A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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Lew Bryson -

Ah, well, there you have why I don't do many tasting notes. I just don't see the point, per se. Most of my tasting notes are to make some other point, like the Session Beer Project tasting notes. I think my writing has value because I have a longer perspective than most beer drinkers; because I've tried hard to get to the places where the beer is brewed as much as possible; because of its entertainment value. But because of the sharpness of my palate? Nay. Not that it isn't, but for the simple reason that it's not your palate. Or yours, or you over there in the corner. It's mine. I try to write about other things.

Alan -

Exactly. And that is also why I am not one of these anti-professional journalism sorts. You need the Lew Brysons as well as the Pete Browns (and his credit card that got him 'round the world) to create more of the surrounding knowledge. This strikes me as being simply obvious when I consider the amount of time I am able to dedicate to this amateur work of love/obsession. I am hard pressed to fit a festival a year into my life and have to be careful that any brewery tours I go on are kid friendly as I am not usually alone. Were this my full time gig, sure I could do much more. But it is not so I am very grateful for those who have the time, experience, resources and skill to do the job.<p>But there is a self-help or personal improvement aspect to the whole thing of better beer. Each fan has a responsibility, too. A large part of that is not being a follower as taste is so personal.

Greg Clow -

Hmm. Interesting perspective, Alan (& Lew). Personally, I try to strike a balance between the analytical and the emotional (for lack of better terms). But I know that I often fail at it and fall too far into the analytical side.

Since I work as a systems analyst in real life, the methods that I use there sometimes leak over into my beer life, and I find myself picking things apart a little too much, and not talking enough about how the beer made me FEEL. I had the same problem when I reviewed music - it caused my writing to be dry at times. Hopefully, I'm getting better at it.

Stan Hieronymus -

Alan, I'm trying to figure out which part to respond to.

You write: "For me, it is only about the fluid just as a pub is only about the actual experience you have or I have - not the hype or the good time a pal's sister's friend had 15 months ago."

But can't the experience of the pub influence how you feel about the fluid? Or some past experience with the fluid? And couldn't the quality of the beer influence how you feel about a pub? Etc.

That's the "just wondering" part.

I flat out agree that you are the only one that can evaluate the experience. Some might call this idea radical, but I think the point of this beer "revolution" is that we decided to take control of the beer that is in our glasses. That doesn't mean letting an beer guru tell you what to drink any more than it means letting a large company with lots of advertising dollars do the same.

Alan -

You point out an over simplicity with my approach. I rarely get access to draft real and/or craft beer that I have not already reviewed. Most of my reviews are of a pub where I have something familiar or a bottle of something from the stash. But you are exactly correct. I could have taken notes on the outing I had the other night or the recent beerfest in Syracuse but I was quite content just to take in the event and measure my experience as a whole rather than consider in particular my first Brother Thelonious experience or finally review Denison's hefeweizen - I couldn't do worse than "Canadians like this for the banana and mouthfeel" for the latter. <p>But how ever many the variables to be considered, what is important is me (and each of us) and how beer enhances the sociability of the event. And fine beer is not always the beer that will do the right enhancing, either. For a garage in a summer rain with the neighbours, a decent lawnmower beer is what you want just as an extreme or rare beer is worthless at a long pub session. Professional writers, craft brewers and shop keepers can inform us and give us access to greater and greater variety but at the end of the day we each have to determine with confidence what is best for us.

Alan -

I have to make sure I have tied Stan's place's extending discussion on this point as well.

Jessie Jane -

I know this post is aging now, but a recent article in the SF Chronicle about food bloggers has opened up the wound, so to speak. I've just posted my own take on the subject of expert vs. amateur and professional vs. non-professional at my blog.

Alan, your focus on the beer over the person writing about the beer makes perfect sense, but I think it dismisses the very fact that beer writing must by definition be filtered through the writer. Sure, it's all subjective. But to leave it at "at the end of the day we each have to determine with confidence what is best for us," implies that we can do this without relying on external information (i.e. beer writing). We could, of course, but most us do need some guidance—whether it's in the form of a recommendation, instruction, history, whathaveyou. So we're then left back at the beginning: how do we determine who to rely on for that info?

I suppose it's a snake-eating-its-tail kind of debate, but I think it's one worth continuing.

Alan -

That is fair enough but I think there is so much risk of being a follower that is it very important to me that anyone who reads what I write or anyone write takes it as an example, not the words of a guru or someone who is a superior taster. There is a bit in the introduction to Hemingway's <i>Death in the Afternoon</i> about how good writing is a two stage thing: being good at observing and being good at reporting. Without both a writer is poor but you do not have to be a good writer to be a fine aficionado with a keen palate. You do not have to have a care for history to have sensitivity in taste perception. For my money being dependent on beer writing can worse than being unaware as it may guide you away from trusting yourself.

Jessie Jane -

You are, of course, entirely right. And since you paraphrased one of my all time favorite books, I'll agree some more. I'll also point out that Hemingway's point was not that his writer voice was not to be trusted or was not a voice of authority but that a very good writer is one who *can* be trusted for his/her skills in both observation and reporting. This fact and the fact that one does not need to be an expert or good writer to appreciate beer, are not mutually exclusive. I don't disagree with the notion that a beer drinker should choose for him/herself what beer they like (or dislike). But I do think good beer writing has its place—a very helpful, useful place—in aiding the layman if and when the laymen so chooses to seek that aid. The trick then becomes deciding—for oneself—which writers are worth reading.

Alan -

I agree with that to a large degree but would illustrate my sense of the limit with this anecdote. In 1986 I worked in a shop next to the first fine wine store in the Canadian Maritime provinces and on coffee breaks I would chat with the guys from next door picking up information. On day I mentioned a Hugh Johnson Atlas that I had seen and whether it was worth picking up that book or a few others I named. One of the senior guys in the bunch told me to spend the money on wine instead and budget to do so on a regular basis - learn through experience. Sure it is good to go back and cross-check what you tasted with what others said they tasted but at the end of the day it is all about what the fluid does for you.

Alan -

Stan posts about some brewers who are making a good argument to challenge the beer before brewer principle.