Category Archives: Blogging and writing

Calligraphic illustration: "...certifies that..."

Certifications and Beer Writing

Last week, American beer writer and blogger Chad Polenz contacted us to ask our views on beer certifications — the Cicerone programme and BJCP accreditation in particular.

It’s not something we have strong views on but we did our best to answer and he used what we gave him alongside responses from a slew of others to inform a blog post entitled ‘What do beer writers think of beer certifications?’ It’s more balanced than the tetchy reaction might suggest, and well worth a read.

We thought we ought to elaborate a bit on our position, insofar as we have one.

If we worked in the industry proper, as opposed to commentating on it from a deliberate distance, we might well consider getting ourselves certified. A scheduled programme of study with milestones and markers is no doubt helpful for many people embarking on careers in hospitality and brewing and, if nothing else, probably improves their confidence.

We also sometimes feel at a disadvantage when it comes to writing beer reviews because we can’t identify specific off-flavours or guess at hop varieties with complete confidence, and avoid claiming any kind of expertise as a result. Studying for certification, to a very great degree, seems to solve this problem.

And yet, as far as we know, few (if any) of our favourite beer writers are certified. In general, they gain their authority by consistently demonstrating their knowledge and experience in what they write, rather than by declaring it; and, in particular, by supporting their statements with evidence wherever possible. They are, perhaps, the kind of people who set their own programme of study.

This post is mostly about flagging Chad’s blog post so if you’ve got general comments, probably best to leave them there, but comments are open below if you prefer.

Beer of the Year laurels.

Pondering Beers of the Year

As Golden Pints season draws near, we’ve found ourselves wondering how we go about choosing a ‘beer of the year’.

Should it be the one we’ve just declared the best beer in the world? Surely that must also be the best beer we’ve had this year?

Maybe it ought to be the beer that gave us the most profoundly thrilling single experience — the one that literally made us giggle with excitement and joy — even if subsequent experiences of the same beer were less euphoric?

Or how about our main squeeze — the draught beer of which we’ve drunk (quick calculation) more than 200 pints between us since January? (Flippin’ ‘eck — £700!) We must quite like that.

Then again, perhaps we should compensate for the kinds of biases which skew results on rating websites, to avoid more subtle, unassuming beers being overlooked — ones that are technically proficient, or good for their style, but totally boring in the grand scheme of things.

A lot of beers we’ve enjoyed this year weren’t consumed in anything like ideal conditions for achieving an objective view — should they be out of the running?

There are breweries out there trying really hard with limited funding, facilities and distribution — do we try to take into account ambition and intention? Indie Beer of the Year?

We could narrow the field by choosing a beer that’s new for 2014 (imagine if The Godfather just kept winning the Best Picture Oscar every year!) or perhaps even, given our interest in culture and history, the beer which best sums up 2014.

Mostly, we’re just pleased to have something else to over-think.

Detail from the cover of Gambrinus Waltz.

Our New Ebook: Gambrinus Waltz

We’ve written a short book about lager beer in Victorian and Edwardian London which is now available to buy on the Amazon Kindle store.

Miss Vesta Tilley.It has 13,500 words including footnotes which would equate to about 60 pages if it was a paper book — one-fifth of the length of Brew Britannia, and eight or so times longer than one of our ‘long read’ blog posts.

At £2.06 from the UK store$3.27 in the US, and €2.68 in the Eurozone*, it’s a total bargain — that’s less than the price of a half of Guinness by our reckoning.

Continue reading

Pub at night.

Pub Crawling Blogs

Look, the fact is, if you want to read about drunken escapades, this isn’t the blog you’re looking for.

We’re bookworms, nerds, squares; taking things too seriously is what we do for fun; we hate having hangovers; and that’s unlikely to change as we daily grow ever more middle-aged and becardiganed.

But don’t despair — there are plenty of bloggers less po-faced and/or sedentary than us who are barely ever out of the pub, and here are four you might enjoy.

1. The Ultimate London Pub Crawl

Once a month, twenty-somethings Andy and Greg pick a bit of London and visit every pub there — every pub. They generally get drunk, flirt, make friends, fear for their lives, and then miss their bus or tube home.

2. My Pub Odyssey

Pubman goes to pubs, mostly in London, and says what he reckons about them without even a dab of gilding on the lily: ‘It is a fairly normal little grubby touristy pub.  Grubby is a compliment in Pub Odyssey world…’

3. Walking and Crawling

Adam walks and drinks and walks and drinks. His long posts are full fresh air, verdant fields, and well-earned pints of beer in Scottish country pubs. It a close to being on holiday as you can get at your desk.

4. Wee Beefy

He’s been a bit less prolific of late but his reports from the front line of the war on sobriety in pubs in the Sheffield area are always entertaining: ‘We finished our trip at the Duck and Drake, where we stood at the packed bar to hear a band finish playing, supping beers that I have forgotten to record, but which were, I assume very nice – as was the food, which may have been a pie, I genuinely don’t know, however!’

Illustration: breakfast reading.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 08/11/2014

It’s Saturday morning again, so here, as per, are links to some things that have caught our eye in the past week.

→ ‘Hardknott’ Dave Bailey explains some of the nitty-gritty behind getting his beer into supermarkets, and agonises over the ethics of doing so.

→ There have been many posts in the last week about the relaunched Let There Be Beer campaign, aka There’s a Beer For That, but we thought Ruari O’Toole’s was most useful, as it actually helps to explain why the TV ad is so bland:

This isn’t just ten million badly spent… The deck in the UK is stacked against beer advertisers. Stacked heavily. The Advertising Standards Agency makes a point to say that the UK has some of the strictest alcohol advertising rulesin the world…

→ Barm explains how three different tribes regards Tennent’s Lager and how their attitudes have prevented the success of a premium product under the same brand.

→ For Draft magazine, Joshua M. Bernstein writes about Jeff Mello’s mission to broaden the horizons of brewers by capturing and cultivating entirely new strains of yeast, and getting them to join the fun. (Via @thirstypilgrim.)

→ Bob Arnott’s epic 3000 word post about his first attempt at making cider is definitely one for Pocket. (And this is only part one…)

David ‘Broadford Brewer’ Bishop wrote something tranquil and poetic, inspired by the idea of the ‘firm favourite’. Its meaning isn’t immediately obvious, and is open to interpretation, which makes rather a nice change from what people reckon about stuff.

→ Who wants popcorn?

Not (directly) about beer

→ This long piece from Medium on how US pasta chain Olive Garden operates isn’t about beer, but it’s a good read anyway, and this particular point did bring to mind big breweries:

The report attacked Darden for throwing away money on ineffective ad campaigns, wasting food, and trying to rebrand shoddy dishes in favor of scrapping or reformulating them.

→ Meanwhile, John DeVore’s piece for Eater’s Life in Chains series contains a reminder for food and drink snobs that fast food might be ‘devoid of nutritional value’ but that doesn’t mean it can’t be ‘richly emotionally satisfying’.