Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Of Beer and Writing

I don’t consider myself a beer writer, let alone an author.

I am a person who enjoys beer and beery history. Through the magic of the internet I have taken it upon myself to write about both of those topics, which in turn has also resulted in a book‚ but I still don’t perceive myself as a “writer”. That may seem paradoxical, but it’s the truth. 

That being said, a day or two ago Boak & Bailey—a duo that I would very much consider to be quite excellent beer writers—distilled the last 54 years of beer writing into a 1,000+ word post. Granted, B&B’s writing on the topic has a decidedly British slant (and they acknowledge that) but all in all, the post is amazing concise, simply outlining many—not all, but many—of the milestones, and notable folks in beer writing since 1960.

B&B are usually an inquisitive, and thoughtful lot; bringing up their own questions and commenting on the state of beer, but this particular post was different. This post wasn’t about them or their ideas. It looked at how others perceive beer and how they have expressed their perceptions—be them critical, historical cultural or industry-based—through writing, and for quite some time now. Uniquely, B&B are part of the beer writing history, and are writing about that history. It’s all very meta.

At the end of their dissertation, B&B ask, “When will beer writing really have secured itself a place in mainstream culture?”

I think beer writing has entered the mainstream culture. But maybe not in the way B&B mean. Not through publishing houses and printed tomes of beery knowledge. The Internet has spawned a menagerie of beery articles, blogs, review sites, and social media. Some of the best beer writing I’ve ever read has come from bits and articles, flung to me across the internet. Take Max Bhanson for instance. Nobody—I mean nobody—can capture what would normally be a completely inconsequential event, and make it become the most interesting thing you’ve read all day, better than he does on his blog. Simply put, the internet may be the ideal format for beer writing, in whatever shape it appears.

But there’s a downside to that. With the good comes the bad. Scruples, courtesy, ethics, and journalistic integrity often go out the window on the internet. Posts like this weasel their way in. They are not even opinion. They are just myopic rants—rudeness in the name of beer. Totally and utterly un-constructive.

And yet, they are still both beer writing—one good, and one very, very bad—but beer writing all the same.

They also are very much mainstream.

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