Sunday Reading

The Void Stares Also (Wellington harbour, 20 February 2014)
And when you gaze long into the fog, the fog gazes also into you. (Or something like that.)

Well, I’m compiling them on Sunday, anyway. Unless you live in a very-tardy timezone or wait a while, I guess you’re not actually reading them on one. It’s been a couple of rather overwhelming weeks here at Beer Diary HQ; busy, distracting, exhausting and gradually restoring — all in ways both good and bad and bit-of-both-actually. Wellington itself has been all over the place, too, so I haven’t felt alone. The above was a few days ago; fog so thick you nearly forgot the City existed just there and sights around the harbour were awesomely transformed as everything took on more of an Edge Of The World feel. Today, conversely, was another do-some-gardening and jump-off-a-pier day.1

George and I will be back shortly with the season-finale Year In Review episode of the podcast — now’s the time to send in memory-jogging / two-cents-having suggestions for your Beer Of The Year and Glass Of Beer Of The Year,2 plus any general feedback you might have on format, distribution, and all that. There could well be a beer in it for you. Meanwhile, though, there’s this:

  • The Bottleneck Awards 2013: Speaking of years-in-review, I’m pretty sure this is my favourite. Dylan’s got a wonderful knack for pointed rambling, and y’all should be reading him regularly.
  • That’s a paddlin’: A charming account of a (minor) part of gearing-up to homebrew. Which I still haven’t gotten myself around to, somehow. Jase’s previous project — the Beer Money blog — was a great ride, and his latest seems to be coming along nicely.
  • Beer & Gender in baby steps: There’s been a little soul-searching (and back-seat soul-searching) about CAMRA lately, and I thought this was a nice sketch of some super-simple little things that the organisation could do to help the cause of equality. And, generally, if you can help, you should.3 And there are ways every person, business, organisation — or thing — can help. And sexism in the beer industry can get fucking grim and sad. So let’s all help, please.
  • Guests of BrewDog: Three dispatches appeared this weekend — from Martyn Cornell (him of the indispensable myth-busting beer history), Adrian Tierney-Jones, and Peter Alexander (a.k.a. Tandleman; someone who often curmudges a little hard even for me — see, e.g., his objections on the above beer-and-gender piece) — after a writers’ trip to BrewDog HQ and environs. They’re all worth reading, but I can’t help but be a little sad at how credulous they all are. Admittedly, I’m (now) firmly skeptical of those self-styled “punks”, but those pieces all soft-pedal the authors’ prior concerns (most hiding them in hyperlinks, rather than acknowledging them more directly) and come with shamefully piss-weak disclaimers4 that the trip — a significant value in travel, accommodation, goodies and access — was all on BrewDog’s dime.
  • Kippers, etc.: Speaking of BrewDog, you’d do well to also (or instead) spend your minutes with Luke and Dave’s Ale Of A Time podcast. The most-recent episode, among other delights, spends a good while on ‘Hello, My Name is Vladimir’, one of those marketing stunt beers the BrewDogs are so fond of, which — in Luke’s estimation, and with which I completely agree — just horribly misses the mark.
  • On conflicts of interest, kind of: Local theatredude Uther Dean5 on the many weirdnesses of “criticism” and review, the tension (but inevitability) of having people who both create and critique,6 and the elation and despair that producers subject themselves to when they read responses to the work. It’s not even vaguely about beer, but it could so-easily be.
  • Diversity of response: The latest round of The Session mandated non-traditional “reviews” (i.e., not reviews) of beer, and there’ll be gems for all tastes among the roundup (which came in two parts) — on which I’m only really just getting started. I didn’t manage to participate, but it’s probably obvious that I’m not hugely fond of traditional beer reviews — the kind that end in stars, numbers, or bottlecaps…
  • Catch One-point-eight Million: This is why brand loyalty sucks. They — by which we presently mean “Tui” (i.e., D.B., i.e., Heineken), but it extrapolates out perfectly — foster it in you at your expense for their sake. It would’ve been perfectly possible to run the ‘Catch a Million’ promotion at-or-close-to cost, and it’d have been just as brand-building and just as fun. But no, they can’t help extract wodges of extra cash from their “fans” on the way, showing a cynical and weirdly hateful fundamental approach. [Late-breaking update, a few hours later: see the comment below for the additional relevant fact that you could apparently get a t-shirt for free, which alters the math substantially. I’ll have to re-visit this particular case, but brand loyalty is generally still bad for you.]
  • Cellaring, accidental or otherwise: The Beerhive’s other half here offers so thoughts on cellaring beer — with my dodgy memory, I’m particularly blessed in the “forget about it” department, which has led to some amazing aged beers deep in my Stash. You can see that Kieran7 recommends ‘Bigfoot’, tempering the “don’t age hoppy beers” conventional wisdom with the reality that these things just change — it’s up to you and the sensory subjectivity of your own brain whether that’s a good thing. (But as a tangential side-note, can we please end the practice of Googling for vaguely-related images and just slapping them in an online piece without attribution? See @PicPedant on the Twittermachine, for one person’s heroic struggle towards that worthy end.)
  • And finally, an irrelevancy: Because I’m a big believer in the primacy of handwritten originals, and a massive natural selection nerd — though equally much a Wallace fan as a Darwin one.

