News, Nuggets & Longreads 01/08/2015

Here’s our pick of the most interesting, entertaining or eye-opening beer-related reading of the last week.

→ Sam at Goblet and Mug, a market research professional by day, offers some thoughtful observations on contract brewing and related activities:

[Brand contagion] is one of the basic reasons that a consumer may, for example, continue to use Fairy Liquid despite its rivals having very similar qualities and ingredients… It is also one of the core reasons that Sharp’s have continued to advertise the way in which Doom Bar is related to the brewery and its ethos, despite the fact that the location of production has now changed, and why the brewery were not open about the change in locale.

→ Yvan Seth continues his dispatches from the front line of beer distribution with a piece identifying three major problems with the handling of keg beer in Britain, and proposing solutions:

Pubs need to learn more about keg beer. The BII ABCQ is pretty much a waste of time, someone interested in their job & beer quality will already know more. We need a UK-tailored equivalent to Cicerone. Not just that – but pubs need to not buy 2+ months worth of keg stock at once and then leave it in their 12C cellar.

→ Ilkley Brewery has been sold by its founder to a company run by a former employee, Luke Raven. There’s remarkably little ambiguity about the announcement which makes a refreshing change, although ‘exciting times‘ is a phrase that suggests a certain anxiety. Also, this:

→ A debate over disclosure and junkets between Michael ‘Good Beer Hunting’ Kiser and veteran US beer writer Andy Crouch got a little heated earlier in the week — ‘Stop being a dick.’ Mr Kiser’s somewhat defensive follow-up blog post raised interesting questions around disclosure, especially on Twitter:

Personally, I feel that using a company’s hashtag, in this case #BudweiserBarley, is clear and obvious to anyone. He [Crouch] disagrees, and I think the question is how can this be done better? The half-life of a Tweet disclosing a free ride doesn’t do much for an audience’s awareness later on, and really only serves to cover a journalist’s ass, giving them plausible deniability in the days that follow.

Our two penn’orth: if your presence at an event has been sponsored by a commercial concern, whether a hip startup or an EEEEEVIL corporation, you should probably make sure to acknowledge that somehow in, say, every fifth Tweet. (And then, of course, very clearly in any article or blog post that follows.)

→ And, finally, links to this were Tweeted at us by multiple people: a map of Britain and Ireland drawn using data about the location of pubs, created by Ramiro Gómez. It’s interesting because… Well, is it? Perhaps if could be compared to a similar map for 1980 as mentioned in the accompanying notes it might tell us something. As it is, it’s just kind of pretty.

11 replies on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 01/08/2015”

you should probably make sure to acknowledge that somehow in, say, every fifth Tweet

Better still would be not to use Twitter to communicate that sort of thing. It’s a crap platform to convey any sort of information that requires a bit of context. FB in that sense is much better. Or better still, wait till you get back and put up a quick blog post telling where you’ve been and on whose money, promising a more in-depth report in a few days.

Interesting slicing of the argument here.

On Twitter and in the longer blog post, we made it clear that we support disclosure. There was never an argument there – that’s a ghost that people are still taking swings at. Rather, our argument was about Crouch’s original insinuation that the people on that trip were shills before they ever had he chance to write an article that contained disclosure.

While I was originally annoyed that you called my article “somewhat defensive” implying that it was somehow unnecessarily so, I came to realize that it was really a much deserved, organized, and fully mounted defense. Your editorial criticism is actually much too weak to describe what was offered in defense of a public questioning of our integrity and professionalism.

Curious why you didn’t quite any of Crouch’s original inspiration of tweets here?

We were glad to raise the issue of timely social media tweets. And we made the argument that using a companies hashtag is sufficient in the moment (we still think this) for social media posts. The “every fifth tweet” is interesting, We didn’t even tweet five times unless you’re counting the argument with Crouch. One was a picture of a farmer and one was a picture of some barley. At no point was anyone shilling for a beer or even offering opinions. We were simply sharing genre images and in-editorialized facts.

To Pivni’s point, we use social media differently than you, that’s all. These are very relevant storytelling tools for us, Instagram chief among them. Which is why we actually think Crouch’s observation that disclosure should happen there too is a very smart one. Again, we think the company’s hashtag does that job, and that is our intent in using it, although we acknowledge the imperfect nature of that intent. However, on Instagram we have the luxury of more text and see that as a smart place to elaborate for at least some cross-section of our audience. But the fact remains, this is all intended as helpful disclosure.

