End of the Kid Gloves Era?

/disapprove
By Stri­at­ic, from Flickr, under Cre­ative Com­mons.

Is it time for beer writ­ers and blog­gers to stop act­ing as if they’re part of the same ‘move­ment’ as brew­ers, pub­li­cans and mar­ket­ing peo­ple, and begin land­ing a few more punch­es?

In the last week, we’ve kept com­ing back to this post by Adri­an Tier­ney-Jones, in which he crit­i­cis­es those who appear to want some brew­eries to fail in order to free up space in the mar­ket: ‘A cer­tain amount of these new start-ups rep­re­sent someone’s dream… I won­der if there is an ele­ment of mean-spirit­ed­ness, elit­ism and sheer arro­gance in want­i­ng brew­eries to fail?’

That prompt­ed inter­est­ing respons­es from some­one ‘in the indus­try’ (‘There is noth­ing wrong with want­i­ng unskilled brew­ers to fail.’) and from Pete Brown, whose ago­nies res­onate with us: is it real­ly doing any­one any favours to avoid con­fronting head-on the prob­lem of down­right rot­ten beer?

In Britain, this whole issue is com­pli­cat­ed by the fact that, for the last forty-odd years, open­ing a brew­ery has arguably been a polit­i­cal (small p) act – part of ‘the fight­back’. Mar­tin Sykes, who (re) estab­lished the Sel­by Brew­ery in 1972 was elect­ed to the CAMRA Nation­al Exec­u­tive in 1973. Lat­er, SIBA (found­ed in 1980) rep­re­sent­ed the inter­ests of small brew­ers, but also, to some extent, those peo­ple who liked to drink the kind of beer small brew­ers made. There was no clear ‘them and us’.

There were ear­ly attempts at objec­tiv­i­ty, such as CAM­RA-founder Michael Hardman’s scathing What’s Brew­ing review of the beer at the Fight­ing Cocks brew­pub at Cor­by Glen, which began brew­ing in 1975. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, with only a hand­ful of new brew­eries in oper­a­tion, it just looked bad-tem­pered and seemed counter-pro­duc­tive: many mem­bers felt that CAMRA ought to be encour­ag­ing to new ‘real ale’ brew­eries, even if their beer was ter­ri­ble.

A com­pro­mise was even­tu­al­ly reached in the world of beer writ­ing: peo­ple like Roger Protz and Michael Jack­son would acknowl­edge that not all small brew­ers made good beer, but would rarely, if ever, name names. Jack­son: ‘If I can find some­thing good to say about a beer, I do… If I despise a beer, why find room for it?’

And that, twen­ty-five years after Jack­son wrote it, is still the pre­vail­ing mod­el. It avoids con­flict; it keeps beer writ­ing pos­i­tive and airy; and ensures beer writ­ers con­tin­ued access to, and even spon­sor­ship from, brew­eries. (From our expe­ri­ence, brew­ers do not, on the whole,wel­come feed­back’, as is some­times claimed…)

We’re increas­ing­ly uneasy with that.

Per­haps it is time for beer writ­ers to accept that con­flict with The Indus­try is nec­es­sary and even desir­able. If noth­ing else, as we know from the world of food writ­ing, elo­quent­ly vicious reviews have con­sid­er­able main­stream appeal, and a few soap opera-style per­son­al­i­ty clash­es would prob­a­bly attract more atten­tion to beer than any num­ber of glossy cross-indus­try cam­paigns.

But we’re not quite ready to be elo­quent­ly vicious our­selves. Not quite.

50 thoughts on “End of the Kid Gloves Era?”

  1. The fun­ny thing is, it shouldn’t even need to be said – review­ers, writ­ers, crit­ics should be hon­est. But sad­ly it’s nev­er that sim­ple, as peo­ple always have an agen­da. (Eg, when I used to work as a film journo and edi­tor, I knew a lot of pub­li­ca­tions, and a lot of writ­ers, who real­ly weren’t hon­est as they were intent on keep­ing a sweet rela­tion­ship with the PRs.) I guess sup­port­ing small brew­eries even if their fare isn’t good is a kind of pos­i­tive descrim­i­na­tion, and that’s a whole can of worms.

