Does Beer Need Editing?

Editing beer (illustration).

Who is there to stop a brewer releasing a bad beer? To say, before it reaches the public, that it is simply not good enough?

Depending on your point of view, editors/publishers/record companies/film studios are either parasitic middle men standing between artist and audience, dragging everything towards bland ‘marketability’, and taking ten per cent; or they are heroic gatekeepers protecting the public from a tide of dross and/or pretension.

In larger breweries, there are plenty of mediators — blazer-wearing board members who tut at ‘weird’ beers and marketing people with focus-groups and survey results — and perhaps that is why you rarely see any spectacular misfires from that sector. (Or much that is spectacular at all.)

Perhaps smaller breweries get their ‘editorial’ feedback from third-party middle men such as distributors, bar-owners and retailers: ‘We regret to say that, at this time, your beer is not the kind of product to which we feel we could do justice in a crowded market-place…’ Perhaps the best are capable of being their own toughest critics.

But we suspect vanity usually wins out.

As a consumer, if you want your beer mediated — if you demand that only product polished to a sheen is allowed into pubs and shops — then you might have to accept a compromise to creativity, and to the idea of brewer as ‘auteur’. (‘Great!’ say many.)

If, on the other hand, you want to buy beer direct from a ‘cool’ person whose work is not meddled with by ‘suits’, then, every now and then, you will get something undrinkable.

The occasional Metal Machine Music is the price to pay for the ‘cool’ stuff.

We’re in the process of having our book edited at the moment which is perhaps what brought this to mind.

6 replies on “Does Beer Need Editing?”

I think you’ve answered your own question there – if you’re a big brewery seeking widespread acceptance, yes; if you’re a small brewery cultivating a reputation for being experimental and cutting-edge, no. However, even the latter will at times benefit from a “critical friend” to ask “what are you thinking?”

I think everyone needs an ‘editor’ – preferably one who wields more power than they do. Someone who can say ‘check your ego’, ‘rein it in’. Exhibit A Quentin Tarantino. Beer-wise,

Whoops (sorry). Beer-wise, I think at lower volumes you can have some fun without much consequence – so you can be braver. We’ve done it with our pilot brewery (scallops, roses petals, juniper, heather etc), Brains did their piggy porter etc. That said, for every single-minded genius there are probably a few hundred people being silly/stupid/arrogant/naive…

Belgium is a prime example. At the Kerstbier festival last week the 180 plus beers ranged from World classics to farmyard sludge – all in pretty bottles though. The Belgians consider that brewing is their birthright so listening to an editor – never.

The all pervasive vanity of some (new?) brewers takes some beating. Many beers should never leave the brewery, so full they are of brewing faults.

A bigger brewer will not allow such perversions of the brewing art to hit the streets. He knows you know. Of course that does not stop them inflicting piss poor beer on us, but it has no brewing faults.

You pays your money etc.

“If, on the other hand, you want to buy beer direct from a ‘cool’ person whose work is not meddled with by ‘suits’, then, every now and then, you will get something undrinkable.”

That to me is pretty pathetic excuse for not wanting/being able to do a basic quality control, tasting each batch before sending it out. You don’t need an editor for that, a bit of self respect should be enough.

Either way, I don’t think this should be a matter of much concern for us consumers. What we really want to pay for is beer that is at the very least well made.

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