I was shaking my head at another piece of Roger Protz’s writing last night. This time it was a bit on Chimay. I like Chimay as much as anyone so my concerns do not relate to the brewer – but you will recall that Mr. Protz is hardly monastic himself. He has a temper and a lack of discretion when it comes to other members of humanity. And he can shock with both error and recreational rudeness. So, it was with that guilty pleasure one has following the misfortune of others that I read this early paragraph about the most commercial of the Trappist monasteries, Chimay:
Some of the criticism, on websites in particular, is couched in a style of vulgar abuse that doesn’t warrant attention. But a number of serious and well-disposed writers have also levelled the criticism that beer quality has declined.
Note those last four words: “…beer quality has declined.” After completing them, Protz goes on for a thousand words or so, writing in a rather hostile tone, making arguments that would lead you to suppose that quality has not changed let alone declined. But then he writes the words (typo his): “Sample of Red and Blue that I have tasted in Britain recently have been less complex than I remember them.” Less complex? Isn’t that usually one example of what one might describe as a decline in quality? Why is the argument structured in this way? Why does he posture and accuse when in the end he is essentially agreeing with the point he is attacking? And why does he use this sort of summation, avoiding natural causal connection:
That, I believe, is the result of some change and slight diminution of complexity in the beers, not a sell-out by the monks to the forces of commercialism. I am well aware that this is unlikely to satisfy those who prefer the conspiracy theory of history.
Isn’t the proper idea for that sentence the more active “cause” not the passive “result” – and isn’t what has been “caused” by the brewery’s intentional change in fermentation processes a loss of complexity and therefore a decline in beer quality? Isn’t that the news here? Why the abandonment of objective analysis? With the given choice of argument and structure – not to mention the mix of accusation and hostility with the apologist’s agenda – what are we left with? A muddle. To what end, I have no idea.