Rick Ball, who grew up in Golden, Colorado with the Coors family, vividly recalls the first time he appreciated beer: "I was 14 and had been horseback riding (in the mountains of Colorado) with my siblings. Somebody handed me a beer when I got off the horse, and I gulped it down all at once. The combination of my dehydration and the pure, clean flavor of the beer worked together to create a sort of magic."

And now, years later, Ball has taken to Guernica magazine to say what he believes has too long gone unsaid: "a lot of microbrews stink, and nobody's willing to say it."

Ball, a math professor, begins his "Beer Manifesto" by touching on the history of the microbrew movement, which "emerged in reaction to the commercialism and consolidation of the beer industry. Thus, it was primarily about style; it was a pose. Just like when hipsters started drinking cans of Pabst, it wasn't about the taste of the beer."

And then he arrives at his thesis:

What makes the flavor of beer is the way the rich, sweet texture of the grains is balanced with the bitterness of the hops. The major virtue of a good beer has to be that it quenches your thirst. It's not like wine, something you sip and roll around on your tongue in small quantities. So the taste has to be balanced very, very carefully ...

A good beer cannot be sickly sweet, and it also can't be overwhelmingly bitter. That's what I have against a lot of microbrews. You can't gulp them down all at once. Frankly, I think microbrewed ales have been promoted and become popular mainly because they are easier to make. Ale yeasts also are more finicky--they don't digest all of the sugars, so they leave all these sugary notes hanging around in the final product. The flavor of an ale tends to be very complicated, while a lager is cleaner and more dry. It's easy to get bedazzled by the spectacle of a busy, full flavor. There's a lot going on. But there is greater virtue in simplicity. You can make a mediocre ale and no one will notice; with a lager, there is nowhere to hide.


(h/t: Ezra Klein at The Washington Post)