Jeff Alworth’s post about the state of beer writing, and Alan Mcleod’s response, come at a fortuitous time for us.
We’re preparing a talk on ‘The birth of modern beer writing – 1960 to the present day’ for delivery at a seminar being jointly run by the British Guild of Beer Writers and the Brewery History Society. We’ve been collecting material on this for a couple of years now – references to beer writing in odd places, newspaper articles we’ve stumbled across – and it’s good to have an opportunity to pull it all together into something coherent.
It is, however, making us feel a little glum, because what is emerging is a story of lurching after trends in publishing; struggling for material; and, even more so, struggling for an audience. It seems to us that most people, even if they like beer, don’t want to read about it as much as we and others want to write about it.
(When we were signing books at a food festival recently, we heard several variations on, “A book? About beer!? Ha ha ha ha ha! I like drinking it but I don’t want to read about it!”)
And when Jeff asserts that, ‘The extended world of beer has a nearly infinite number of subjects to discuss’, we find ourselves, reluctantly, disagreeing.
There’s certainly more-or-less fresh territory to be explored, and even new angles to be found on familiar subjects, but beer is not as rich a seam as food, or music, or film. (Maybe Tom Fort had a point.)
To some extent, perhaps that’s why beer writing and ‘craft beer’ have, over the years, become somewhat symbiotic – the former needs the drama, complexity and variety of the latter to justify its existence, and the great hope for the future of beer writing is that everyone becomes the kind of geek who wants to think, talk and read about what they’re drinking.