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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Pardon the Metablogging

Over at the Atlantic, Clay Risen notes quite accurately that it's "not to say there aren't great beer writers, or great beer magazines, books, and blogs. But compared with wine, they're few and far between -- and, to put it as kindly as possible, not exactly aimed at the mainstream, non-beer-obsessed public." Which is why I feel guilty about plunging into the following post, which is total inside baseball, pure metablogging, and of interest to almost no one. But since I was called out in the piece (though not, sadly, by name), I gotta respond. If you can't use your blog for a little navel-gazing every now and again, what good is it?

The issue is the Oxford Companion to Beer ... again. I had intended not to mention it or get re-embroiled in the ongoing debates, but Risen goes after the many small-fry bloggers who have been harping at the book, and he takes interest in my review, and so now I have to talk about the damn thing again. (Throw me a frickin' bone department: one virtue of having a brewer act as editor is that there's a great density of technical entries in the book, all of which seem extremely well-done to me. Most of the criticism has been aimed at the history pieces, but if you want a nice technical reference, it's pretty kick-ass.)

Following a recap about the paucity of good beer books (mostly true), Risen describes it as "viciously criticized" and cites Martyn Cornell's and mine. Cornell he can't actually fault except in tone (and his critique is "more trenchant" than mine). He cites my post as one of the more degenerate varieties that " have made an intramural sport of identifying the book's omissions." He continues by criticizing my criticism of the pretty well-documented NY-centered bias in the book.

Fair enough, but then he goes on to review Christian DeBenedetti's new book and observes this:
Anyone who picks up the The Great American Ale Trail can think of a bar that was wrongfully overlooked. Them's the breaks: this is a guide, not a directory. Still, it's frustrating to see large swaths of the country left out completely. Yes, the best bars and breweries may be in Oregon, Colorado, and New York, and they deserve coverage.
It's exactly the same criticism. (And I find it deeply trenchant.) You review a book, you offer praise and critiques. Look: I've done lots of them. So let's not overstate the significance of one post on a blog with thousands of them.

And Clay, would it kill you to mention me by name in the article?


  1. Jeff, he gave you a link, isn't that better than mentioning you by name? Just don't forget to send him a copy of your book once it's out.

    "Dog bites man" isn't very interesting, so he had to stir things up a little. He even painted the errata Wiki as an attack on the OCB, whereas it was nothing of the sort and has even received Garret Oliver's blessing. (Didn't mention Alan by name, either.)

  2. Trey Smith Blog

    Jeff,It's good to read this information from your post. You have an interesting way of drawing people in. Keep up the good works..

  3. The technical entries seem well done to me too. But I'm not a brewer. They could be nonsense for all I know, and I wouldn't notice.

    That's why it's important to get details right, because people who aren't experts rely on the book.