I’ve just got the one actual beer hat — which does stand in stark contrast to my predictably-overstuffed t-shirt drawer. My Dogfish Head cap is a beloved and battered souvenir of a ridiculously enjoyable afternoon spent bartending at Beervana 2010,1 relatively early in my full-time-beer-person career. As I was doing my taxes this week, generally feeling fortunate to’ve been able to patch together a modest living doing work I enjoy, I thought I should lay out my metaphorical hats — in the spirit of delight (my plan, such as it is, is vaguely working!) as much as disclosure,2 though I’m a big fan of both.
So for the record, while you’re not getting actual amounts,3 it makes for a nice summary to note that my recent4 rent and food and beer and books have been proportionally underwritten by: my bartending ‘day job’ at Golding’s Free Dive (82%); my former actual day job at Garage Project (whose final paycheck fell over the boundary into the next tax year, 9%); hosting tastings and tours for Craft Beer College (5.5%, including some we did for ‘the other CBC’, Craft Beer Capital); writing beer label text for ParrotDog (2.5%); and two small gigs at festivals (helping with NZTE’s presence at Sydney GABS, and giving a talk at the GKBF: 1% combined). And that’s it for plainly-financial entanglements, lately — unless you want to hire me for something…5
But then, that was a free hat, so cash money isn’t the only relevant thing. I decided a while ago to stop taking samples from breweries, and that remains my policy.6 If something shows up at work, for work, I’ll try it but refrain from commenting on it until I’ve also had it in my own time. The discovery and the price of a thing are part of the experience and there’s a real ickiness about the way beers get talked about in some circles, as if it were spontaneous, a few days after I’ve seen offers of freebies go out. But I’m not dogmatic about turning down everything: some brewers are friends and some beers are given in gratitude for something I’ve done other than this (he says, pointing to the blog). Likewise, I don’t have to pay for after-work beers at Golding’s, and that gives me a chance to try a great-many things I might not, otherwise — but I feel they’re earned, if not paid for as such. In any case, I’ve started noting down who buys the beers I drink (if it’s not me) so there’s a papertrail of sorts. And so it is with events: I’ve got no interest in going on a junket in exchange for giving a write-up, but I have taken some free tickets to festivals and things while still paying my own travel and whatnot.
Either way, I’ll consider myself to’ve fucked up if it’s not obvious to you that money comes in from someone I’m writing about or if I got access to something other than via the usual means available to the beer-drinking public. It’s possible — likely, even — that all this doesn’t matter to you, dear reader, but it does matter to me. The beer business, broadly construed, really is proving a wonderful place in which to spend my time but there’ll always be an awkwardness to juggling various bits of paid work in an industry even when you don’t throw in a habit of commenting on the thing as a whole. And I do have a weird kind of optimism that if we were all a little more careful, here, we might actually burn out the nonsense of advertising masquerading as sincere conversation. I figure it’s best just to point to my collection of hats, so to speak, even though I do my best to only wear one at a time. Hopefully I don’t make a hypocrite7 of myself. But I warmly invite you to be the judge of that.
- I was working the Malthouse stand at the last Town Hall Edition of the festival, and had the brewery’s founder, Sam Calagione, working beside me for an hour or so.
- Evidently somewhat the same combination of motivations as inspired Matt Curtis recently, though my take on the details of the issue differs mildly from his.
- For reasons of cultural squeamishness nicely articulated here by Tom Scott.
- i.e., in the 2015-2016 tax year.
- Or unless you want to get super pedantic. In which case, this is the footnote for you, because the ethics of money in this economy are hard. Prompted by another topic entirely, I looked into where my Government-backed retirement savings are invested and it turns out that 1.39% of my account is invested in a combination of SAB Miller, Constellation Brands (that’s Corona and Ballast Point, etc.), Heineken, and the Boston Beer Company — which I was not expecting.
- As it is for many other bloggers before me. Boak & Bailey have written well on this several times, and Mark Johnson gave an excellently shouty account of his personal breaking point.
- Or a clumsy juggler, or a Bartholomew Cubbins, depending on which metaphor you favour.