  2. One of the rea­sons I pay for all the beers in my annu­al Beer Advent Cal­en­dar is so I can stick the boot in if I see fit. To be prop­er­ly inde­pen­dent and express your hon­est opin­ion, you’ve got to work out how much you’re will­ing to give up the freebie/press junket/sneak pre­view sam­ple. A few bad reviews down the line and it won’t be long before you’re off people’s mail­ing lists any­way, which is anoth­er con­sid­er­a­tion. While some writ­ers will always get sent invitations/samples, etc what­ev­er they write due to their high pro­file, many more might find their inbox­es becom­ing eeri­ly emp­ty if they stop pulling punch­es.

    1. In a dif­fer­ent coun­try and dif­fer­ent indus­try cul­ture, obvi­ous­ly, but…I’ve found that bad reviews have not cut off the sup­ply of beers (or whisky, for that mat­ter) in my mail­box. Review them hon­est­ly, and let the sam­ples go if you must. I do this because I like beer, and I’ll be out drink­ing them any­way. I don’t get free sam­ples at the pub, after all.

  3. I have nev­er had kid gloves on in the first place. If it i good in my opin­ion, I say so. If it isn’t I do too, though of course I have had flak for doing so.

  4. I don’t think any­one holds back from crit­i­cis­ing estab­lished inde­pen­dent brew­eries. There is still a reluc­tance to crit­i­cise micro-brew­eries but, if you don’t own your own pubs, it can be dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish indif­fer­ent beer from indif­fer­ent cel­lar­man­ship.

    Also I will freely admit to a reluc­tance to name names and real­ly lay into pubs for what might well just be a one-off poor expe­ri­ence.

  5. Inter­est­ing post.

    This is a real issue for those of us who write in the trade press – if I say any­thing neg­a­tive, it’s con­sid­ered down­right rude by the brew­ers con­cerned. It seems to be gen­er­al­ly under­stood that we are there to be cheer­lead­ers for the indus­try, which makes me uncom­fort­able.

    In the last cou­ple of weeks the edi­tor of a mag­a­zine I write for on a free­lance basis was approached by the MD of a drinks com­pa­ny and asked to get me to tone down crit­i­cal com­ments on my blog. The edi­tor quite right­ly respond­ed that he had no con­trol what­so­ev­er over my blog, but that the MD even felt he had the right to ask the ques­tion is aston­ish­ing. Anoth­er writer on the same mag­a­zine was asked firm­ly to tone down crit­i­cal com­ments of a lead­ing region­al brew­ery in a piece for the mag. A year or two ago, anoth­er well-known beer writer got one of those all-too-rare gigs for a nation­al news­pa­per cel­e­brat­ing Britain’s beer revival. He was imme­di­ate­ly approached by at least one region­al brew­er demand­ing to know why they hadn’t been includ­ed – as if, in their posi­tion, they had some kind of right.

    This is why blog­ging is so impor­tant. It’s free from the com­mer­cial pres­sure increas­ing­ly being faced by mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers, free of “You’d bet­ter not crit­i­cise us, because if you do we’ll pull our adver­tis­ing from your mag­a­zine, and then you’ll be screwed.”

    It’s not just beer that’s like this – WORD mag­a­zine ran a scathing review of the last Cran­ber­ries album oppo­site a full-page ad for the album. The record com­pa­ny pulled all its adver­tis­ing in protest – I’m not sure if oth­ers fol­lowed suit, but six months lat­er WORD was dead.

    I might be mak­ing a slight­ly dif­fer­ent point here but it is a real issue. Back to your main point, I think most of us who write about beer do so because we’re pas­sion­ate about it and want to see more peo­ple drink­ing it. That means I write about good stuff and most­ly ignore bad stuff. But I’m nev­er quite sure about if this is the right approach or not. You cer­tain­ly need a thick skin if you go down that route – just last night I got a com­ment on a four year old post slat­ing a pub from the father of one of the staff. He wasn’t hap­py with me at all. That should nev­er put you off, but it does show how quick­ly you lose the cud­dly con­sen­sus.

  6. You know my posi­tion on this, I’ve made very clear in my blog sev­er­al times. But just for the sake of repeat­ing myself. Blog­gers, writ­ers and review­ers are first and fore­most con­sumers, and we should act as such.

    There’s also the issue of fair­ness. I’ve come to believe that by keep­ing qui­et about the bad stuff (or even about the stuff we don’t quite like) we are not being fair to those who actu­al­ly do things well (or that we believe they do).

