The forces opposing beer blogging have been around almost as long as there has been beer blogging. Early on, we got noticed. Soon after that in August 2006, BeerAdvocate declared against it perhaps sensing the end of the forum as a primary internet medium. In 2007 there was a beer blogging explosion and, by 2009, it was open season with third rate regional drinks columnists lashing out erratically at the new reality:
I don't believe everyone should be publishing his or her opinion with abandon, just because the Wild West ethos of Internet allows them to do so.
Let's consider just why beer blogging was so unwelcome almost from the outset. It's independent immediate intelligent writing directly published to a readership. Suddenly, waiting for the regional brewing trade paper columnist to tell you about that new beer release six weeks after the event looked more than a bit stale. Suddenly, apparently drunken brewery owners with inflated senses of self-importance felt vulnerable. Suddenly, paid beer columnists switched the name of their regularly updated websites over to "blog" as did most of beer trade magazines. And with good reason. The beer drinking public was taking back the right to express ideas about their own experience. How dare they?
The Session was a means to organize beer bloggers to a minimal degree, to see what the collective effort might look like. Starting in 2007, The Session for over eight years has addressed a vast number of topics, some better than others, but more importantly has served to both increase the quality of what has been written by gentle nudge and also introduced many great new writers to a broader audience - even if just other beer writers. Has its time come? Is it needed anymore? That was this month's topic sprung upon you at the last minute. Let's see what folks think:
=> Let's start with Stan, the man who foisted The Session on us in the first place. Aside from the fact that he denies his entire house is a rec room, he remembers the wonderful Beer Haiku Daily. He also states: "the blogging platform has made a bunch of people more aware of the work of Ron Pattinson and Martyn Cornell. That in turn has raised the bar for writing accurately about beer history." Remember that.
=> Allen Huerta wrote two separate posts in response to the question. In the first he describes the arc of his interest in beer noting "I am not sure when the urge to not take beer so seriously hit me." But he then comes to see that as a separate question when he concludes his second post this way:
So what should happen? I feel we should keep it going. It was a while before I last contributed when I saw there was no host just a few months ago and made something up on the fly. This last month, the host was not even sure she was capable of hosting until she got some annoying little bug in her ear, and this month. Well, it could not die just yet. A lot of people look to blogs for entertainment, news, ideas, learning, and various other reasons. Let us all breathe life back into this project.
=> Derrick the Beer Runner blames second wave social media:
...this thing seems old fashioned, the way people Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook these days. We used to plan so many things in advance and you were so full ideas about what to do. Now you never tell me what you want to do until almost the last minute. I mean, it seems forced. If you aren't really into this, maybe it's time to, you know, end things?
Is that true? Is blogging the 8-Track tape of beer writing? I don't think it is but I certainly see how it's no longer new in any real sense.
=> Oliver at Literature and Libation makes an excellent point that drives to the very heart of the matter: "...even the worst are trying...":
If the current incarnation of the Session has crossed the finish line of its final marathon, that’s sort of sad, but so be it. I’d implore those who wants to write to keep writing even without it. In addition to being the main curriculum of your own not-for-profit mini-university, writing is therapeutic and cathartic, and a hell of a better way to spend your time than many other things that pass as “entertainment” these days. But write with responsibility. Do your best to carefully sift out the nuggets of golden narrative that come washing down the sluice, and do your best to avoid showing off the rocks you found that you think are gold. If you’re going to be a voice of your sub-culture, be a good one. Add to the narrative with humor or wit or education; don’t let misinformation, rumor-mongering, and petty drama take over. We have enough of that elsewhere in the world.
Is that use of trying a pun?
=>Natasha over at MetaCookbook, last month's host, put her thoughts this way: "I believe that The Session has the chance to help make it more and keep it more by convincing bloggers to tackle these topics." Which topics? The more difficult ones. Which to me means the ones the beer columnists won't touch and the ones maybe brewers wish folk would leave alone.
