A piece Mark Dredge wrote about pubs with views got me thinking about how the situation you are in can affect the enjoyment of the beer you're drinking.
I'm going to assume anyone reading this is generally on the look out for a quality beer. It could be a pint of something you've been looking forward to for a long time, one you've read about, even to the point where it's been recommended as the best beer in the land, and finally you come across it in in a pub. A pub with a hen party/football team outing/karaoke competition/insert pet hate here, or any number of other extraneous factors that might just cloud your judgement.
I would argue that tasting is a subjective thing no matter how 'expert' we become at it. This is not a bad thing - I don't want to read opinion from someone whose writing isn't born of a passion. There can't be many wine show judges who would say 'I discovered my passion for wine by tasting and spitting eighty samples of a morning' but I'd like to think their passion got them there. When I worked in wine retail we used to get customers that came in saying 'I had this great wine on holiday, do you have...' but while I might have been able to sell them the wine I could never transport them back to the place and time they had it, although I hoped the fond memories would return irrespective of how good the wine was.
I commented on Mark's blog about drinking Worthington's Firewater in the Cresselly Arms in Pembrokeshire. Tide permitting we used to potter up the river from Burton Ferry to the Arms in my uncle's little dinghy. We'd sit on the quay overlooking the river enjoying a beer served, via a jug, straight from the cask. A great beer, or a great situation? A beautiful pub in one of my favourite parts of the world with people I love, and love to be with. On reflection I'd take an indifferent beer in those circumstances over the world's greatest beer and a hen party, but maybe it's just me.