    We also should stop car­ing about the feel­ings of brew­ers and pub own­ers. They are sell­ing some­thing, they should learn to live with the fact not every­one will like it.

  7. I think the real tri­umph of blog­ging has been when it’s tak­en on the disin­gen­u­ous, rather than those who’ve tried to make good beer but failed.

  8. It’s a strange ol’ game. If I can cross the divide to cider…

    As every­one knows, this mar­ket is also see­ing a rash of new entrants, with many dif­fer­ent approach­es, styles and ideas about what ‘cider’ is all about.

    The prob­lem is, although I blog, I’m also a pro­duc­er. It’s a small, inter­con­nect­ed indus­try at times, and I’ve always lived by the rule: don’t speak ill of anoth­er cider mak­er.

    But at times, there are some instances of cider that do dis-ser­vice to the entire rest of the indus­try. Either just poor cider, the rough stuff, or pre­tend­ing to be some­thing it’s not, or inap­pro­pri­ate “Cock Shriv­eller” nam­ing. Those in the indus­try are aware of what goes on – and I sus­pect true for any indus­try you care to name. So while this may be open­ly dis­cussed in pri­vate (if there is such a thing), it’s not con­sid­ered pro­fes­sion­al to speak pub­li­cal­ly about it.

    So while opin­ions on flavours and styles are just that – opin­ions – when it comes to deep­er issues in the indus­try, I have to pon­der whether paper­ing over those cracks is actu­al­ly a pos­i­tive long-term strat­e­gy. If you like: ask­ing the ques­tion is fair enough.

  9. As a cus­tomer, my respect for a review or review­er is depen­dent on accu­ra­cy.

    If a news­pa­per informs me a film is bril­liant and I pay good mon­ey to go see it and find it ter­ri­ble, I don’t take that advice any­more.

    If a CAMRA rag rec­om­mends a pub of the month and it is either a shit hole, has crap beer, piss poor ser­vice, narky insult­ing land­lord, not even fuck­ing open, then I stop see­ing their awards as being a rec­om­men­da­tion for me but an irrel­e­vant polit­i­cal inter­nal thing they have going on.

    If a beer blog­ger tells me some undrink­able piss is ambrosia of the gods then I stop try­ing what they rec­om­mend.

    You do no favours by soft ped­dling crap. Crap is crap, Good is good.

    1. I’ve often won­dered about this. One par­tic­u­lar pub in my CAMRA branch was giv­en a Pub Of The Sea­son award last year. I went in and found it only had 3 of the pub-own­ing brewery’s reg­u­lar ales, and emp­ty pump for one guest and a wall full of econ­o­my spir­its (High Com­mis­sion­er being the house whisky). Oh, and an “adult toy” machine in the men’s toi­lets.

      I went in incog­ni­to as, appar­ent­ly, my entire fam­i­ly is banned from the place due to some dis­agree­ment my cousin had with the land­lord in his pre­vi­ous pub.

      I couldn’t see what the local beards saw in the place Though it would of course be entire­ly wrong to sug­gest the branch were giv­en “incen­tives” to pro­mote the place/

      1. I think there are many valid crit­i­cism it is pos­si­ble to make of CAMRA, most of which come from a nar­row world view or dog­ma­tism of a small num­ber of active mem­bers. The assump­tion of cor­rup­tion is how­ev­er large­ly bol­locks.

  10. One man’s atmos­pher­ic, char­ac­ter­ful pub is anoth­er man’s grot­ty dump, though, Cook­ie 😉

    1. Sor­ry Mudge, a grot­ty dump is a grot­ty dump, but some peo­ple like grot­ty dumps. The thing is a restau­rant or film review­er isn’t try­ing to pro­mote the activ­i­ty, they assume a pre­ex­ist­ing inter­est on the basis that you are read­ing it and either try to offer infor­ma­tion that is use­ful to a cus­tomer or sim­ply enter­tain­ment know­ing most read­ers won’t real­ly go in such a posh gaff and pay those prices.

      If you are try­ing to pro­mote the activ­i­ty, you are already com­pro­mised in terms of giv­ing a fair and hon­est review and that will be appar­ent the minute the punter takes your rec­om­men­da­tion and suf­fers dis­ap­point­ment.

      You are bet­ter off being one or the oth­er.

