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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Ed -

I didn't think Methodists and Episcopalians had any theological differences. I see I've more reading up on sects to do...

Alan -

More on governance principles. But, yes, spot the minister's kid who grew up thumbing through books on the various forms of Protestantism.

Ed -

I find religious schisms fascinating, and with wikipeida it's easy to follow split after split after split, but I guess easy to miss minor differences in doctrine as you keep clicking the links.

Bailey -

Blind worship of any personality is grating, but Jackson's work isn't quite ready for the rubbish heap yet, in my opinion. (Should I have started this sentence with 'Of course'?)

For starters, as with, e.g., the CAMRA Good Beer Guide, what was merely outdated two years ago is in the process of becoming an evocative record of a specific period in beer's history.

And, even if we are now questioning the content, the more I read of it, the more I believe the quality of his prose remains miles ahead of that turned out by most beer writers today. It has genuine wit; employs arresting and elegant turns of phrase; and he had a knack for pulling compelling stories out of what might have been rather boring material in the hands of others.

Alan -

That is interesting as it is his style I find has faded the fastest or was maybe never that compelling to me. There is a range to his descriptions of taste I find a little narrow compared to others. But to each their own as, fortunately, now there are so many good voices you can find ones to suit your taste.

Beyond taste and tone, more importantly, there is now the kind of maturing of the discourse and the market that needs no hunting out of the best or reliance on accepted authority. Now that there is such selection available to consumers, craft brewers - like beer writers- need not be treated like the well meaning if slightly disappointing children of second cousins. Open critical discussion and open markets are the best cure for any sort of personality cults.

Alan -

An interesting further state of information availability, when the desired product is easy to find.

Jeff Alworth -

I'm with Bailey; Jackson's prose was his greatest strength. It's still a great pleasure to read. I do approach Jackson differently now, though. I first started reading him in the mid-90s, when he was doing active reporting on breweries. I don't think he was ever in the business of criticism per se; he was half reporter and half ethnographer. I read him to learn about beer-making in places I couldn't visit.

Times have changed, and people should recognize that very few of the breweries he visited 20 years ago still make the same beer or make it on the same systems. Preferences have changed, beers have changed, and our understanding of style or "types" has changed. Now Jackson reads more like recent history to me. I visit him to see what things were like at the dawn of the craft beer age as a way of marking the evolution.

Another Alan -

I was in attendance at the bloggers conference Sunday morning for Ray's speech, during which he was sending out various tweets such as this one. His broader point was exactly as mentioned in the last paragraph to Bailey's comment. Ray pointed out how Jackson didn't stop with saying, "here's a tasty beer, it has tropical fruit flavors, go drink it." Rather, he often provided compelling context by describing the minute details of the place, the brewer, and the facility, etc., to create compelling stories. Ray was encouraging bloggers to do the same - at least on occasion - rather than repeating the same boring beer reviews tactics.

I did manage to interrupt Ray's speech by unintentionally unleashing the world's loudest cork pop while opening a very tasty imperial porter.

Alan -

Cool. Because I am not in the trade I would encourage the opposite, to avoid the craft brewery minute details and get into the sorts of drinker side analysis that avoids contact with the brewer as much as possible. I have gotten to know our Ford dealer to the degree that I know it hurts my interests. Ask why so much they get upset with you.

Stan Hieronymus -

Alan - I'm interested - as a consumer - in the story(ies) behind the beer, although not necessarily getting to know the actual brewers better. And not some made up bullshit story or one that simply mimics what the brewery hands out.

Alan -

I know and I am not saying their is right or wrong but one big thing is I just don't have the time for too much back story - especially when (i) the story is the same story to me as that of other breweries and (ii) the story is based on a history I am aware flows otherwise. I am not so much suspicious as not interested in big parts of the discourse now. Which is why the article up there from Szabo struck me so. I like to know folk are drilling down in the other areas but am relieved of the obligation to do the same. As I need that data, I can grab it. Which also means I'm expecting and practically favour decentralized hubs of authority... and also identification of both gaps in authority and time / place contextualized authority. It is good that you and I (and many others) have very different angles on good beer and brewing as it makes the whole richer. Right now the resiliency and pervasiveness of beer is what I am thinking about. How easy a bucket of malted grains can ease life's pressures with just a little skill and time.

Jeff Alworth -

This does clarify why you don't revere Jackson. Something on the order of 90% of the interest in things that interest me is the back story. No back story=lose interest quick. The back story may be similar for many NA craft breweries (but I think a lot less than one might guess without talking to a lot of breweries), but that's far from the case for European breweries. I also love brewers and many of my best beer drinking has been done in their company.

I'm also continually shocked at how nobody knows enough of what you'd call the back story even to understand beer. Probably 50% of the people who drink craft beer and quality imports don't really know the difference between an ale and a lager. They don't know what makes an English and Belgian ale different. And on and on. And these are the fans. So I'm a fan of back story.

People are different, though, so there it is. People talk to me or read my blog and they're committing themselves to back story.

Alan -

I think you have taken the discussion, widened it beyond its scope and awarded a gold star, Jeff. A few points on back story should explain: (i) As Andy pointed out, back story is laced with bullshit by which I take him to mean PR bullshit; (ii) the difference between lager and ale isn't back story, it is technical fact and the reason folk don't get the understanding you and I have on Belgians is that good beer is an easy entry and early exit hobby for folk who often have other more interesting interests; (iii) I like talking to brewers just fine as, opposed to brewery owners, you get a sense of (i) above and also how the owner cuts corners, treats staff and finds the whole beer fan thing both odd and lucrative. While the point of the post and discussion is the recognition that diverse voices and detailed specific knowledge is a better path, the illustration Jackson provides - ironically playing amateur fossil collector of the 1850s - is how good beer too has moved on, how the path he took wound because of his personal business interests, his focus and his training - but most of all the times. Good beer will hopefully continue on the wider road suggested by Szabo where value knowledge will trump taxonomic debate, strained unified theory, gentlemanly business winks and the rest of the bullshit.