News, Nuggets and Longreads 15/03/2014

Detail from Watney's Brown Ale advertisement c.1960.

This week, we have spied with our little eyes…

→ It’s been one of those weeks when everyone seemed to be writing about writing. First, Beergraphs drew together some of the lessons from a recent symposium, including this exhortation from Stan Hieronymus to look beyond the frankly immature world of beer writing for inspiration: “Read last year’s best science writing. Then read last year’s best food writing.”

→ Then Jacob McKean of Modern Times Beer put the boot in:

[Accessibility] and [a] casual vibe leads countless uninformed observers to believe that they can authoritatively comment on craft beer…. In an industry with an almost total absence of real journalism, the cheerleading is virtually indistinguishable from the “reporting.”

→ In the UK, food bloggers and writers have been having a row over ethics prompted by the leaking by a chef of an email from one blogger who seemed to be suggesting that he would write a positive blog post in exchange for a free meal. Food/wine/beer writer Fiona Beckett defends ‘freebies’ here, arguing that it is perfectly possible to write an honest review of a free meal. (As long as you don’t mind the supply of free meals drying up, that is.)

→ Finally, a bit of bad news for those of you who find this kind of writing about blogging about writing tedious and navel-gazing: the topic for the next beer blogging session (Friday 4 April) is ‘Beer Journalism’.

→ On more wholesome topics, David ‘Broadford Brewer’ Bishop turned in a late #beerylongreads entry about the state of UK home brewing based on correspondence with some key figures on ‘the scene’. The bit that leapt out to us was this provocative statement from James ‘Kempicus’ Kemp, late of Fuller’s, Thornbridge and Buxton breweries:

Already I see a short supply of quality commercial brewers in the UK, who’s going to fill that need? I think it’s time for the homebrewer to step up, the same way that the homebrewer in the US stepped up… I recently had a conversation with a beer retailer who said “you’ll get better brewed and packaged beers at the national homebrew comp than you will from the majority of commercial UK breweries”.

→ Outside the beer bubble, there was a piece in the Guardian on the rise in popularity of ‘craft beer’, while the Londonist attempted a history lesson through the medium of beer.

→ We’d love to have a look at these lovely brewing logs at Truman’s some time. (And note the copy of Young’s Real Draught Beer and Where to Find It in the background.)

We weren’t exactly blown away by Fuller’s Imperial Stout, but Martyn Cornell has urged everyone to give it another go now it’s had chance to age a little. So, last night, we did, and found it much improved, but still, for some reason, lacking whatever it is that makes us say WOO-WAH-WOW-WEE!

→ On Facebook, we asked: ‘What are the essential beer experiences?’ Why no have a look at what the hive mind thought, and add your own suggestions?

Brew Britannia book news: we’ve added some dates for public appearances we’ll be making in Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham, with a few to be added as details are confirmed, but do get in touch if you’d like us to speak/read/loiter about your event or venue. We also now have a proper, definitely finished, final cover design and blurb.

9 thoughts on “News, Nuggets and Longreads 15/03/2014”

  1. I interviewed recently a man who is building a chain of brewpubs, and he told me it’s easier to find a brewer than to find a good chef … make of that what you may.

    1. Martyn –
      So many possible answers to that I hardly know where to start. Appallingly low standards in the small “craft” brewery category, masses of glorified home brewers sloshing about the industry, people thinking brewing is both easy and “cool”………
      The fact that you can get some idiot to come and be your “brewer” for half what you’d have to pay a proper chef may well have something to do with it, I’d imagine.

  2. Gosh, that ‘history lesson’ is annoying. Lambic really isn’t an old style still being made in London, nor is there still at least one company that brews mead in the city – and while Wild’s Modus is a lovely thing, any link between it and Victorian beer is beyond speculative. (Would those Victorian bretted ales have come in at 8.3%, been served under pressure and cost the equivalent of £8 a pint?) Neophilia – and extremophilia – in the guise of tradition. If you do take history (and historical continuity) seriously it’s hard to go back much beyond mild and bitter, admittedly.

  3. I was asked to do an interview for a magazine yesterday and said no. One thing folk wanting to start writing about beer might consider is another topic. Thems that do it already have enough of a learning curve. Plus, Christ save us from the Michael Jackson cult stuff. Could you imagine being in a room of people talking about beer writing and they never question the quality of the beer writing?

  4. The Londonist “history” article is shockingly bad, inaccurate, annoying. sloppy…… can’t think why you’re recommending it. Absolute rubbish.
    What has Lambic got to do with London, for example?

    1. We’re pointedly not endorsing it. Always interesting, if not always pretty, to see how mainstream websites and papers tackle beer.

  5. Interesting that people would gather to discuss a subject like this. Nothing mentioned sounds new to me, wine writing surely has faced the same issues before, it’s an age old thing. Wine writing is much older than beer writing but has not gone beyond beer in the fiel. . Is there a great wine writing tradition? Who exemplifies it? George Saintsbury maybe, but aren’t e.g., Parker, Johnson, Robinson rather just acknowledged experts in their field, writing well to be sure but without “literary” ambition?

    I think when you get a particularly good professional writer, it is the exception, you can’t develop of school of such writers, they emerge out of a particular background and that’s it. Jackson is the perfect example. In his Daily Telegraph obit he was described quite justly as a “petit maitre”. You probably get one every few generations, so Barnard, Saintsbury, Jackson. Great when it happens but good solid beer writing doesn’t need to emulate or repeat that. There are lots of good pro writers, and good bloggers, today and if anything, blogging has permitted (overall) a fairer assessment, more candid, than existed before. Even St. Mike was quite reticent to criticize beers, he did do so, but in an indirect way. In the beeradvocate and blogging age people can and do say exactly what they want. So we are further ahead that 20 years ago.

    Gary

  6. [Apologies, corrected text below]

    Interesting that people would gather to discuss a subject like this. Nothing mentioned sounds new to me, wine writing surely has faced the same issues before, it’s an age-old thing. Wine writing is much older than beer writing but has not gone beyond beer in the field… Is there a great wine writing tradition? Who exemplifies it? George Saintsbury maybe, but aren’t e.g., Parker, Johnson, Robinson rather just acknowledged experts in their field, writing well to be sure but without “literary” ambition?

    I think when you get a particularly good professional writer, it is the exception, you can’t develop a school of such writers, they emerge out of a particular background and that’s it. Jackson is the perfect example. In his Daily Telegraph obit he was described quite justly as a “petit maitre”. You probably get one every few generations, so Barnard, Saintsbury, Jackson. Great when it happens but good solid beer writing doesn’t need to emulate or repeat that. There are lots of good pro writers, and good bloggers, today and if anything, blogging has permitted (overall) a fairer assessment of beer, more candid, than existed before. Even St. Mike was quite reticent to criticize beers, he did do so, but in an indirect way. In the beeradvocate and blogging age people can and do say exactly what they want. So we are further ahead than 20 years ago.

    Gary

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