3.1AROMA 6/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 6/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 12/20Chad9976 (1604) - Lakeland, Florida, USA - MAY 23, 2016
Monday, May 23, 2016
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Saturday, May 21, 2016
As you may have heard, I recently moved to Lakeland, so what better place to go for my first review of a local establishment than the brewery that bears the city’s name: Lakeland Brewing Company. I actually went as part of a meetup of the inaugural meeting of Lakeland Craft Beer Enthusiasts.
My initial impression of the facility is that it’s pretty gorgeous in appearance. It’s either a newly-built structure or one that was completely refurbished. It’s located across the street from Lake Mirror in a trendy section of the downtown area which makes it an ideal location. There’s a large patio in front, a fairly large bar inside, and plenty of seating as well. The architects did a great job designing the look and establishing the atmosphere of this place. Call me a hipster, but it’s trendy-looking and I like it because of that. It combines a vintage warehouse vibe with a modern look.
The only problem with going this route is that because it’s industrial in style, the indoor ambience suffers. The floor is just a concrete slab, there are no curtains, the tables are hardwood as are the stools and chairs, which makes sitting for more than 30 minutes a literal pain in the butt. All this solidity causes the sound to echo and reverberate, so when the dining room gets busy it becomes very loud and you’ll have to raise your voice just to speak to someone at your table. I’d recommend sitting outside if you visit here.
Lakeland Brewing is not a brewpub per se, though they do have their own kitchen and a decent menu of small plates and snack food they call nibbles, bites, and morsels. The food menu is bar fare at the core, but with an upscale twist. For example, I ordered the “L.A.keland Street Dog” ($8) which is a jumbo beef hot dog with all the fixings. It was tasty, but messy. This should really be eaten with a knife and fork, but the server didn’t bring me any silverware. Other people in the group ordered the “Hunter’s Plate” ($9) which in a little sampler of sausage, some Gouda cheese wedges, a few green apple slices and honeyed cashews. I split one of these with a fellow member of the meetup group and it was nice. Both of these food items were good, but seemed a tad overpriced to me. Then again, it’s becoming difficult to find a menu with an entrée or appetizer under $10 these days (aside from a fast foot joint, that is).
Anyway, this is a brewery review after all, so let’s talk about the beers. Here’s the breakdown:
NOTE: For $8 you can order a flight of four 4oz samples. Pints and half-pints vary in price by beer.
Portico (5.4% ABV, 30 IBUS): Described as an “East Coast Porch Ale” (whatever that means), this drank like a typical blonde ale every brewpub always has for BMC drinkers. It wasn’t bad at all and worked well for what it was, though the head brewer informed me that it’s actually a pale ale (in which case it’s not a very good pale ale). I ordered full pint of this after I had sampled every beer in their lineup as it was the easiest-drinking beer I tried. RATING: 3.5/5
Pah’le Ah’le (5.8% ABV, 30 IBUs): Billed as a “Way West Coast style pale” this was a bit more hoppy than the previous beer, though it didn’t seem especially West Coast to me. Not bad. RATING: 3.5/5
Pig Beer (3.5% ABV, 16 IBUs): I assumed this was some kind of lager, but it’s not. Whatever it is, it’s some kind of mild golden ale. Sessionable to be sure, but not quite as flavorful as the previous two beers. RATING: 3/5
Damn it, Janet! (6.8% ABV, 66 IBUs): I actually tried a full pint of this red rye at Patio 850 on Monday and found it to be pretty decent. The red color was nice and it was plenty hoppy so it had some bite. Other members of the meetup group seemed to like it too, but one thing everyone noticed was that there was something off about the aftertaste. RATING: 3.5/5
Acer Nook (5.3% ABV, 24 IBUs): If this were half as good as the description on the website, I think this would’ve been a pretty great beer. Unfortunately, it seemed to be infected or spoiled to me. It reeked of phenolic character; akin to the smell (and taste) of a hospital. Absolutely no wheat character at all. This was pretty much undrinkable. I don’t know why they even had it on tap, it should’ve been pulled. RATING: 1/5
One-Eye Revenge (6.7% ABV, 34 IBUs): Definitely the best beer in LBC’s lineup. This is a mocha stout brewed with Black Onyx cocoa and Panamanian coffee and was the only memorable beer of the night. It was also the only dark beer the brewery had on tap. Coffee was prominent in the nose, but subtle in the palate. Some chocolate flavor on the finish, though I detected a slight diacetyl note as well. Perhaps it’s brewed with Ringwood yeast? The brewer didn’t like my description of this as slightly buttery. RATING: 3.75/5
863 Sheets (9.5% ABV, 87 IBUs): No description of this other than simply “Double IPA,” though I vehemently disagree with both of those words. There were virtually no hops in here as far as aroma and flavor and only slight bitterness. I ordered a short pour of it, but I could only get through half of that. Once again, the brewer resented my review and said the hops had indeed dropped off and that’s why it’s only $2 a glass so you can “get drunk for cheap.” I just about fell out of my chair when I read that. Why is a brewer openly admitting that his beer has gone south and that you should drink it for the performance value rather than for taste? Most breweries would’ve taken it offline and replaced it with a fresher batch. Though that raises another question: DIPAs tend to be a one of the most popular styles of craft beer – why aren’t kegs of this kicking quickly? Why is there old beer on tap at the very brewery that makes it? RATING: 1.5/5
In retrospect, I think I was a little generous with my scores across the board. The median rating was 2.8 which is technically above average, but as a whole I would consider Lakeland Brewing’s offerings below average. I’m not sure what accounts for the sub-par flavor as I am not a professional brewer and do not purport to be one. However, I have been drinking craft beer pretty seriously for about a decade and I can detect the standard flaws like diacetyl, acetaldehyde, dimethyl sulfide, oxidation, etc. The rest of the members of the meetup group all claimed to be beginners in the world of craft beer, but everyone seemed to find the lineup to be only okay as a whole. Everyone agreed the mocha stout was probably the best beer they had, but no one seemed to rave about it.