  11. Think­ing about Cheshire brew­eries, I’ve raved about Red Wil­low (I’ve prac­ti­cal­ly drooled about ’em), giv­en Tat­ton an appre­cia­tive nod or two & been con­struc­tive­ly crit­i­cal (I hope) about Dun­ham Massey. There are two oth­er very suc­cess­ful small brew­ers in the area which I nev­er write about, in one case because the beer’s just a bit bland and ordi­nary, in the oth­er because I find it so char­ac­ter­less as to be pos­i­tive­ly revolt­ing. But I nev­er refer to them by name, for just the rea­sons Protz gave (reit­er­at­ed by Pete Brown’s com­ment on that AT-J post). I won­der, though – would it be more con­struc­tive to raise red flags occa­sion­al­ly? Apart from any­thing else, any­one who reads this and drinks in Cheshire is going to be putting names to those descrip­tions now, and I’d hate them to get it wrong.

    (NB I’m defin­ing Cheshire to exclude Stock­port, which is of course a Coun­ty.)

    1. I’m not a fan of the idea that every­one has to be relent­less­ly pos­i­tive for the good of “the scene”. But I’m not sure how often bad reviews are actu­al­ly use­ful…

      There’s a case for “don’t believe the hype” type reviews of the lat­est hot thing, or alarm bells if a beer / brew­ery / pub that used to be con­sis­tent­ly great starts to go down­hill and seems to be trad­ing on its rep­u­ta­tion, but just writ­ing “I tried this obscure beer from a new micro and wasn’t much impressed” isn’t much use to the read­er – we weren’t that like­ly to try the beer in ques­tion any­way giv­en the sheer amount of stuff that’s around these days, and if we did see some­where we might still try it just in case our tastes dif­fer from yours.

      On the oth­er hand, a pos­i­tive review can encour­age us to active­ly seek out a beer that we wouldn’t oth­er­wise have tried, which is a good thing.

  12. Any men­tion of “Cheshire” will imme­di­ate­ly have my ears & taste buds twitch­ing…

    So while blog­gers could main­tain a tact­ful silence over these sus­pect brews, doesn’t that exhort those brew­ers to try even hard­er to push their wares, thus cre­at­ing even more Emperor’s New Clothes around their prod­uct? The unini­ti­at­ed will then read all about it in a den­tists surgery type mag­a­zine and assume it must be ‘good’. Where­as the expe­ri­enced tasters cry into their pints even more…

    Or is that just me? 🙂

    1. In the case of the brew­eries I’m think­ing of, the unini­ti­at­ed will see them on the bar at Spoons and on the shelves at Morrison’s & Tesco. I sup­pose the ques­tion is how many peo­ple are going to be put off decent beer by drink­ing some­thing offen­sive­ly bland.

  13. What if the beer you hate is actu­al­ly bril­liant and you’re just a real­ly crap judge? Sure­ly that nag­ging doubt in the back of your mind should pre­vent you say­ing any­thing too out­ra­geous.

  14. Whit­ness the fact that a lot of blog­gers who go with the, “if I don’t have any­thing nice to say, I won’t say any­thing at all,” shtick. Bog to that- bad things (as enter­tain­ment shows us) make for good writ­ing and might even save oth­ers from expe­ri­enc­ing the same pit­fall.

    I’m huge­ly anti Rogue’s VooDoo col­lab­o­ra­tion beers and I don’t know one per­son who has said any­thing nice about it. So, fly­ing off the han­dle rude and hat­ing isn’t appro­pri­ate but if you dis­like some­thing, he hon­est and clear as to why not and there is like­ly to be sup­port to your case.

    XOXO

  15. Wow, lots of inter­est­ing respons­es. Thanks, every­one.

    A fur­ther ques­tion, then: it would cer­tain­ly be dis­hon­est to say ‘this beer/brewery is excel­lent’ when, in fact, it is ter­ri­ble; but is it dis­hon­est to say noth­ing at all? A lie by omis­sion?

    py0 – yes, cer­tain­ly con­sid­er­a­tion for us.

    Dav­eS – our think­ing has tend­ed to be that *not* being men­tioned at all, e.g. in our lists of top ten Cor­nish beers, is a sig­nal of sorts. Maybe bad reviews en masse are use­ful, though? I.e., peo­ple will save them­selves a few quid by avoid­ing a beer they’ve heard is bad from more than one source.

