It’s not only beer

In this arti­cle, amongst many excel­lent points, Pete Brown sug­gests that the fuss over the Oxford Com­pan­ion to Beer high­lights a lack of per­spec­tive on the part of some beer geeks, blog­gers and writ­ers. He says that, some­times, people’s atti­tudes make him want to say: “Guys, get a grip – it’s only beer.”

But is it only beer?

We’ve writ­ten on a relat­ed sub­ject before, point­ing out that, as hob­by­ists, we know it’s just beer, but that tak­ing it seri­ous­ly is all part of the fun.

Telling real his­to­ri­ans and schol­ars like Mar­tyn Cor­nell and Ron Pat­tin­son, how­ev­er, that it’s only beer is like telling an archae­ol­o­gist that the sub­ject of his study is ‘just a load of mud­dy rub­ble’ and that he should stop being so anal about it. Yes, most spe­cial­ist schol­ars have lost per­spec­tive, and thank God for that.

It’s through the efforts of peo­ple who take appar­ent­ly insignif­i­cant things seri­ous­ly, and spend time doing the kinds of back-break­ing research oth­ers can’t be both­ered with, that we learn more about our world and our his­to­ry.

Beer is wor­thy of seri­ous study and we should applaud those who under­take it, how­ev­er nuts their obses­sion might some­times seem to the rest of us.

P.S. We real­ly don’t like wine very much. No pre­tend­ing here.

6 thoughts on “It’s not only beer”

  1. I think I’m begin­ning to under­stand this from Roger’s per­spec­tive, fol­low­ing his let­ter in the Indy that Tom Stain­er tweet­ed about today.

    Roger has been cam­paign­ing for years to get beer tak­en seri­ous­ly enough to war­rant things like an Oxford Com­pan­ion. That one exists is bril­liant. That it’s full of holes is besides the main point: bril­liance. That peo­ple keep point­ing out that it’s full of holes makes them tar­nish­ers of the bril­liance, and that’s intol­er­a­ble, and they should be made to see how bril­liant it is.

    I think he’s show­ing a ten­den­cy towards pollyan­naism born of Things Being Crap for a long time, and sud­den­ly becom­ing Con­sid­er­ably Less Crap in the last cou­ple of years.

  2. Fun­ni­ly enough, we felt like spoil­sports because our review was only *cau­tious­ly* pos­i­tive when we first post­ed it.

  3. I have to say that I think Pete Brown is way out of step on this one. His out­right dis­missal of fac­tu­al criticism/correction seems strange for some­one held in so high regard with­in the beer com­mu­ni­ty. I can only con­clude that, hav­ing tak­en the Kings Shilling, he feels oblig­ed to defend the OCB come hell or high water.

  4. Some­one (can’t remem­ber who) sug­gest­ed we might be see­ing a par­ty line being tak­en. Con­trib­u­tors are essen­tial­ly repeat­ing the same mes­sages – the book has a few minor issues, like all first edi­tions; none of them are the kinds of things that *nor­mal* peo­ple need to wor­ry about; buy it!

  5. Good points.

    It is bril­liant the OCB exists, and it was nev­er going to be per­fect but they had to know that, and some of the con­dem­na­tion of, rather than lis­ten­ing to, the crit­ics does smack of toe­ing a line some­where.

    I don’t have a prob­lem with Oliv­er, Brown, Protz or any­one else try­ing to sell the book, but when the mis­takes have been so well pub­li­cised then con­tin­u­ing to dis­miss them seems less like being ‘out of step’ (a superbly British turn of phrase from Tyson) and more like down­right hypocrisy. Espe­cial­ly when it comes from peo­ple set­ting them­selves up as author­i­ties.

  6. I don’t think it’s “just” or “only” beer, and as some­one with a sci­en­tif­ic and research-ori­ent­ed back­ground, I cer­tain­ly appre­ci­ate and cel­e­brate the schol­ar­ship of Messrs. Cor­nell and Pat­tin­son. Valid crit­i­cism ought to be brought to light, even though I rec­og­nize that not every wor­thy point leads to an unam­bigu­ous con­clu­sion.

    I would say, how­ev­er, that because the top­ic *is* beer, and because beer is the cen­ter of, indeed, one of the most con­vivial of pro­fes­sions… crit­i­cisms shouldn’t be over­wrought, per­son­al, or deliv­ered with undue alarm. Yes, some of the errors so far revealed could eas­i­ly have been avoid­ed, but the sky is not falling and the entire­ty of the work is not a dis­as­ter for the exis­tence of the rel­a­tive­ly few mis­takes so far dis­cov­ered. It remains a foun­da­tion­al work and a use­ful resource.

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