Writing about beer writing is both boring and interesting. Mark Dredge, a young lad in London, poses the occasional enjoyable question of this sort and I have to admit they draw me in. Here is his latest post about the propriety of describing having had too much to drink and this was my response:
"...a disservice to beer..."? I have no idea what this means. What I take from the disassociation of drinking from , you know, the obligatory effects of drinking is that if it is discussed somewhere a consultant loses out. Forget the distinction between being barfingly blotto and merrily drunk, you would think that most drinks weigh in at "-2%" if you rely on the way they are described by beer writers. Given that few beer writers are not otherwise involved in the trade's cash box (or positioning to be) why would they not create and adhere to taboos of those realities that make brewery accountants in ill fitting suits uncomfortable?
I could have put that last it better: "given that few beer writers are not otherwise involved in the trade's cash box one way or another (or positioning to be) why would they not be subject and adhere to taboos related to those realities that make brewery accountants in ill fitting suits uncomfortable?" That's better. The trouble with and / or reality of beer writing is that it is the playground of the tippler who is often aware of the business end of the tipple and is attracted to it equally well. This is reasonable and maybe unavoidable.
First, like all pop culture writing, it takes an interest in the topic to get involved at all. You don't have to like or be in the government to write well about it, you don't have to have cornered Wall Street to analyze business. But if you have not had enough evenings at the bar or popped enough Belgian corks you have little chance of understanding what you are on about.
Second, it make your brain a different place to be. Is it a dirty white lie that many beer writers probably have degrees of dipsomania? It's such a modern idea, the objective and disengaged experience of a mood altering drug. It implies that there are clubs of perfectly satisfied ale smellers. That beer fans use spittoons.
Third, I do think money colours all this. When asking a shop owner in a US college town how they deal with underage drinking, there is the knowing smile. When one reads the exploits of beer writers reporting from shadowy marketing meetings, on PR junkets, of the event that they are at that just happens to be sponsored or another fest where they meet all their friends the brewers for hours of clinky clinky and you can, too... well, why not? It's not only the free samples that friends envy not to mention the ad money - but the role of being that bit nearer to the beloved fluid so as to earn favour. The idea that beer gives back or even pays for itself is a dream for so many.
We need to face facts. Beer makes you chummy and chummy sells. Therefore, you can't talk about chumminess in ways that potentially turns off chum. Like talking about how chumminess sells. Chum is literally the agent that gathers. So, there is a contradiction: we can't talk about the two things we like about beer and writing about beer - chums and benefits. Or, as Pete noted today, the fact that it turns people into this:
I think Mr Big Laugh was paid for his part. And this one, too. We like it. We like the whole overlapping messy business because we like buying beer and having beer and thinking how nice it was that we were able to buy that beer and feel this way and all the better when beer pays for your beer. Because beer makes you feel like you wish you felt when you did not have a beer. Someone else wrote that. Might have even been paid for being clever enough to come up with it, one way or another.