    1. But a few quid is not much, and there’s no account­ing for taste. There are lots of beers I per­son­al­ly enjoy that get bad write­ups and lots that get raved about that I’ve found unpleas­ant, I’m very glad I wasn’t put off from try­ing them for myself.

    2. As py0 says, I’m not that both­ered by the odd bad beer. And I’ll avoid bad beer as much by read­ing a review of some­thing I do want to try as by read­ing a review of some­thing I don’t.

      I think bad reviews are prob­a­bly most help­ful when they go against the con­sen­sus and maybe make peo­ple stop and think for a minute. Eg point­ing out that much as we all love brew­ery X, most of their last few beers have actu­al­ly been a bit crap and they aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly buy-on-sight mate­r­i­al any more. Or that while I’m as excit­ed as the next geek about the new wave of Impe­r­i­al Milds, some of them are actu­al­ly pret­ty awful and it’d be good if peo­ple remem­bered qual­i­ty con­trol rather than jump­ing on the band­wag­on as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. Also, there are times when it can be quite reas­sur­ing to find out that you aren’t actu­al­ly the only per­son it the world who doesn’t love some­thing.

      1. No room there for call­ing out a mediocre brew­ery that’s not par­tic­u­lar­ly fash­ion­able or wild­ly pop­u­lar, doesn’t claim to be set­ting any trends, doesn’t get in the papers, doesn’t get blogged about… but does get its mediocre prod­ucts on the bars and the super­mar­ket shelves.

        Maybe the suc­cess of mediocre brews isn’t worth com­plain­ing about. I’m just a bit grumpy after last night’s pre-cin­e­ma fam­i­ly meal at Spoons (La Tas­ca was full). I had a choice of a brew­ery I avoid like the plague, Abbot and Dou­ble Max­im; I went for the Dou­ble Max­im, which was frankly off – I told myself brown ales are sup­posed to taste a bit sour, but this was way past that (and it was cloudy). So the con­tin­u­ing suc­cess of the >ahem< Brew­ery was direct­ly respon­si­ble for me get­ting a duff pint. That, and a Spoons with a sur­pris­ing­ly nar­row range & sur­pris­ing­ly poor cel­lar­ing, obvs.

        1. Sor­ry, I wasn’t try­ing to lay down the law on when you are and are not allowed to slate things – just sug­gest­ing a cou­ple of sit­u­a­tions where bad reviews are for the greater good.

    3. As stat­ed before, I com­plete­ly believe that avoid­ing dis­taste­ful reviews is near as bad as a lie.

      Although there are times when a writer has cer­tain lim­i­ta­tions by the trade press, as Pete Brown point­ed out, “if I say any­thing neg­a­tive, it’s con­sid­ered down­right rude by the brew­ers con­cerned,” the con­sumers who look to that writ­ing have a right to accu­rate report­ing.

      If a beau­ty spa was giv­ing peo­ple infec­tions and dam­ag­ing cus­tomers, it isn’t fair to pad the report so that the com­pa­ny and employ­ees aren’t por­trayed poor­ly. One doesn’t have to be rude to accu­rate.

  16. Excel­lent stuff. I have to agree with Max, PF. There is a ten­sion between the ben­e­fits of get­ting to know brew­ers and asso­ciate with them and the inde­pen­dent role of the con­sumer. You would think some­times that brew­ers for­get where their cash comes from. This is com­pound­ed by the mud­dling of cit­i­zen blog­gers, as it was in the begin­ning, with trade blog­ging. Yet, these grey areas are nat­ur­al and often entered in a top­ic which is on the one hand pop cul­ture and con­vivial and on the oth­er when tak­en as a whole filled with large sums of cash. It does not help when even the mar­ket roles of par­tic­i­pants get blurred, in large part through the pho­ny con­cep­tion of “com­mu­ni­ty” being lay­ered upon a mar­ket­place.

    So, yes, we ought to as the con­sum­ing blog­ger be dili­gent and exact even when goofy and also eth­i­cal and unde­terred. And par­tic­i­pat­ing in as well as patient with the mar­ket­place. Poor Pete B went through a very odd process back around 2008-09 with oth­ers try­ing to think about what is a beer blog­ger, trade writer and jour­nal­ist. The dif­fer­ence here is a re-asser­tion that would appear to be more nat­ur­al in 2004 or so that the cit­i­zen blog­ger is the con­sumer and only the con­sumer. Which, if we are going to be rigourous, does require me to point out how much I like your title for this post.

