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Today's word on journalism

Monday, November 5, 2007

On Objectivity:

"I still insist that 'objective journalism' is a contradiction in terms. But I want to draw a very hard line between the inevitable reality of 'subjective journalism' and the idea that any honestly subjective journalist might feel free to estimate a crowd at a rally for some candidates the journalist happens to like personally at 2,000 instead of 612 -- or to imply that a candidate the journalist views with gross contempt, personally, is a less effective campaigner than he actually is."

-- Hunter S. Thompson, from Fear & Loathing: CORRECTIONS, RETRACTIONS, APOLOGIES, COP-OUTS, ETC., a 1972 memo to Rolling Stone editor Jann S. Wenner, excerpted in the current (November 2007) issue of Harper’s Magazine (Thanks to alert WORDster Andy Merton)

REVIEW: Beer, Utah style -- Dave and Aaron review the microbrews

By David Baker

October 29, 2007 | Utah is to beer as the Arctic Circle is to Speedos. That's an awful SAT question, but a fairly accurate statement.

But even in the crux of anti-alcohol sentiment, beer survives. It manifests itself in the collection of Utah-based microbrews anyone can pick up at their local grocery store.

What do people in Utah know about beer, though? Isn't that like taking advice about a porterhouse steak from a Hindu?

Sort of.

Apparently, there are some good Utah brews out there.

People who know what they are talking about when it comes to beer -- people who, I'd assume, know the difference between lager, pilsner and ale -- have poured praise on many Utah beers, including gold and silver medals from the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival. But what does that mean for a college student who, when it comes to beer, values words like "cheap," "inexpensive" and "stolen" over descriptions like "hoppy," "malty" or "smooth"?


That's why as a regular drinker of $7-a-12-pack beers brewed by the Pabst Brewing Company -- mainly Olympia and Pabst Blue Ribbon -- I felt it my duty to take a stab at sophistication. Give my fellow quantity-over-quality drinkers a guide to what you can actually drink to (A) impress your friends with your knowledge and palette, and (B) sneer at people who think regular Budweiser is an expensive, exotic beer.

So, to avoid the reputation garnered by drinking alone, I recruited fellow Pabstite Aaron Falk -- who actually does order microbrews at the bar, giving him good beer street cred -- to spend part of a Saturday evening doing what God intended, drinking beer and watching football.

We struggled at first to find elegant, descriptive words. Aaron was struggling because he only judges beer on a scale of how drunk he could get drinking the beer in question, and I struggled because my quality meter places too much emphasis on temperature and proximity to my hand -- with cold, close beers rating high, and warm, distant ones recording lower scores.

Despite the obvious challenges, we soldiered on, and what follows is a guide full of suggestions for buying and drinking a local ale that is a little pompous, at least mildly impressive and worth spending that plasma-donation money on.

Uinta Brewing Company Golden Spike Hefeweizen:-- $6.99 for a six-pack of 12-ounce bottles. (Note: We fully intended on sticking with the ale theme and drinking Uinta's Cutthroat Pale Ale, but I accidentally grabbed two Spikes -- microbrew lingo -- instead. To be honest, it was a mistake I really don't regret, which is unusual.)

The brewer says: "It is a refreshing traditional American style hefeweizen. It has a ruddy orange color with a clean and mildly fruity character."

Aaron says: This is delicious and informative (after reading the historical information that adorns the label). It's pretty smooth. It's a summer beer, but I've definitely had better hefeweizens than this. I don't particularly like the aftertaste.

Dave says: I agree there's better hefs, but it's pretty smooth without a lot of hops and it isn't very sharp. I really don't like hefeweizens, but this is OK. Not worth the price of admission, though.

Squatters Chasing Tail Golden Ale -- $7.49 for a six-pack of 12-ounce bottles.

The brewer says: "This inviting golden ale is brewed with premium English barley. English Golding and Fuggle hops produce delicate bitterness and aroma." (This means nothing to me.)

Aaron says: What beer is this better than? What would you put this up next to and say, I'll have a Chasing Tail? Maybe there's some dog urine in here. It tastes like a dog squatted and scooted across my tongue.

Dave says: I immediately remember why I don't like this. It's got some citrus thing, but it's more like elementary school, citrus bathroom cleaner. I want to the bottom of a dumpster, anything to get the taste out of my mouth. (Note: I pounded this beer to get it over with, and we both spent several minutes scraping our tongues against our teeth in an effort to remove the taste.)

Wasatch Brewery Evolution Amber Ale -- $7.99 for a six-pack of 12-ounce bottles.

The brewer says: "This highly controversial beer is actually a straight-forward, well-balanced, malty amber ale. Tettnanager hops provide a subtle spicy character, which balances out this well-rounded and highly drinkable amber ale. As always, intelligently designed just for intelligent beer-drinkers."

Aaron says: It's a full taste. It's delicious. As far as microbrews, this is the beer I'm going to drink. There's a lot of taste to this beer.

Dave says: A nice roasted taste. There aren't a lot of hops so it's smooth without a lot of aftertaste. I could actually drink more than one of these. It's manna from heaven after the Chasing Tail.

Moab Brewery Dead Horse Amber Ale -- $7.99 for a six-pack of 12-ounce bottles.

The brewer says: "A traditional English-style mild ale with a well balanced malt to hop ratio."

Aaron says: Not as thick or full as the Evolution. A little bitterer, but still pretty good. I'd take the Evolution over this one, but this is good.

Dave says: It's got more roasted-ness. This has a little more hops, but it's still smooth. There's some weird sweet thing before the slightly bitter aftertaste. This beer and I share roots, a common heritage -- we both hail from Moab -- so there's some affinity there.

The Verdict

We didn't end up drunk, or even buzzed, which is pretty disappointing. Personally, for the price, you really can't beat a Pabst beer, especially if it's cold. But if you are going to drink one of these microbrews, this is how we ranked them: 1. Evolution; 2. Dead Horse; 3. Golden Spike Hef; 4. Drano or similar drain-cleaning product; 5. Chasing Tail.

Guide to beer lingo-- Terms helpful -- or necessary -- to deciphering this review.

Note: These definitions aren't necessarily what these words actually mean, but they are what they mean to less-than-sophisticated beer people like myself.
--Hefeweizen or Hef: A wheat beer (That one's the real definition).
-- Hoppy: Equivalent to bitterness.
-- Roasted: A distinct coffee-ness to the beer.
-- Sharp: Makes lips pucker, nose scrunch and eyes snap shut in a look of discomfort.
-- Smooth: Makes lips curl upward in look of pleasure. Alternate definition: the lack of puckering.


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