And finally, GBH is first and foremost an agency that develops brands and products for breweries, which is clearly stated on the website. The editorial side is something we’ve always been inspired to do, and we do it very well. We do it of our own accord and actually hire on other writers who’d like to do the same. It’s an expensive proposition, but we feel it’s needed and worthwhile, so we spend toward that goal without having compensation outside of selling a few t-shirts and bottle openers. So for us, we’ve always existed until that uncomfortable space where conflicts of interest abound and do not refer to ourselves as journalists, though others apply that term to us ignorantly. We do not follow any particular code of conduct, though we take due inspiration from traditional editorial guidelines where they fit. Rather, we follow our internal compass, the mantra “aim true, pour liberal” and it’s guided us well.

To this day, we’ve never taken ads or sponsored content (as almost all of our journalistic competitors do). And when our travel has been sponsored, we mentioned it clearly. The Elk Mountain hop farm piece is a perfectly applicable example.

I hope this elaborates on some things that your audience, or ever yourselves, may find helpful when characterizing this debate.

Yes, welcome back! I got piled on for even raising disclosure over on Facebook. I think the whole topic is laced with half statements and anxiety. One thing that is avoided is the necessary implication that if people are sent the Sam Adams limo then fed and watered then given 30 with the great man not only will they write about it but they are not writing about that separate story each of them came up with. It makes the discourse duller.

I am more in the don’t go camp than disclose. Disclosure is usually followed by the bland self-assessment that the writer was not affected by all the free stuff. That’s just silly. Access affects. Stories are framed. Always. But rarely to the point of ee-ville. And in an underresourced topic like good beer writing it’s easy to add ones own pinch of salt, to measure the authors’ exuberance. If folk are too broke to pursue a story, well, that might be reality. Doesn’t, however, make for good writing.

It makes the discourse duller.
A million times this! I don’t want to read another “BrewDog is Awesome!” story. And I don’t want to read another “BrewDog is Shit” story either. I’ve read them both, again and again. If you’re going to write about a brewery that gets a lot of coverage from a lot of writers, it needs a new angle.

Same goes for beer books. If I read about another (i) comprehensive global style guide or (ii) beer and food pairing book I shall scream. Can’t anyone think of something new to say? When did good beer get so dull?

Beer got dull when people started seeing it as a serious topic for discussion. In pretty much everything, there seems to be a verbose minority of people who take something ostensibly fun and make it portentous, po-faced and overblown.

I call it “Scott Walker Syndrome”

Global style guide, no thanks however you need to read at least one.

Beer & Food pairing, I love a good beer and food pairing but I prefer focus versus recycled recipes.

New to say, there’s plenty but most of it is to topical to make it into mainsteam articles. This is true with everything, a well thought out article about the coming storm of competition and dirty play in the hops contracts that is about to hit the craft beer market will easily be replaced by a generic top 6 summer beers list on sites like Thrillist and everyone and their dog will RT that stupid list.

I read through Michael K’s response with dwindling sympathy and increasing bafflement, and I’ve been mulling over why that was. I think the key thing is that, for me, any beer journalism involving freebies is already discredited, with the exception of dedicated beer review sites (and not all of them). Note that I’m not saying the writer is discredited; I’ve written freebie-based posts myself (handily collected here) and clearly I don’t consider myself to be a paid-for hack. But I do think that, when I see opinions expressed about a beer the writer has been given for free, or about a brewery/field of barley/whatever which the writer has been taken to for free, I automatically take them a grain of salt. If the writer was the guest of Bloggs’ Brewery, the moment [s]he tells me anything positive about Bloggs’ and their beer I switch off; I skip to the next sentence, paragraph or post, as necessary. This applies however much I respect the writer, and however interesting the rest of the article is.

It seemed to me that Michael took Andy’s comment about disclosure very much as an attack on the writers themselves, and one which – if taken seriously – would damage their reputation as independent thinkers and writers. As if to say that the choice was between “trustworthy post from an independent writer” (disclosure) and “useless advertorial from an unscrupulous hack” (no disclosure).

I see it very differently. I’d say that the damage to the relevant articles & blog posts was already done, but that it only affected parts of them – and it certainly didn’t necessarily affect the writers. It’s not “trustworthy” vs ” “useless”; whether you disclose or not, what readers will see is “mostly trustworthy writing from a mostly independent writer, who probably can’t be entirely trusted when [s]he’s writing about somebody who’s putting food on the table”. The point about disclosure is that it puts the writer on the same page as readers, in terms of acknowledging a source of possible bias – which will still be there whether you acknowledge it or not.

Oh, and hi to R & J!

The pub map, whilst decorative, is basically pretty inaccurate. For example, my small Scottish conurbation, with fourteen pubs, seems to have three or four dots. The neighbouring larger towns are better represented, but at an estimate, showing about 50%. The towns to the far side are again, completely under-represented. It may depend on the exact definition of “pub” and be excluding anywhere with dining- even then, I still don’t think it would be accurate (nor reflect what would people in general would now define as a pub).

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