Tuesday 12 January 2016

Professionalism, or The Role of the Blogger

Beer Bloggers. Making things harder for Reasons

What with the prevalence of Higher Educational qualifications amongst the young in the 21st century, there's been an increasing tendency to take something relatively simple and analyse it to death in order to convince others that it's serious and worthy subject of study. The beer blog, most specifically the "beer communicator" style of blog, is the most obvious manifestation of this.

If, as Chris Hall says here, 2015 was the turning point in the world of beer Bloggery, with an increase in the quality of debate and the subjects being discussed, what of the "hobby blogger "? There are some blogs out there, and we know which they are, which the authors' intentions go "professional" are blatant. The ambition isn't just naked, it's stripped off in the stand and is running around the pitch with its cock waving about.

The blogs of the already professional beer writers, infrequent as they are due to commitments, can be filtered easily. These people have a living to make, and cannot be seen to be too critical, or overly engage their teeth to the feeding hand. These types tend to avoid specifics about producers or suppliers, unless they know for certain there'll be no comeback.

The "beer communicator' blog is different, and thus harder to judge. They need to get their writing and, more importantly, their intentions 'out there'.  Contacts need to be made, relationships built, so that interaction between communicator and producer is mutually beneficial. If not today, then at some point in the future.  Beer journalism, for want of a better term, pays buttons. What living there is is dependent on the largesse of bars and brewers. This is the thinking behind the oft-quoted quip "beer people are good people".  A simplification, yes, but a necessary one for the functioning of the breed.

I'm not suggesting the Beer Communicators are corrupted by freebies and contacts, more that this is a natural result of interacting with the Trade. As Charlie Brooker once said, it's easy to slag off TV shows and their makers from behind a newspaper column, but when you have your own production company these people become your peers. And what do you say to them at parties? Such is the dilemma of the Beer Communicator.

If you want honest, unvarnished opinions then you have to go to the dedicated amateur blog. These are done for a desire for attention, a need to show off knowledge, or maybe even for fun. They may not be polished, or even coherent. But what you will get is honest opinions. Even if they are wrong. Or worse, contrary to received opinion.  It's usually unfair to say they are " trolls". After all, one person's trolling is another's contrarianism. It's easy to cry "Troll!" if others disagree with you online. But unless it's personally insulting, it probably isn't.

The question I would ask is : Do you consider beer a way to enjoy yourself, or something serious that needs to cogitated, discussed, and generally taken apart? What is to be gained from this, and who will be doing the gaining?

Beer isn't that complicated, really. For what reasons should it be complicated?


  1. "Beer isn't that complicated, really."

    This is true. But the people who make it and sell it and drink it can be pretty complicated, which is presumably why most interesting beer blogs tend to be much more about people and pubs and breweries than about finding slightly nuanced combinations of fruits and baked products to compare a beer to...

  2. Bits of beer are complicated but not the communicators' bits. Economics, production, history, business news, law, policy, health are all well avoided by the communicators for the very reasons you point out. It's about relationship building towards an unfulfilling future. Thank God there's alcohol to balance off the disappointments.

  3. I quite like the naked ambition of some of the young lads. Why shouldn't a young guy set out his stall for a career in beer writing, especially if he is London based? London is full of gullible, wealthy fools to be exploited, so why not do so? It's a sound principle. Why shouldn't beer blogging be a route into a career into the brewing industry which isn't an uninteresting area of employment? Can't blame people who are bored shitless in their day job for wanting a slice of that. You don't even have to know that much really.

    When I used to do presentations to people about quite complicated IT, I knew that as long as I had a tad more knowledge than my audience, I could bluff my way through. That's a sound principle for setting up tastings and writing about personalities and things that you know little about really, but as long as it's a bit more than your just a bit more about than your readers or attendees, no problem. It's all fair game.

    Maybe you are too harsh in that aspect, but otherwise you are likely on the money. You won't get honest opinion or criticism to the same extent. That might be career limiting. Maybe that's not blogging as I understand it, but it is common sense and context is all.

    Professional writing and blogging are different faces of the same coin. Irreverence isn't communicating it seems though; it doesn't help you make the great leap forward. Tough old world and choices have to be made, but not sure if all these earnest pieces about shiny stainless steel and reckless praise of cult "craft" brewers and wishing we were all fucking American is actually taking beer drinking much further forward.

    Seems the beer writers guild thinks it does though. Ho hum.

  4. Oops. Bad editing in second para. It should read "That's a sound principle for setting up tastings and writing about personalities and things that you know little about really, but as long as it's just a bit more about than your readers or attendees, no problem. It's all fair game."

  5. I sent a satirical column to the editor of Computing once; he liked it, he paid me for it and I was a featured columnist, appearing every month until that editor left five months later. I've never been able to make a living from larking around - looking back at my c.v. from when I was a journalist, there's an awful lot of "Pros and cons of server consolidation" and suchlike.

  6. A way in which those who are using the a blog to "go pro" signal their intent is getting shitty about / auto-moderating / turning off the comment function.

    This is done for three reasons, I think.

    First, because things might be said that question the author's own supposed expertise and reveal they don't know what they're talking about.

    Second, because comments might criticise organisations that the author is getting or is hoping to get payment or preference from.

    Third, because comments are one way of showing how many people are reading your blog (albeit an imperfect indicator). If a puffed-up blog doesn't really get any comments, it looks a bit too much like nobody's actually reading, right?

  7. It is possible to analyse too much. I am reminded of the centipede who, having been asked how he achieved synchronised movement of all those legs, began thinking about it and could never do it again.

    I've been writing my blog since 2009 and I never expected freebies and haven't received any; nor did I expect a salaried career in beer writing, and I haven't acquired one. So why do it?

    My original aim was to pass on local news about beer and music to anyone who might be interested, and that is still an important function of the blog. Another is that I also quite enjoy it: there's no point in doing it otherwise. An unexpected consequence is that, in looking things up for blog posts as well as reading other blogs, I have learnt things I wouldn't have otherwise.

    While I am not among the blogging superstars like Tandleman and Stonch, I have occasionally been approached by strangers in Southport, Liverpool and Wigan asking, "Are you RedNev? I read your blog." This is pleasing because it means my reach goes beyond my own acquaintances and suggests I'm not completely wasting my time.

  8. Personally, and this is just MY opinion, we don't really need Beer Communicators. Whatever happened to buying beer, drinking it yourself and forming your own opinions? Do we need to know that someone with a blog thinks the Brewer is an "awesome dude"?

  9. Only if he IS an awesome dude!

  10. I agree with the TAND. You can't blame someone for wanting a living out of drinking and writing about it.

    Stonch also hit the nail, when it becomes a living you don't want negative comments, you don't want to piss off those that might commission paid work.

  11. I think certain Bloggers are willing tools of the Hidden Persuaders. I have no problem with advertising as a concept, but I feel irritated when advertising appears in the guise of supposed enlightenment.

    Thankfully, I know what to avoid. Reading the first couple of paragraphs is usually all it takes.