    1. Alan – we linked to that Tweet in the first line of the post! We’re com­pul­sive cred­it-givers, us.

  17. So, as an embar­rassed cit­i­zen blog­ger, my options are (i) change the top­ic, (ii) accuse you of hid­ing the acknowl­edge­ment or (iii) flat­ter us each for being so sup­port­ive and clever on the same idea.

  18. Obvi­ous­ly blog­gers and writ­ers should be hon­est. But whether we real­ly need to speak out against poor beer I’m less cer­tain about. I’ve had lots of ter­ri­ble beers, and there are Nor­we­gian brew­ers whose beers I avoid, but why shout it from the tree­tops? I don’t real­ly see the point.

    Of course, if you’ve got a big­ger point to make than sim­ply “beers from X” suck, then by all means, go ahead and make it, even if you have to say some­thing neg­a­tive about their beers.

  19. I don’t think there’s a lot of con­tro­ver­sy here, real­ly. What Pete says is real­ly the nub of the issue–if you feel a beer is bad and you don’t acknowl­edge that when writ­ing about it, you’re let­ting your read­ers down. That’s true whether the rea­son is because you’re chick­en, because you want to be bud­dies with the brew­er, or because your pub­li­ca­tion is putting the screws to you to write ad-friend­ly copy.

    And with folks like Alan and Max beat­ing the drum, I think we’ve heard this call to action before. But here’s my quandary. I live in a state with 150+ brew­eries, and a few of them (ten, fif­teen?) are not very good. They’re all small fry. I haven’t writ­ten about all the brew­eries here because I don’t have the time to do it. So, heed­ing the call, should I be seek­ing out these wee lit­tle brew­eries so I can write harsh reviews? What exact­ly is the blogger’s job here? I have writ­ten point­ed­ly crit­i­cal things about brew­eries and their beers. I was even com­pelled to do it of one of those small-fry brew­eries because it hap­pened to be in my neigh­bor­hood. But there’s way too much to write about as it is, and I don’t feel inspired be the the douchey blog­ger who cruis­es around pick­ing on lit­tle brew­eries that are strug­gling because they make bad beer.

  20. The review­ers I enjoy read­ing are those who:

    1) seek first to describe objec­tive­ly the style and taste of the beer; and

    2) express an opin­ion but in a nuanced way.

    The rea­son I think it is wise to avoid shout­ing from the rooftops about poor brew­ing is, often, peo­ple dis­agree as to what tastes good. E.g. I don’t like a taste I feel is char­ac­ter­is­tic of a lot of stout, an acer­bic, dry­ish, burnt veg­e­tal taste I think comes from use of raw grains. But scads of brew­ers use that mate­r­i­al in stout all over the world, they like the taste after all, and cer­tain­ly their cus­tomers. And maybe I’m not right about the taste, maybe what I don’t like has some oth­er expla­na­tion.

    An ester I think out of place may great­ly please anoth­er. A tart edge to a beer may strike me as wrong but is liked by anoth­er, maybe even sought by the brew­er. After all, a whole range of sour styles has been revived in recent years, some­what to my mys­ti­fi­ca­tion, but that is nei­ther here nor there, is it?

    This is why I feel it is best to cri­tique only gen­tly or hold one’s coun­sel, because then too some­times a crit­i­cism may come off sound­ing unin­formed.

    Gary

  21. Should we, per­haps, extend the same cour­tesy to blog­gers as to brew­ers? Call them out on reviews dri­ven by the fever­ish excite­ment of hav­ing found a new favourite brew­ery, when the truth is that the beer itself is actu­al­ly pret­ty mediocre?

    1. We have occa­sion­al­ly noticed brew­ers and bar own­ers jok­ing (with some bit­ter­ness) about start­ing blogs to rate and review blog­gers and thought, ‘Why not?’ We wouldn’t mind being reviewed/criticised. (Although we’re not charg­ing any­one for this crap; the book, on the oth­er hand…)

      1. But why wouldn’t the blog­ging com­mu­ni­ty want to be self-polic­ing, mak­ing sure that the infor­ma­tion being dis­sem­i­nat­ed is all broad­ly cor­rect? Or more per­ti­nent­ly, why do I have to keep spend­ing mon­ey on beer in order to ver­i­fy that my first impres­sion was right (it’s not very good), when lots of oth­er peo­ple are say­ing the oppo­site?

