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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Phil -

Always a tricky subject this.
I don't get that many freebies tbh, I don't expect them either so when I get the odd thing sent I am of course extremely happy. In response I generally take a similar view to B&B, review if I really genuinely like it, give feedback directly if I don't or it just isn't viable for the blog.

I sort of take the view that anything free is a sort of reward, blogging is hard work or at least can be to write often and I also spend shit loads on beer & beery travels. If I'm lucky enough to get a freemans hoping that the sender has read/liked what I do & thought "I'll send that bloke some of our beer to see what he thinks". Naive, maybe, especially with big boys marketing agencies, but so far, for me at least these have been few and far between.

Bailey -

(First: we called the book Dom sent us 'a gift', and the 'gift pack' probably needs a hyphen, but I think otherwise we've called them samples...)

It's only really an issue for us because we don't write reviews of everything we receive and tend to avoid writing negative reviews because we find them boring. That seems to have given some people (one guy) the impression that we (a) get sent tons of freebies and (b) act in sinister collusion with brewers to suppress the evidence of their hideous experiments.

We'd have to receive a lot more samples to cover anything like the amount of money we spend on blogging...

Esmé Cowles -

It's definitely a tricky subject. On one hand, I agree free samples are just a very specific kind of marketing and serve the brewer more than the blogger. But on the other hand, I know that getting any kind of gift, no matter how insignificant, does impact our perception of things to favor the giver. There is solid psychological research establishing that, and there's no point ignoring it.

I've never gotten any free beer from brewers, so I've never had to deal with it in practice. But I think being straight with your readers about getting something for free is the least one could do.

The thing I find interesting is how blogs are having to deal with all the same kinds of ethical issues that more established journalists have dealt with. When you read a review in a newspaper, there's a baseline assumption that the writer likely got better access than you would get. Absent deliberate attempts to hide their identity, people with a financial incentive to make a good impression will make it their business to know the reviewers. But with blogs, the baseline is closer to expecting that the writer is just a regular guy sharing experiences you could have. So as brewers pay more attention to blogs, and bloggers start getting free samples and other kinds of special access, the same issues more traditional professional reviewers face come up.

Alan -

I tend not to write negative stories, too, BB but that is because I tend to self-select. As I mention, I refuse the truly bad being even sent and certainly do not buy them. 90% of my beer reviews being bought beer, I think select as I buy what I know, have researched or otherwise expect I will like. Then, I tend to not write about all disappointments as I think the reader will find them boring but I have when the beer is truly a fail due to hygiene or simply bad recipes.

Sorry about being overly sensitive on the "giftie" thing. In a rush this morning eastern standard time.

Alan -

Wonderfully descriptive disclosure from ATJ.

Simon Johnson -

I don't write about everything I get sent. I still haven't written about stuff I was sent - and enjoyed - last year. I get offered all sorts of weird crap that I turn down (step forward every fricken flavoured cider for the last three years). I usually write positive stuff about positive beery experiences.

Why? Because I'm not a critic. I'm not objective. I've not paid to be so, and I ain't so.

I get accused on several occasions of being a fan-boy for certain breweries. Because I spend time with them, brew with them, drink with them at weekends.

Am I a fan-boy? Hell, yeah!

When I review a beer or a book or a trip that's paid for by others, I name-check them. But that's not disclosure.

That's courtesy.

Alan -

That is extremely useful, Simon. I am neither a fan boy yet I am also not paid. I actually think it is bizarre that good beer has not aggressively co-opted beer writing over the years but, yes, the fact is I do this of my own initiative and, therefore, get to define myself. In doing that, I do tend to pay my own way and have been supported in doing that mainly by non-beer ads on this site. Sadly, Google has found a way to undercut that and my "insurance lawyer in UK" money has dried up. That was sweet money.

Another Alan -

Wait . . . . bloggers get free stuff sent to them? Hmm . . . I guess neither of my two readers must be all that impressed.

Bailey -

But no-one thinks we're in any way passing judgement on how they run their blogs, right? We're not. Disclose what you like, withhold what you like. This is purely selfish for our part: we don't want anyone thinking we're up to no good and haven't thick enough skins to shrug off jibes and digs.

Simon -- courtesy/disclosure -- yeah, fair point, it's a bit of both.

Alan -

I don't think you can un-ring that bell, Bailey. You have posed an ethical question by your very act and not one limited to just beer writers who maintain blogs. Why shouldn't full time drinks writers maintain such a log given the nature of the pleasure trade. Interests are interests. For example, would Protz be as picky on a book he participated in? Evidently not. These things need to be noted.

Greg -

I'm comfortable saying that it's unethical to run a blog and not disclose your interests. More importantly, it's rather stupid. As you point out, even being a very successful blogger doesn't pay much, and if your readers find out you've been hiding things, they'll probably find you less credible and then abandon you. It's not like we have something valuable aside from our views and "expertise" that the readers can't get elsewhere, and once credibility is sold it is gone for good. Most readers correctly assume that modest freebies just aren't worth the tradeoff, economically speaking, for bloggers to give up integrity, so they're not bothered so long as everything's transparent.

I mean, if someone really wants to run a beer blog and nefariously trade positive reviews for money or swag... they've made serious miscalculations about the profitability of blogging.

Bailey -

Oh dear. Not sure we meant to ring any bells. We've said before, though, that we don't necessarily dislike people who don't 'do' disclosure, we just don't trust them as much as those that do.

More generally, the problem with mail-shots of freebies and sponsored trips is that you have to read the same article or blog post a hundred times in the weeks that follow...

Jeff Alworth -

I aspire to review every bottle of beer sent to me and every brewery am invited to tour. My current activities mean that I've failed to meet the standard, but it's an aspiration. (Exception: if a brewery sends me a beer I've already reviewed, especially if they KNOW I've reviewed it, I just drink the beer.) I always disclose when I am offered these freebies. And when I review, I calls em straight--strikes, hits, and fouls.

This is what breweries want, and it's why they send us beer. They know a few writers will review the beer and that some will actually dislike the beer. They're happy to take that risk for the press they get.

I probably have greater access and communication with breweries than most bloggers, but I can honestly say I've never gotten blowback on a negative review. Some joke with me about it, but good-naturedly. As writers, we actually earn reader and brewery respect when we're willing to give negative or middling reviews.

Alan -

Good point about feed back on negative reviews. Here is a good example of that with me from Maine's Allagash a few years back.

Bailey -

Jeff -- that's another way to do it, but a hell of a commitment if you get any significant number of freebies.