=> Carla Jean Lauter suggests that if this is to end, let's see The Session out with... well, with something better than my post I suppose: "If I do know one thing – if it must end, let’s end on a high note. Go out with a bang instead of a whimper...The rationale behind this type of exit would be to announce it – promote it – and reap that last sentimental groundswell of effort." Fair enough. You're up. I'm all in except for the ending it all bit.
=> Sean Inman of the venerable Beer Search Party puts his views on beer blogging succinctly: "Sometimes I succeed and other times I don’t. But I keep at it because the alternative doesn’t seem as fulfilling to me." Now, keep in mind that Sean used the "C" word - curate - in that post of his. Which points out another wonderful thing about both blogging and The Session as a gathering place. No one needs to agree to a set of core beliefs. It's all about all the things that might be brought to this very broad topic of good beer.
=> Mark Lindner, the Bend Beer Librarian, shared his thoughts this way:
I hope The Session hasn’t as I would like to become more of a member of this community. But life has kept me wanting a lot, from a fairly basic level, for a bit now. Lots of time, mental (and otherwise) effort, and motivational focus is on simply getting well. Nonetheless, I still dream of attempting to write intelligently on the topic(s) of beer. The Session continuing in some form would greatly facilitate that by providing inspiration and a venue for community, whether small or not. And, yes, I realize this commits me to hosting in the near future.
HA-HA! my plan is working. Another pledge to post.
=> Thomas Cizauskas, a man as close to the trends in the drinks trade as any of us, decided to lash out (yes, I said it) at ME! Look at this:"Well, in three words: I think not. In more words: you're foisting a false dilemma upon us. Or a claim to beer-blogging exceptionalism." Fine. You caught me. But at least doing so I triggered the formation of this excellent idea: "I'll continue banging that good-beer drum into the void, confident that somewhere good-beer SETI will hear me."
=> Boak and Bailey added some thoughts in their weekly roundup and in doing so noticed something about their weekly round up: "Perhaps there’s a clue in the fact that quite often, as above, many of the links we highlight aren’t from other blogs — they’re from magazines and news websites." Has beer blogging been a success? They hint that it's so with the slightly ominous observation "...of course, some go professional." I say ominous as there is nothing clearer from years of back door emails with paid writers that the reality of going pro is leaving behind the ideas which are often the most interesting. The publisher only wants another global guide to styles. The editor didn't want to go there. The column as proposed wouldn't have an audience. The boat need not be rocked today.
=> Joe Stange, the Thirsty Pilgrim, put the problem of professionalism in another light:
It's not like I ever look at my blog sitting over here, gathering dust in the corner, and think: "Can't be bothered, there's no money in it." On the contrary, I suspect that is exactly why I should do it. But lately -- and I reckon this is a good problem to have -- I must look first to a stack of projects that do pay. Can't do it all, so paying the bills comes first. Doesn't stop me from fucking around in any number of other ways though, does it? In retrospect blogging is one of the healthier ways to fuck around.
It is. It is healthy. Except for all the sitting and typing. And drinking. And the chase for sordid lucre. But, really, who cares? I say the writers' circle within the geeks within the beer world is a wonderful thing. The pros meeting the newbies. The brewers and the drinkers. Sharing ideas. The Session is one of the best mechanisms that makes that circle a circle.
I would be keeping the whole story from you if I didn't share two other contributions. Team Stonch expected an invite but to be fair missed how late I threw together the topic. The Beer Nut of Ireland, the globe's only true beer nut, declared a wake and then apparently wrote twelve more blog posts. They each in their own way added to the whole that The Session tracks in its periodic way. It doesn't demand everyone post every month - even though I have. It doesn't even demand that everyone reads every post. It doesn't demand anything in fact. It just keeps rolling along, noticing the flow of ideas, tracing the track of a discourse organically. I like it. I hope it continues. It it doesn't continue I might continue it anyway. It's not like anyone can turn it off. And it's not like beer blogging was ever popular or was ever going to be. Remember: no one ever promised that being popular was going to be part of thinking about beer more than the next guy and then writing openly about it... for free. Sounds like an excellent deal to me. But that's just me.