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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Bailey -

A supplementary question: some homebrewers seem incredibly learned but don't, apparently, have as much credibility when it comes to debate as professional brewers. But aren't professional brewers just homebrewers with capital?

Jim -

To the supplemental question: No, professional brewers are brewers who brew for a living. People whose livelihood depends on what they do and how they do it. Imagine it for a minute. There is a world of difference.

Bailey -

Jim -- OK, but (a) lots of pro brewers started as homebrewers and (b) lots of homebrewers would make great pro brewers if they had capital. I don't see that they metamorphose into a higher form of life once they get a van and a logo.

Jeremy -

@Jim - "People whose livelihood depends on what they do and how they do it. Imagine it for a minute. There is a world of difference." So is the guy in the big company IT department who spends all day solving the same “idiot user” problems inherently more knowledgeable than the amateur enthusiast who spends 99% of his waking hours hacking and messing around with computers? Sure, the stakes are higher for the guy who puts food on the table doing it, but that doesn’t automatically mean he’s better at it. I’m sure we all know homebrewers making beer that is better than a lot of what is coming out of licensed breweries.

I think there are a ton of beer enthusiasts who know more about beer, beer history, even fermentation than many brewers. There are also brewers who have encyclopedic knowledge. Does their level of knowledge matter if they are putting out awesome beer? Not to me. Do I care if the baker can give me a history of different types of yeast and wheat strains? Not really, as long as his bread is delicious.

The only time it starts to be an issue is when a professional who thinks they are knowledgeable but are not encounters an amateur who is (or vice versa), and one of them decides it is important.

Alan -

[Not the tack I thought this set of observations would take but, sure, go with it...]

Pivní Filosof -

As I say in the paragraph that follows Alan's quote brewers could talk about what they know, i.e. making beer. Which is (one of the reasons) why we aren't lost.

Alan -

Exactly. And thanks for the simultaneous comment!

Martyn Cornell -

Historical knowledge is entirely irrelevant to great beer. Just as knowledge of the minutiae of brewing science is entirely irrelevant to the appreciation of a great pint. I certainly wouldn't argue that someone who knows who Henry Parsons is, or how different ratios of black to brown malt alter the flavour and mouthfeel of a pint of porter, enjoys their porter more than someone who knows nothing of all that: clearly that's cock. It's <i>fun</i> knowing that stuff, but mostly pointless.

Craig -

Should I comment about absolutism, here, or is it too soon?

...yeah, too soon...

Alan -

I think you exercised your right to write absolutism to a rather full degree already.

Pivní Filosof -

@Martyn, I see this from a different angle. Knowing how a beer is made won't help me enjoy it more, but will help me understand why I like it, and that accumulated knowledge will help me make more informed decisions in the future. About the history, now that is irrelevant.

Jordan St.John -

I may be able to help out a bit on this one, being a beer writer who's actually attending brewing school in order to learn as much as I can.

Here's the thing you have to realize about brewers: If you were to combine all of the knowledge of all of the brewers in the province of Ontario, you might end up with supremely knowledgeable brewer. As it stands, the average amount of information that each brewer possesses has to do entirely with their likes and experiences just like anyone else.

Imagine you're a doctor specializing in podiatry. I don't know why you would be such a thing except that there's decent money to be made staring at feet. You have strengths. You are great with fallen arches. You can help with a plantar's wart. You can cure an ingrown toenail with a swift scalpel movement. Unfortunately, if someone needs a triple bypass done on their heart, you're no help whatsoever.

Same thing being a brewer. Even the really talented guys are usually only really talented at a couple of things. Maybe they make a pale ale. That's what they do five days a week. They develop a feel for the thing. They're in there mashing and hefting bags of grain and figuring out why the pumps don't work. It's actually incredibly specialized work. They're not making beer. They're making a beer. One. Maybe two.

It's probable that they know a lot more than they're able to enunciate. It's just that a lot of the knowledge is experiential and sense based. That doesn't mean they're idiots. It means that they're not writers or public speakers. That's all.