One of the saddest thing about the good beer world - amongst many - is the tension between the "be positive" struggling consulto-set and the grumbly "we're on the downside" one. Both have their leading voices and evidence to back them up. But we need to be honest about where we are. This is certainly not the golden age of good beer given all the crappy craft we have to wade through - but it's a pretty good age nonetheless. To borrow a phrase from the world of Marvel comics perhaps we may be able to agree that this is a silver age of a sort.
But, as has been pointed out quite a bit this year things are beginning to slide. The silver is starting to tarnish. Feels a little like when New Wave music was no longer new. The Pogues were the cure... as might have been The Cure I suppose. And its not just the beer - it's in the writing about beer, too. Proper beer blogs which are not careerists' blegs or fronts for brewery marketing are rare. Beer books are no longer as vibrant as when a proper publisher would support Pete Brown's wonderful explorations.† Boak and Bailey put out their absolutely fabulous Brew Britannia...‡ and zero copycat follow ups followed up. There are fewer proper beer columns being written for proper newspapers. And I have mentioned, Maureen points out that we are waist high in identical style guides and really need no more - even if that is all publishers will publish. And the junketeers. Not to mention trade association PR leaning on everything. There is very good evidence to suggest we have passed peak discourse or at least are in a very low gully with no obvious way out.
I could complain... some more... again. I could point to those who are compromised by necessity and who are unproductive complainers. I could even write a very long post about how many errors I am seeing in the history of beer written by people who ought to know better or who ought to be held back from access to a keyboard by being bound up with strong rope. But how about this? I could start this. How about creating a prize for the best new beer writing and backing it with a cash prize? I could do that. One of the best things about running the annual Xmas, Hogmanay, Yuletide and Kwanza beer photo contest is how many folk were willing to give something with little return except the collection of excellent beer photos so everyone can go "oooh!" and "ahhh!" over their overly strong holiday ales. I am going to put a little money into a kitty and start hitting others up to do likewise. I will start with $100 USD of my own cash. I spend more on postage for the Xmas contest. And I will hit folk up. Hey, I am on the executive committee of a very successful public radio station. I know how to do a fund raising drive.
But let's be clear. This is not suggesting that the NAGBW awards are not doing the job. They are and I am a judge. What I am thinking of is simpler as well as being in addition to other efforts. This is also not to suggest I am doing any sort of Kickstarter style thing. One other thing I learned from the annual photo contest is how many deadbeats there are in good beer. It's shocking how many good names will fawn and beg to be added to the public list of prize givers only to reneg or go silent after the winners are named. No, I will need cash in hand or at least a very trustworthy track record if a contribution is to be accepted.
I will start making inquiries on your behalf. Because this is really on your behalf, right? If this sort of thing is not done you will be left with the belief that lager caused the collapse of the number of breweries in the latter half of the 1800s in the US. You will have to accept that all beer was brown, smokey and murky before 1700s. You will believe there was no real brewing industry in the US before the Civil War. You may also be left with the understanding that brewers and marketeers understand the brewing industry best. All foolish ideas. Ideas that need to putting down... like White IPA does come to think of it. Think of that. A world with better beer writing and no White IPA. Ahhh... magic.
Sound interesting? Have a spare $5 or €50? Let me know. Leave a comment. I also can be contacted a little more discretely at this blog's gmail account if you are interested in participating. We'll figure out some reasonable rules in a bit once we know how this is shaping up. Maybe non-cash prizes will be offered as well but, unlike photographers, I have a sense writers actually need cash. Maybe half will be awarded to do a bit of research. A wee pile of money. Think about it. Comments other than pledges welcome, too.
* Stonch took offence to the repeated use of Mr. Chimp Head for my "Thinking of Beer" posts so this is the next big thing in "Thinking of Beer" post technology.
† ‡ I link to their Amazon book listings for the obvious reason that you need to read these books. If you have not you are wandering alone in the shallow end. Govern yourself accordingly.