All complaints aside, I will say I still had an enjoyable evening with the meetup group and I did like the atmosphere and location of the brewery. The service was slow, but it was Friday at Happy Hour after all. I could see this brewery making some good beer if they brought an industry consultant in to give them some honest feedback. For beer lovers, Lakeland Brewing leaves much to be desired, but those looking for a nice spot to hang out and have a beer or two and some snacks, this is worthwhile.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
At first glance, it would appear that these types of brews are at opposite ends of the spectrum. After all, hard sodas are intended to taste like regular soft drinks, while citrus-infused IPAs are enhanced versions of a “real” craft beer style. The former is so clearly faux while the latter is genuine beer. But in my opinion, there’s really not much difference between these products because their selling point is the same: alcoholic beverages that doesn’t taste like traditional beer. Or, more precisely: alcoholic beverages that taste sweet, overtly faux, and completely pedestrian. That sounds a lot like another style of adult beverage that’s been around for a while now, namely; Flavored Malt Beverages or “Alcopops.”
You can now find these products at Walmart and other such stores. This is rather ironic if you consider the big picture: craft beer could barely get any shelf space at these venues for decades, but within the last year small and big businesses alike have been making room and even setting up separate displays just to carry so-and-so’s “hard” root beer or ginger ale or whatever. The juicy IPAs aren’t quite as common at the big box stores, but liquor stores and bottle shops definitely are making a fuss about them.
But what about all these juicy IPAs; surely they are “real beer,” no? I suppose that argument can be made, but as is often the case in the American craft beer scene, they’re just a trendy variation of a popular style. In recent years we’ve seen session IPAs, red IPAs, black IPAs, white IPAs, etc. Even the BJCP recognized these off-shoots as established styles with their 2015 guidelines. Will they include these super citrusy IPAs in their next overhaul? Should they? I’d say no, and for several reasons:
Secondly, fruit juice-infused IPAs are just so damn trendy that they seem like they’re marketed for the masses rather than for genuine beer enthusiasts. Fruity beers sometimes blur the line between real, genuine zymurgy and lowest-common-denominator alcopops.
Is “Not Your Father’s Root Beer” beer?
When is a beer not a beer?
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Saturday, May 14, 2016
Thursday, May 12, 2016
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Monday, May 9, 2016
Sunday, May 8, 2016
Saturday, May 7, 2016
Friday, May 6, 2016
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Monday, April 25, 2016
Sunday, April 24, 2016
Saturday, April 23, 2016
Friday, April 22, 2016
I first got on the Internet way back in the mid-1990s during the heydays of AOL (remember that?). I even started what we would now call a blog through the members.aol.com/yourusernamehere portal wherein I reviewed movies. It wasn’t to make money or to become famous or score free movie tickets, I just did it because I liked it – the same reason I review beer now. I would soon realize just how sociopathic some people could be on the Internet when someone so vehemently disagreed with my review of a movie that he actually said it’s too bad my mom couldn’t have afforded an abortion.
It’s been 20 years since that happened, but I’ve never forgotten that comment because it was the first time I had ever been trolled. I’ve grown extremely thick-skinned over the last two decades, though I must admit I’m still a little surprised and a little disturbed when I see malicious comments on my beer reviews of that extent. Or worse, when people talk about me thinking they’re saying it behind my back. I don’t know how they can be dumb enough to think there’s any privacy or anonymity on the Internet, especially in recent years when the government has openly admitted it’s spying on us.
Reddit, Facebook groups, forums, comment sections, etc.; these are anything but private and/or anonymous despite any avatar or codename you use. Other people absolutely will take a screen shot of the stupid (and possibly illegal) stuff you write and show it to someone you didn’t want seeing it. Also, many people you think are your friends will rat you out without much provocation.
I don’t know what it is about beer that makes people act this way. I don’t think you can blame it on alcohol simply lowering inhibitions and causing recklessness. If it was that simple, people wouldn’t be nearly as competent at spelling, grammar, or even be able to string together sentences as well as they do (relatively speaking). It’s just something about beer that turns people into self-righteous pricks who don’t tolerate dissent or other viewpoints.
