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Monday, March 07, 2011

Note to Andy Crouch

Having just read a very long post titled "Another Lament On The State And Future Of Beer Writing And Blogging…" (ellipses his), a thought comes to mind. Let me draw you through its train.

To this comment (highlighted to draw the reader's eye):
A few months ago I got into a fair amount of trouble for some comments I made on the subject and exercise of blogging about beer. And while I had intended the comments to relate to my own experience in the medium and not so much to that of non-professional writers, it struck a particular nerve with these bloggers. Over the last few months I have attempted to spend more time reviewing the work of citizen beer bloggers. The result, sadly, is not a more profound understanding of the medium but a reinforced confidence and parallel to my views on beer writing as a whole. I’ve simply not come across many unique or distinctive voices in this new online community of writers. It tends to be more of the same sort of repetitive and highly personalized content experienced in the wider market of beer writing available to consumers.
I offer this example (highlighting a certain pronoun):

For BA’s 50th issue anniversary, I had originally intended to write about the state of beer writing in the United States but, as often happens, I became sidetracked into a different but related topic area. As the topic corresponded in part to the state and nature of this blog, I figured this was as good a place as any to offer the thoughts.

I often find myself reading books by wine, spirits, and food writers. I have collected hundreds of them and browse a few every month to see how the other half lives, works, and writes. And in truth, despite receiving subscriptions to many of the beer magazines, I rarely do more than quickly flip through them.... [etc.]
While pondering this advice:
Beer writing is often one long, seemingly endless love song to craft brewers despite some obvious age spots appearing in the mirror.... It’s time for beer writers (both professional and enthusiasts) to take the training wheels off their pens, pencils, and keyboards.
And then conclude with this note for the writer of all the above text: irony. And there we'll leave it.


  1. Cheers, Jeff.

    Head of nail: meet hammer.

  2. Pssst, Andy. To 99% of people, "professional beer writer" doesn't actually sound more impressive than "beer blogger". Climb off the high horse.

  3. Also interesting was Andy's lament that the bloggosphere is too full of personal reactions to beers, and then he proceeds to provide his personal reaction to the blogs he reads.

    He needs to get a better editor.

  4. Contrary person that I am, I'll disagree with you.

    I thought Andy's meandering first piece was kind of lame -- not exactly petty, but maybe a little condescending. It seemed like he missed the point of why people write for free or for money.

    On the other hand, this new article points out what we all know -- that there is a lot of dreck on the internet. His complaints about beer reviews, "advertorials", press-release mirrors, and relative dearth of constructive criticism are right on the mark. Read closely, and you'll see he's not singling out citizen bloggers: he's talking about the broad spectrum of writers.

    Even better, he says what he'd like to see -- more interviews and personality profiles. He says, "People want to read about other people, not just products they don’t have in front of them and may not be able to buy." We won't all adopt that plan -- I for one don't have the time or talents to do much in that area -- but I agree with him that I'd like to read more stories like that. (Luckily here in Portland we're getting more and more of exactly that from Brewpublic, the New School, and Nicole's Unsung Heroes series at Portland Beer and Music.)

    Anyway, re-read Andy's piece. I don't think it deserves at all to be tagged as "irony". It's concrete, truthful, and to the point.

  5. Bill, I'd be a lot more willing to accept Andy's analysis if it didn't include that important table-setting paragraph containing his conclusion: "The result, sadly, is not a more profound understanding of the medium but a reinforced confidence and parallel to my views on beer writing as a whole. I’ve simply not come across many unique or distinctive voices in this new online community of writers."

    Do you endorse this comment? Because I sure don't. Matter of fact, I'd say the ratio of good blogs to good published magazine content is about 1:1. (And the bad published content? Well, let's just say it exists.)

    I would also be more charitable if Andy actually engaged the beer community instead of poking his head out of his hole ever three months to talk about how sucky actual bloggers are. In the time since he posted his first, probably Wikio-juicing jeremiad, he has posted exactly three items of original content on his "blog."

    Again, the word "irony" springs to mind.