, what’s the answer?!
People who don’t drink craft beer don’t seem to understand. They have difficulty appreciating that we like more than one or two beers. And they don’t seem to get the fact that the best beer you’ve ever had, your favourite beer and your desert island choice will probably never be the same thing.
The beauty of beer is that it works any time, in any situation, to suit any mood. If the best beer I’ve ever had, for example, is a four-year-old bottle of 12% imperial stout brewed with coffee and vanilla and aged in a bourbon barrel then that’s just super. Does me telling them that enlighten them in any way? Will they even know what it is if I tell them the beer’s name? (Cue the blank face staring back) Then would I call this beer my favourite? Would I want to open a bottle a week to enjoy it? Would I take a case with me to a desert island?
Here’s how I see it: the best beer I’ve ever had will be the one which is the most memorable to me. It’s not purely a sensory or taste experience. It’s about where I was and who I was with. Maybe it was the beer I opened the day my first child was born, maybe on my wedding day, graduation day. Maybe I’d just had a great day with friends and we opened this one and universally agreed that it was spectacular. It needn’t be a super-rare beer. I doesn’t have to be one of the fabled ‘bests’, it could just be any beer. But it’s a one-off experience. My favourite beer is the one that I want to drink most of and drink regularly. It’s the one which is always in the fridge, the one you know so well but never tire of, the bottle which you can just open any time and still love it. The favourite beer is an important one. Then the desert island beer. I doubt you’d want to take the best beer you’ve had because it will lose whatever magic it once had. You may want to take your favourite beer, this is kind of sensible. Or, you may want to be practical and choose something that will either get you – and keep you – very drunk, or have something refreshing during the hot sun (I’m assuming you wash up onto this island and find a well spring of this beer, by the way – that’s how it works).
Ask me *that* question and see me squirm. See me try to explain that it’s a difficult question to answer, that it depends on what time of year it is, that my favourite beer isn’t the best beer I’ve ever had and then see them try to understand it and fail. See my attempts to console them and still give an answer by saying, ‘well, I love big IPAs’ and then tell them a few names, see their face drop when they realise they’ve never heard of them, let the awkward silence begin. Put it this way: if someone tells you they love food and trying new recipes then you aren’t likely to get a decent answer if you ask them what the best meal they’ve ever had was. Or their favourite. I like your curiosity and thank you for your interest, but understand that it’s a really difficult question to answer. “Would you like to try this beer? It’s great!” I offer, smiling. “Oh no, I don’t really drink beer.” They reply.
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