So where does this overall lack of chill come from? My theory is that it has something to do with the Dunning-Kruger Effect. I hate to condense an academic theorem down to one paragraph, but for the sake of brevity here goes:
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled persons suffer illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than it really is. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their own ineptitude and evaluate their own ability accurately. Their research also suggests corollaries: highly skilled individuals may underestimate their relative competence and may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.
|Image credit: Vsauce (with my modification)|
YouTuber “Vsauce” explains it pretty well in this video:
Now that we’re all experts on this theory (just kidding), let’s apply it to the beer realm. Do you notice how people on the left side of the chart tend to have no chill while people in the middle are plenty chill? Those towards the left are, on average, people who are fairly new to beer and are probably the most excited and enthralled by it. These tend to be the people spending their paychecks to get “whales” like Heady Topper, Pliny The Elder, Westvleteren 12, etc. They’re also most likely to be the ones leaving snarky comments on beer blogs and other articles about how the writer doesn’t know what they’re talking about or pointing out every mistake no matter how benign they may be. They’re also more likely to be snobbish dicks whereby they argue that their sense of taste is factual and superior.
There is a well-known troll in the craft beer world called Red Rooster who has been stuck, in my opinion, on the left side of the spectrum for years. As far back as 2009 he would leave the most vile, disgusting comments on my video and text reviews. He would call me every name in the book because I either had the incorrect opinion on a beer, or I had the correct opinion but for the wrong reasons. He inspired me to make this video lampooning him and everyone like him who believes taste is objective and that it’s their job to correct, or even destroy, anyone whose opinion and level of knowledge differs from their own:
Trolls with the passion and sociopathic nature of RR are quite rare, but they do exist. Some of the people I’m thinking of are somewhat legitimate beer bloggers, but almost everything they write is negative, myopic, and condescending. They’re essentially bullies who actually have a following of like-minded sadists who think it’s funny to go around mocking fellow enthusiasts for no real reason. Maybe it’s because people like me aren’t as cool as them, or we embrace our dorkiness/awkwardness and admit our ignorance. But I can’t tell if their followers genuinely think these trolls are funny satirists*, or if they’re threatened and insecure, or just have some kind of behavioral disorder like Autism or Asperger’s and band together as some kind of veritable support group.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes that may help explain this phenomenon:
Remember, misery is comfortable. It's why so many people prefer it. Happiness takes effort.
Also, courage. It's incredibly comforting to know that as long as you don't create anything in your life, then nobody can attack the thing you created.
It's so much easier to just sit back and criticize other people's creations. This movie is stupid. That couple's kids are brats. That other couple's relationship is a mess. That rich guy is shallow. This restaurant sucks. This Internet writer is an asshole. I'd better leave a mean comment demanding that the website fire him. See, I created something.
Oh, wait, did I forget to mention that part? Yeah, whatever you try to build or create -- be it a poem, or a new skill, or a new relationship -- you will find yourself immediately surrounded by non-creators who trash it. Maybe not to your face, but they'll do it. Your drunk friends do not want you to get sober. Your fat friends do not want you to start a fitness regimen. Your jobless friends do not want to see you embark on a career.
Just remember, they're only expressing their own fear, since trashing other people's work is another excuse to do nothing. "Why should I create anything when the things other people create suck? I would totally have written a novel by now, but I'm going to wait for something good, I don't want to write the next Twilight!" As long as they never produce anything, their work will forever be perfect and beyond reproach. Or if they do produce something, they'll make sure they do it with detached irony. They'll make it intentionally bad to make it clear to everyone else that this isn't their real effort. Their real effort would have been amazing. Not like the shit you made.
Source: “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person” by Jason Pargin (A.K.A. “David Wong”)
Looking at the Dunning-Kruger chart, you’ll notice that as a person’s knowledge of a subject increases their confidence at first drops, then rises eventually, but never to the point of those on the left (that’s the theory, anyway). That’s not to say experts can’t be arrogant, though. Most commercial brewers and other beer industry professionals I know tend to be pretty laid back and don’t waste much time or effort worrying about what noobs and outsiders think of their beers and/or their company. Their job is to make products that sell, not to cater to the hoity-toity snobs of the world. However, there are still plenty of experts who are just as stuck up as the blissfully ignorant. And I don’t mean strictly pro brewers; restauranteurs, bartenders, sales reps, bottleshop proprietors, etc., can be just as bad. Some of the stories I’ve heard from these people would make your jaw drop, not because of the subject matter, but because of their holier-than-thou attitude. They remind me of the character Randall from the movie Clerks: someone who despises and berates their customers but will gladly take their money.
So is there anything we can do to inject more chill into the craft beer community? I think there is, and I think it’s a rather simple approach. We just need to make our fellow enthusiasts aware that the Dunning-Kruger Effect is a legitimate, academic theory. When I first heard about it, it blew my mind and I realized just how pompous I had been about beer when I first got into it. I’d imagine a lot of people who have at least some intelligence will have a similar reaction when it’s presented to them. Not that I think it’s a magic bullet cure; but rather a tool to combat both arrogance and ignorance. It’s also applicable to pretty much all of life, not just beer.