The legitimacy of subjective aesthetic experience or why I love Big Swell IPA

by Justin D'Olier on November 2, 2010 | Comments Off on The legitimacy of subjective aesthetic experience or why I love Big Swell IPA |

Drinking beer is a multifaceted, subjective aesthetic experience, which I suppose is an obfuscated and vaguely pretentious way of saying that flavor isn’t the only factor considered in the overall enjoyment of a brew. Flavor obviously comes first, since no one wants to drink a bad beer and price follows closely behind since most of us have a finite amount of discretionary income to spend on the consumption of alcoholic beverages. But, a beautiful can (or bottle… or 5-liter draft keg…) makes a difference too. A great marketing campaign can make an otherwise ordinary beer more fun and enjoyable to drink. As much as we want to separate our palate from our preconceived notions, we don’t drink in a vacuum.

My favorite example of this is Maui Brewing Company Big Swell IPA. Big Swell is a fabulous beer, a strong, refreshing, well balanced IPA. It has a lightly floral, smooth caramel nose, which evoke memories of light offshore winds on Sunset Beach (perhaps a testament to the numerous time I’ve enjoyed Big Swell IPA while enjoying the light offshore winds at Sunset). It is a deep golden color with light carbonation. The flavor is largely driven by hops — it is an IPA after all — but it has a strong malt flavor to balance the bitterness. It is heavy enough to satisfy a craving for a darker, full-bodied beer, but balanced enough that you can easily throw back two (or three… or however many you want, we don’t judge around here…) without getting full or overwhelming your palate. Big Swell is a bold, yet refreshing beer that holds up great on its own or pairs excellently with flavorful food.

But Big Swell is so much more than just a good beer.

Big Swell IPA

Look at your can. Now look at mine. Back to your can. Now back at mine.

First and foremost, Maui Brewing Company is locally owned and operated, one of two microbrews to brew and “bottle” in the islands (the other is Hawaii Nui). I say “bottle”, because Maui Brewing Company doesn’t actually bottle beer, they can it. All Maui Brewing Company beers are served in cans, for cost savings, increased quality — the cans reduce light exposure and have a special internal coating that prevents any contact between the beer and the aluminum — and to help save the environment. Each can is brightly decorated with a picture of the beach, a girl in a bikini, or a guy playing the ukulele. The marketing message on the side reinforces the benefits of the canning process, applauds you for helping to save the environment, and makes you feel smart and attractive. Maui Brewing Company nails the details.

If this were brewed in California, packaged in a generic bottle, and sold with no fanfare or branding, I would likely still consider it a great beer. But, as it is, in it’s beautiful blue can with stunning wave on the front, environmentally friendly packaging and mission, coming direct from Lahaina, Maui, it is one of my favorite beers in the world and occupies a special place in my heart. For my money, there is no finer beer drinking experience than sitting on Sunset Beach, drinking a Big Swell IPA and watching the sun go down, while the light offshore winds blow through your hair and the strong hoppy flavor intermingles with the light saltiness from the drops of sea water trickling down your face.

You might prefer your beer in a vacuum, but I’ll drink mine on the beach.

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