†: Well, that’s when I started. Let’s ignore that it’s “now” Monday evening; time is an illusion, self-imposed deadlines triply so. (To borrow again from Douglas, and to merge and mangle his quotes.) 
1: By which I mean it was, for the most part, sunny and warm. Which is just different from rainy and grey, not “better”. I’m all for diversity and subjectivity, after all, and am only lately myself really starting to ‘get’ summer, and find a way to fit myself properly into it. 
2: That might seem an obtuse doubling-up, but it’s a distinction that’s served us well for the last two years, and we’re (probably) sticking to it. Meanwhile, recording our Year In Review in March was never the explicit plan, but it seems now to be cemented as Tradition. And I like it; too many Best Of Last Years seem blatted out to meet deadlines. Nuts to them, and to that. 
3: See, e.g., Spiderman
4: I don’t quite know which is worse; one is all-too-subtle and just inline of the main text, the other two are at the end (past a good number of readers’ scroll-bothering, I’m sure), and dropped down significantly in font size — one even vaguely slagging off the mere idea of a disclosure. I’m sorry (n.b.: not actually sorry), but disclosures are utterly fucking mandatory, and need to be front and centre — and not just of the text, I’d argue; they’d do well to remain in the tone. It’s not difficult. 
5: Who directed an utterly fuckin’ excellent adaptation of The Trial, just by the by. 
6: Though I’m often thinking of the potential conflicts and always trying to navigate them, I do hasten to point out that I’m no “creator” (of beer), despite working in a brewery — I’m a functionary, not a decision-maker; a bureaucrat rather than a stakeholder. But I do make words and whinge about words, so his points nonetheless resonate — and, if you ask me, some of our best sources of words-about-beer do also brew the stuff. 
7: Friend of the show and no fan of the summer months, which nicely brings me back to fn1. 

3 thoughts on “Sunday Reading”

  1. It is/was illegal for Tui to promote the fact that you could get a t shirt for free with a Tui purchase, which you could. Hence misleading to think that 60,000 paid the $30 for a shirt (which you could do at the game if you hadn’t got one prior). I imagine that the number of shirts sold was marginal compared to the number given away for free.

    1. Ah, thanks for that. I had no idea. I’ll have to re-visit the maths. It’d be interesting to know what the sums were in the end — those I suppose they’re unlikely to tell us.

  2. we really should get together and talk UK sometime… it’s a FASCINATING place right now. And Brew Dog are awesome hosts. It’s hard to pass through Aberdeen without thinking that they’re actually very lovely people.

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