4 Apr 2014

The Session #86: Beer Journalism


This month's edition of The Session has Beer Hobo asking:
What role do beer writers play in the culture and growth of craft beer? Are we advocates, critics, or storytellers? What stories are not getting told and what ones would you like to never hear about again? What’s your beer media diet? i.e. what publications/blogs/sites do you read to learn about industry? Are all beer journalists subhumans? Is beer journalism a tepid affair and/or a moribund endeavor? And if so, what can be done about it?
I'll answer the first two questions:

The first one: I don't know why beer writers should limit themselves to one brand, in this case, "Craft Beer", and why are we expected to play any role in its growth or culture, we aren't supposed to be PR.

The second one: too much fanboyism, not enough criticism (though that is getting better), and even less storytelling; but to each writer is free to write what they feel like, I don't have to read it, if I don't like it.

As for the stories that are not getting told: Failures. I would like to read about failed breweries and the people behind them. We need more of that, we need more of the ugly side of the brewing industry, the blood, the sweat, the tears, the shattered dreams. It's not a morbid interest, it's just that I feel that the current discourse presents things in an all too shiny light, when we all know that it is a hard business that will sure get harder in the coming years. And I also believe that everybody can learn from other people's failures.

I am as guilty of this as anyone else, and I've been thinking of a project along those lines. So, if you were owner of a failed brewery and would like to speak about your experience, or you know someone who would, drop me a line.

That's all I've got to say.

Na Zdraví!

7 comments:

  1. I don't think I've ever read about a failed brewery except in "The Oxford Companion to Beer".

    Along with failed breweries, what about failed beers? What's the "New Coke" of craft beer? I'd love to read those stories.

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    1. I think we could feel a whole encyclopedia with those.

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  2. I think a good line on it would be to locate people who have continued in brewing but in a different way than they started. This does occur a lot and provides a way to look at the downside of it when otherwise many players wouldn't wish to speak from an embarrassment factor or from being too busy getting on with their lives. E.g. a brewpub operator who closes the pub but continues making the beers via contract arrangements would be a good interview.

    On the fanboy thing, I don't think much has really changed from the time Jackson wrote the first book. In there, he lauded the brewers who helped him with information (of course most saw an interest to do so), and gently chided those who were "reticent to the point of discourtesy". These still exist but are a minority, probably then as now. Then, one took pride in drinking the local beer, or one of them usually, took the tour, owned a pennant or some memorabilia from the brewery. The only thing that's changed is that the Internet and social media, assisted by beer festivals and tasting opportunities at retail outlets, have brought the two sides closer together.

    Also, the brewer is a wizard really - irrespective of the taste of the products - because he makes a mood-altering substance people want. That is why at bottom (IMO) you get the fraternal factor. I'm good with it provided it doesn't colour appreciation of the products.

    Gary

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    1. That fraternal factor can be an issue. I've become friends, or at least have developed a friendly relationship with many people on the other side of the counter. It's inevitable. However, it can be hard sometimes to determine whether someone actually wants to be your friend, or is pretending so to be on your good side. But I guess you can figure that thing out eventually.

      Anyway, that other approach you propose at the beginning is very interesting too.

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  3. "It can be hard sometimes to determine whether someone actually wants to be your friend…".

    Very true. Another factor may be the culture. In the States, the immediate friendliness is a common business technique (which is not to say people you meet in these channels may not become real friends in time). But as a way of doing business, I wonder if it may fit less well in some places, e.g., where relations between suppliers and consumers are more formalized, or simply work in a different way. But like the APA style, it's one of those things that seems to be going around the world, and I think e.g., Brew Dog made good hay of it in the U.K.

    Gary

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  4. It is also something I've wanted to deliver a focus on. If you view my Brewery Bio Series, I already touch on moments of "failure" with brewers / brewery owners. http://craftbeercoach.com/brewery-biography-series/

    For me, it's all about the human condition behind the craft.

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    1. I'll give it a look. It's good to see I'm not the only one thinking this way.

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