        (There’s quite a large amount of dev­ils advo­ca­cy in this response)

        1. That’s a very, very good ques­tion. When we asked for sug­ges­tions on what to order the oth­er day, the names of sev­er­al brew­eries came up whose beer we *know* we don’t like, and sus­pect is objec­tive­ly unreliable/bad.

          As Cook­ie says, there are cer­tain blog­gers whose tastes we know are out of kil­ter with ours so we don’t fol­low their advice. Oth­ers are so brazen about free­bie and jun­ket hunt­ing that we don’t even both­er read­ing them – guess they’re the ones that need call­ing out?

          Out of inter­est (and we promise we won’t cry…) have we ever giv­en the big thumbs up to a beer you think is rot­ten?

          1. In response to your sec­ond ques­tion, I don’t think there is any­thing that I’ve seen you rec­om­mend that I haven’t agreed with – although now I’m tempt­ed to go back and look for an exam­ple of us dis­agree­ing (although that’s a job for an evening, over a beer, of course)

            With regards find­ing an opin­ion you trust, my ques­tion then is, what of the “casu­al” read­er, who might stum­ble upon a blog via a Google search? How are they to make sense of the morass of skewed opin­ion and whim­si­cal neophil­i­acs? Sure­ly that’s the whole point of blogs as cit­i­zen jour­nal­ism? (That has a ques­tion mark, but I sus­pect isn’t an easy ques­tion to answer)

  22. Zak – to some extent, this gets sort­ed out by ‘the crowd’ over time: the bet­ter (i.e. more hon­est, reli­able, inter­est­ing) blogs get linked to more often, and so rise to the top of Google results, or gain more of a fol­low­ing through Twit­ter, or what­ev­er.

    Although that video review bloke has tons of fol­low­ers, doesn’t he, so maybe I’m wrong?

  23. You can also over esti­mate the impor­tance of com­men­ta­tors. It is rare to see any­thing pos­i­tive about McDon­alds in the press yet it remains the most pop­u­lar restau­rant chain. Cus­tomers don’t care what is writ­ten about it, they have made up there own mind.

    Like­wise with Car­ling lager, It remains pop­u­lar despite being derid­ed among beer writ­ers.

    Peo­ple flocked to see Fast & Furi­ous 6 regard­less of what Mark Komode thinks of it. I can’t wait for num­ber 7.

    Most com­men­tary is a nar­row cir­cle of peo­ple talk­ing to each oth­er and them­selves. To a large part it doesn’t real­ly mat­ter what any­one says about any­thing. Whether it is Pete Brown in a pub­lished arti­cle or some­one on their own hob­by horse blog.

    1. You can also over esti­mate the impor­tance of com­men­ta­tors.”

      That is true.

      Hav­ing said that, we know how many peo­ple vis­it this blog, and they can’t *all* be blog­gers and beer writ­ers.

  24. Also, even a small part of the beer mar­ket – giv­en it is so large – can shift good coin for brew­ers who get buzz on social, or in oth­er, media.

    Gary

    1. On the home­page, do you mean? That’s for­mat­ting for quo­ta­tions. With these theme, the back­ground colour changes depend­ing on the post type, e.g. gallery, audio, video, and so on.

      We can change the colours and/or dis­able the back­ground colour thing; or we might just not both­er using dif­fer­ent post types much.

      We’ll see.

  25. If we review a beer and we think it’s crap (as in rub­bish, not off) we will say so. I pub­lish all my baron rat­ings regard­less of score, in fact some of the best audio reviews are from the 1/5s…

    Our scor­ing remains the same whether we are sent the beer ‘for free’ or whether we buy it our­selves – good beer gets talk­ing about, bad beer gets talked about.

    If a brew­er dis­agrees with our score or con­sid­ers the bot­tle to be sub-par then we are hap­py to re-review the ale but we will nev­er give it a bet­ter score than we feel it deserves.

    I think more peo­ple should name and shame when a beer is just down­right rot­ten but should also men­tion where the beer came from, stil­lage & dis­pense has a lot to do with it too.

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