Friday, 7 October 2011

Beer talks

Beer for men?

Back into the fray I go, tonight a corporate beer and food tasting somewhere in the northwest of the English regions. Looking forward to it, a chance to spout off, hang around, drink beer and tell people about it, talk like I’m in the pub. But on the other hand, in a quiet moment, when all is still, it does make me wonder why those of us that communicate about beer feel that that we have to talk about it in front of crowds (and then there’s an easy answer: it’s a living and it can pay well and like most others in the confined world of beer writing it’s something to do with ego masquerading as education — but then I never understand why beer writing has to be about education as well; rather than educate, I have no intention of making people disown what they drink, they can find their own way to it, which they will — and surely education is what breweries pay their marketing people for; in fact that is a beef of mine at times, beer writing can sometimes come across like being beaded by the drunk guy in the pub who knows a little more than you do, and what do you do but nod your head, cut out the white noise and get back to what you enjoy doing, a drunk teacher perhaps). People will come to good beer without people prodding them on the chest and saying you must drink this. 

For over a decade I have been doing beer talks, a variety of ups and downs, sometimes all of it coming together at the last minute, a bit nervy at times, I remember some occasions when I used to take a deep breath, pretend I was doing something worse like parachuting into D-Day before pushing the door open into the pub where 10 strangers were waiting for me to tell them about beer — and then I remembered (only a couple of years ago — doh) that I used to stand up in front of people and sing, albeit hiding behind a microphone and in company with three other guys (including DJ Harvey on drums) — and that made all the difference. Being in the band, I eventually had fun, though my first gig (as just the guitarist) was a bit nerve-wracking. There was nothing like the adrenalin you get when a song is going good and people (all three of them) are starting to dance (you have to talk with Zak Avery about making money through music). So after all this I still wonder: why do beer writers decide that they need this extra curricular work?

Pete Brown was on the radio the other day, while Marverine Cole was tittering along with Alan Titchmarsh on some show from the Midlands, though all C4 could find for their otherwise excellent piece on craft keg was a ‘drinks writer’ who writes a lot about wine and who then got his dispensation confused with his production (on the subject of craft keg, or whatever you want to call it as I refuse to call it a revolution, it won’t overturn the order of things in the rather confined space of beer but it will offer another choice — the revolution will be a matter of consumer choice as well as being televised). Maybe the people they wanted were in Denver (and before anyone asks, it’s not something I would like to do, I have no desire in being on the telly). Maybe it’s the nature of the beast with any specialist writing: Michael Jackson had his beer hunting committed to film, while Roger Protz was a regular face on some food show a few years back. Maybe it’s just the case that is such a specialised subject the media need experts.

I like doing tastings because I like meeting people and because — it’s a major reason I go to the pub — I like spending time talking with people, whether it’s about beer, sport or whoever has been sleeping with whom. Beer makes for good conversation except when it becomes didactic and it’s not just the CAMRA souls who get that way — I have seen a messianic gleam in the eye of those most indifferent to CAMRA when they have got going on beer. 

And so all this leads me to mention that come October 28, myself and Melissa Cole will be taking part in a wine vs beer dinner at the Thatchers Arms in deepest Essex, thanks to the kind invitation of landland Mitch. For the wine side, Tim Atkin will be pitching for the grape (and who knows who else will pull their cork out) and Melissa and I will be bigging up barley. The menu is done and we’re now thinking about the beers. It’s for charity as well so that’s another plus. Tickets are £35 and it will be a well worth doing do. So why not come along and see beer and wine writers do battle royal in the most hospitable way (in a pub) — and to think I was just going to write about the Pretty Things’ Jack D’Or. Funny thing beer, you never know where you go with it. 


  1. Just... just going to write about Jack D'Or? %$*%#)%#! that's a brilliant beer. Can't remember where I saw the phrase (maybe Alan's) that that beer always exceeds expectations (despite the fact that I drink it by the skinful). Go on, give it a shot.

  2. It's about making money, is it not? And I'm not being negative when I say that - it's the equivalent of the guitarist doing wedding gigs to supplement/pay the mortgage and giving freedom (to some extent) to do what you want to do? We all gotta do it, as they say. Of course, there's the flipside - that you actually enjoy doing it, and if one person in the room goes away wanting to try new beer - or beer in general - then it's all good. I'm sort of in both camps, to be honest.

  3. Tim Jack D’Or is awesome and I speak as someone who likes to think they might know a little bit about saison;
    Leigh — I always enjoy it, but refuse to term myself as a beer educator which seems to be the way some do