A Good Beer Blog

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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."


Comments

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Jordan St.John -

It's an interesting issue. There are always going to be freebies and there's always going to be blogger outreach for promotional purposes. I've been trying to take it on a case by case basis.

Speaking of cases, I'll give you a for instance. Yesterday, I covered a Molson event and a Labatt's event. Between the two events I was given vouchers for 36 bottles of beer. I returned the one for a two-four suggesting that I was going to write about the event anyway and that it seemed to me to be pretty close to bribery. The two vouchers for six packs I didn't realize I had been given until after I walked out of the event, but it seemed like I had established a code of conduct by that point. I gave one of them to my building superintendent and one of them to the ticket collector at the TTC booth at Queen station.

As to brew days, that's a more interesting question. It does tend to blur the line. I kind of feel like part of that is about self promotion, which is a key facet of blogging. On the other hand, it does create a sense that impartiality might be nearly impossible. It's something I'm working on now that I am actually getting paid to do this thing. Objectivity is hard to accomplish on a continuing basis, so the best you can do is try.

Jeremy -

One of the comments on the previous blog post you linked to says "MJ would talk about how a certain beer was the perfect example of a style and rate on it's merits instead of picking out the faults. <I>Sometimes you could read one of his reviews and not even realize he didn't think the beer was any good.</I> Different strokes for different folks I guess."

How is that helpful? I find it exceptionally frustrating reading the "professional" reviews in most beer publications as they for the most part come off as glowing reviews, and if they ALL read like that then that does not help you choose between the beers at all. Amateur sites such as RB and BA sometimes suffer the same problem. I personally try to say if I like the product, and why or why not. What aspects of it appeal to me? If I try a style I am not personally partial to I try to assess both its technical merits, (e.g. its a well made beer of the style) as well as my own opinion. Someone should be able to read my review and say "I do/don't have the same tastes as him - but the way he described the beer gives me enough information to at least guess at or not I might agree with their assessment.

You can often tell when a blog or publication has written about a beer because they got it free, or is protecting their advertising. The ultimate message is that they didn't like it, but the language is such that that message is delicately delivered, and phrased so that Joe Average can read it thinking "I should try this" at the same time as the "beer fans" can think the opposite.

That said, when writing for a larger mainstream publication the criteria for what gets written about is very different than the criteria for a niche beer focused audience. That is reality, what irks "those in the know" is the influence these pieces have on those in the general population.

Joe Stange -

I don't take freebies, excepting the sort of small sample at breweries that any visitor can try. It irks the thirsty man inside me when I refuse breweries that would like to ship me samples, but I can't justify it. Pesky ethics. Maybe because I was a professional journalist before I was a beer geek.

The disadvantages of this approach are obvious, but I've found at least one advantage: Brewers are not used to people saying no to free stuff. They remember it, and they remember you, and they usually respect it.

I also like the notion of treating beer and pub reviews in the way a respectable newspaper treats restaurant reviews: anonymously. And paying my own way. Regarding beer reviews, for example: If I want to review it, can't I buy it? If I can't buy it because it's not available, then why am I reviewing it anyway? Wouldn't my readers better appreciate reviews of beers that they can go out and find? And if they can go out and buy it, why can't I? It's a legitimate business expense, by the way.

Based on my chats about this stuff with various other beer writers, I seem to be in a small minority. But I can't judge anyone else for their approach. We walk our own paths.

Can I fault the unpaid beer blogger who wants to tell people about the great beer he/she got in the mail? No way. But as a reader I'd really prefer that it be disclosed.

Finally: It bugs me that occasional blog posts seem to be our best makeshift forum for discussing these ethical issues. It's all a bit transitory for me. Veteran beer writers/bloggers will have the feeling of, "Oh, we've covered that before," even though Andy's posts are three years old (!). Meanwhile newer bloggers maybe haven't given these issues much thought or had the chance to discuss them with counterparts/colleagues.

Not that I have a better idea.

Whatever happened to this? -- http://www.beerwritersguild.org

FlagonofAle -

The world of craft beer is a small one which leads to clickyness and nopetism pretty easily I think, and that fact bleeds over into beer writing. Perhaps I'm making assumptions, but Melissa Cole seems to be hoping to be the benefit of that type of nepotism as she asks her readers to go comment that beer should be covered by beer writers rather than freelance writers. Hmmm I wonder which beer writer the papers might pick in that case?
I just think it's interesting that this is what started a debate about ethics in writing.

As a side note, I blog semi-anonymously because I know people in the local industry (which is not hard to do in a small community) and prefer to have my opinions and my personal relationships as separate as possible.

FlagonofAle -

Curses. Nopetism should read nepotism. Perhaps "nopetism" is the opposite of nepotism?

Alan -

I don't think the comment was directed at Ms. Cole as her call is a call for reasonable recognition that knowing about beer is a skill that ought to be recognized. I entirely agree with that even though I do not aspire to be a full time professional drinks writer. My mention of cheques above is largely outside of the beer trade, for a long time most were related to links from UK insurance law firms increasing their web rankings, bless them all.

No, I am more interested in the idea that a brewer feels stifled by the nature of the discourse. It is simply a fact (and amongst UK real ale beers a bit of a dirty secret) that not every brewery is all that good. The same certainly is true in North America. So, all will not receive praise. Some receive far too much. But there is that sinking feeling that some receive attention outside of the question of what is in the glass - for being charming, or more outgoing or more interested in newish media. In a pleasure trade, it is hard not to pick favorites.