The Session is “an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic.” David of Good Morning… hosts this month’s Session, number seventy:

If I had told them it was the best beer in the world, would their perceptions have changed?

How much does hype have an effect? Are we much better off knowing nothing about a beer, or is it better to have the knowledge as to what the best beers are?

Which beers do you think have been overhyped? How do you feel when a beer doesn’t live up to it’s hype.

Is hype a good or bad thing for beer? Tell me what you think. I’m looking forward to seeing what the general consensus is.

Preconceived notions and expectations, regardless of whether they reside in our conscious or subconscious, will always play a role in our world (and in this case, beer) experiences. As a burgeoning lad in the beer world, I, like many others, read reviews, devoured ratings and even printed numbers and grades to take with me to bottle shops. Needless to say, I gravitated toward beer stores with shelf talkers—they did the hard work for me!

It’s no surprise, then, that all the 100s, A+s and beers that garnered the 2:00 a.m. release lines all tasted like God’s gift to man or woman. I knew these beers were better than the rest because everyone else told me they were. Who was I to disagree with the seasoned professional beer tasters of print publications (even this one), website databases and blogs? Like Wikipedia, I wasn’t going to argue with these website contributors because we all know that everything on the Internet is true.

Only after I revisited some of these same beers the next year did I realize that I had likely succumbed to the hype machine in my early beer days. Though some of the beers still lived up to their reputations, I found myself preferring other examples of the style that were not so highly rated, sought after or hard to find. That barrel-aged russian imperial stout that may have a day devoted to its release? It’s a great beer, but I actually prefer one made about two hours away from me that I can find on the shelves ninety percent of the time at a bottle shop two miles away from my house.

Today, I still read the reviews and ratings as much, if not more, than I previously did. I digest them, however, during or after I have the chance to experience the beer. I’ve found it to be a wonderful practice to read tasting notes from trusted sources while I simultaneously sample the beer myself, and I enjoy reading the thoughts of others after I’ve formed my own opinions. Some reviewers tend to agree with me, and some always certainly disagree with me. This divergence of opinions is what makes craft beer great though.

There will always be a beer for you. Just make sure it’s you deciding what beer that is.

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