I’ve always found it impossible to answer the question ‘what kind of music (or beer) do you like’?
For some people it’s easy, they say rock (or pale ale). But for me it’s a challenge because I like so many different kinds and the kind I like most of all generally defies any labels.
Sure I like rock (and pale ales) like almost everyone else does but I wouldn’t answer that rock (or pale ale) is the kind of music I like, because when I really want to listen to music, I usually seek out something new, something entirely different.
I seek out different music like freeform jazz (and lambics) and fusion (and India Saisons) and eclectic music like Congotronics (and imperial stouts) or certain German techno labels (and Berliner Weisses).
I do enjoy rock (as I do pale ales) and I still come back to it, because sometimes I just don’t feel like making the effort to seek out the latest and greatest new tastes and just want to listen to reliable old rock (or drink a pale ale).
I like classic rock like Led Zeppelin (or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale) or rock that reinvents the classics especially well like The Black Keys or Wolfmother (Pirate Life’s IPA or Hop Nation’s The Fiend) or rock with a slightly contemporary (or new world) twist on the genre (or style) like Grizzly Bear (or Balter’s XPA).
But the music I like most of all is that which can’t be easily categorised and defined by only one genre. Music like that from my favourite artist Amon Tobin, whose music is some kind of unique blend of jazz and hip hop and classical and drum n bass and sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
The beer I love most defies labels too. When I do drink that kind of beer and it hits all the right notes, it’s an epiphany, a revelation that opens up a whole new world of flavour and makes me rethink how I view beer. Beers like the Avant Garde series from La Sirene, the Mayday Hills beers from Bridge Road, and any of the brilliant barrel aged beers from Boatrocker.
In the GABS Hottest 100 list this year, the vast majority of beers on the list were pale ales and I get that. Pale ales are the beer that people who are less novelty seeking than me will continue to go back to. And it’s the beer that the novelty seeking geeks like me will go back to from time to time because it’s reliable and comfortable and is always worthy of a spot in the fridge (or in the playlist).
In the Hottest 100 I still voted for beers like Balter’s XPA and Hop Nation’s The Chop and La Sirene’s Urban Pale with their first crossover into pale ales, because I appreciate a good pale.
But I also vote for the likes of Bridge Road’s Yee Ha and Pirate Life’s Stout because I like beers that are different or may not be to everyone else’s taste and that’s ok.
Really there’s no reason to get upset because you find that Pacific Ale is a bit too boring for you to drink. I’m sure there were some Triple J listeners who felt the same when Powderfinger won too. It’s a popular vote and that’s going to mean that the list is always going to be dragged more towards the centre than left or right.
But more niche beer styles (or genres) and beers that defy styles altogether will continue to thrive in their own way too. They may never be recognised in a popular list, but they will spark epiphanies and win hearts in a way that a good old reliable pale ale never can.