Open Thread: What's "Good" Beer?

Last night, the estimable Brian Yaeger opened the inner sanctum of his vast collection of aging beers for 3/13/13 and we sampled from those north of 13% ABV--and one that was only 11% but which was a 13th anniversary celebration beer.  Now, you fill the bellies of beer fans with enough 13% beer, and pretty soon the conversation turns philosophical.  In our case, we discussed the nature of beer criticism and what's useful and not, but came to a thorny issue: what's "good" beer?

We were trying a bottle of five-year-old Epic Ale from long-dead Roots at the time, and it was a glorious mess.  Over-carbonated, unbalanced, some odd flavors, perhaps a bit sweet.  But it was intense and had much good about it, too.  Definitely fun to drink.  Was it good?  How about a beer made to hit perfect perfect sweet-spot of saleability: a 6% IPA with 50 IBUs of flavorful but generic hopping, filtered bright as a glacier spring.  Sells tons but gets no geek love.  Good?  Let's say you're sitting down in front of a turnip-and-beet beer.  How do you assess "good?"

No answer is wrong, but some are more right than others.  Your thoughts?

Update.  Let's try this again.  In comments, Max the beer philosopher says that good beer is the beer he likes.  This is the purely subjective view.  No beer has objective standards, and therefore we have the ease of making a pure sensory evaluation.  That's a short and uninteresting discussion.  Instead, imagine a scenario in which your non-beery friend (spouse, father, brother-in-law) asks you to recommend a beer in a style you don't admire.  He trusts your wise counsel, beer geek that you are.  You understand that he's making a request for you to evaluate beers you explicitly do not like in order to make a recommendation.  Subjectivity is off the table.  How do you determine which beer is best?

You could extend this to the point where you are imagining what your critical method for critiquing beer is--that's what I'm driving at.
Jeff Alworth14 Comments