I was thinking I had really to get to writing two posts today. An update on the #YuletideChristmasHanukahHogmanayKwanzaFestivusBeeryPhotoContest2014! matter. And a submission for Boak and Bailey's latest beery long reads happening. It's more of a happening in the 1960s sense than an event as there aren't quarter cut egg salad sandwiches anywhere that I can see. Maybe they are on their sideboard. That could happen. But enough of that. Let's get to this. The what, how and why. First, the what. What are the prizes. So far I have been able to gather the following:
=> Two copies of Ontario Beer: A Heady History of Brewing from the Great Lakes to the Hudson Bay by myself and the ever plucky Jordan St. John.
=> Two copies of Upper Hudson Valley Beer by, again, myself and in this case surprisingly Jeffersonian Craig Gravina.
=> Two copies of Brew Britannia: The Strange Rebirth of British Beer by the delightful Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey.
=> One copy of The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer: Rediscovered Recipes for Classic Brews Dating from 1800 to 1965 by our dreamy pal Ronald Pattinson.
=> One copy of Lost Breweries of Toronto Paperback also by the self same Jordan St. John.
All books. All facts. All beer. All the time. Just like around here. And that's just for starters. More announcements to come. I am even in negotiations with my favorite Argentine-Czech mix, Maximiliano Bahnson, for delivery of a few physical copies of this year's cult classic The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer Paperback which he will sign before sending over the ocean and which I will not only sign but carefully read through so as to reinstate all the original spelling mistakes which caused such a thrilling ripple throughout the western world. Stand by for updates on that one. You have a prize to pledge? And you are not a jerk about to do the dishonourable and unspeakable... well "speakable" I guess as I describe it below... yes, please do send an email along to email@example.com letting me know.
OK. That is the what. Next, we have the how. How this happens is set by the rules. The rules have been clearly set out in this post of a few days ago. I don't need to repeat them even as a cheapassed way of making the 1500 word minimum that B+B have set for this edition of the beery long read. But I will reflect on how far those rules have traveled since those simple days of our first contest in 2006:
...here is the deal. I want your beer photos. Your favorite bar, beer, shop, brewer, anything. Just make sure the photo is good. You can email them (try to stick to .jpg format) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hint: avoid a flash if you are taking pictures of glass or fluid. Be artsy. Be neato. But don't send me something over, say, 500 by 500. I am not printing out posters, people.
Gosh. The trust I had in you. "Be artsy"?!?! Had I known then what artsy means to some of you people I would have never said such a thing. What has continued since those rules, however, is the relative simplicity of it all. Email me photos related to beer and I will pick winners. I will then mail prizes. For free. To you. From me.
OK. So that is the what and the how. That just leaves us the why. Why have I done this since 2006? Think about it. That is longer that more than half of today's craft brewer have been opened! Why have I kept going for now nine contests? Fear of habit breaking in large part. There must be a 37 letter word for that in German or Hindi. See, if I stop doing something that I have done for a long time it makes me reflect on the potential pointlessness of what has gone before. But that is only part of it. I love the entries. I love the fact that there has been a positive response over the years that has caused people to send in well over 1,000 entries and for me to have now delivered many prizes. So many are swell. A good number suck but each is emailed with a certain intention. To get free stuff. I can live with that. Heck, I am the one who set up the contest so why wouldn't I?
It's not all jolly. One of the main frustrations certainly has been a few folk who have taken advantage of the contest for PR campaigns and never actually sending the prizes. One or two quite prominent players have done that. It is fairly pathetic when they are so eager to get the cheap mention but can't be arsed to stick something in the mail. One of the downsides of the craft beer community is that sort of fortunately rare self-importance. But there have not been too many other downsides so we can be thankful. I had to ensure that fewer entries are being sent per contestant and, in large part due to the bad practice of others, I have had to provide the prizes and mailing costs myself for the most part in recent years. But that is good, too. Lets me ensure the prize is delivered.
It also allows me to remind myself that it is also about giving back a bit and also making up. I have a curiosity about all things good beer and that can annoy people. I write things like "why the heck did you think and write that?" and "Michael Jackson was not all that folk make of him" and people get annoyed. People I respect and who sometimes aren't hearing that from me. They should be annoyed. I am pointing out the gaps in their understanding. Good beer is a very conservative dialogue. Mere Whiggishness is radical. Others believe they know best. I don't care. No one likes that. So as a way to make up for me pointing out all this stuff all year I share the art of others and now share the prizes I can offer. It's like being the Little Drummer Boy. With booze added.
Another reason why is to confirm that it is OK to observe upon beer in different media and also outside of the professional construct. It's not an unimportant thing. For example, this week one could read this exchange on Facebook.
Stephen Beaumont, 26 November at 15:14: "Just realized that it's been over two months since I last published a blog post. And you know what? I kinda like that!"
Garrett Oliver, 26 November at 20:34: I have that feeling every day, Stephen...that's why I don't blog!
Well goodie for you. Whoa... I've done it again. Been mean. Or at least specific and accurate. But, see, there is always that tension between the gentleman and gentle lady on the one hand who seek to expand knowledge for the sake of knowledge and those on the other hand who need, quite properly, to make a living - even from good beer. But not having time for incidental and convivial written discourse is like shunning letter writing or chats with friends. I once told, as I now doubt have reported before, a naturally struggling drinks writer that the trouble they faced was trying to make a living out of what I do as a hobby. It came out a little harsh and I didn't mean it to but as I was, also naturally, picking up the tab I thought it instructive. Educational even. The same goes for the annual Christmas beer photo contest and the all of blogging for that matter. Helps us with the understanding that beer is both not that complex compared to, say, the professions but at the same time it weaves itself into any number of interesting places that it is well worth pursuing with any and all means possible. It's a funny beast. Pick any topic. There's plenty left to still be straigthened out. Right now I am looking at how malt before the use of the coke in the middle of the 1600s was not all as dark and smokey as widely claimed. People in the past were no dummies, after all. They just had different tools.
Photography is one of the best media for discovering this. In a way, good beer is mute and makes us mute. It makes an inviting spot for us in the interior of ourselves. We need to remember to reciprocally keep drawing ourselves out of there and report on what we saw. Lingering over a few photos is as good or better than a weeks at the archives for explaining what is really going on between glass and throat. When you sit quite in a bar staring at that thing or out that window after hitting the particularly correct dosage of your favorite drink? Beer photography does that except it takes you where you yourself can never go - all the places beer is and has been. Well at least since around 1839.
Are you up for it? There are still a couple of weeks to go to add your name to those already in the hat of the advisory committee. Did I mention a committee? A committee that advises? No? Well, 'cause there isn't one. Joe Stange repeatedly refuses to take my subtle hints given year after year to form an international advisory committee. No idea why. Never asked. Thought it might be rude. So I judge alone. I alone judge. If you can handle that, read the rules as linked to above and send in those entries. Happy and grateful to add them to the pile.