Thursday, 31 December 2009

My Wish List for 2010

Well, I said it's a list, so I'll list them. They aren't really in any particular order, except, probably, the first one:

On Beer:
  • Cask Ale quality and quality control. This needs to be upped massively in most micro breweries and in a hell of a lot of pubs. There is too much beer that should never have left the brewery and too much that shouldn't either be put on sale, or remain on sale
On Industry:
  • the beer industry needs to start speaking with one voice before it all goes (even more) tits up. Pete Brown mentions this a lot and I agree with him. I don't personally think the BBPA is the answer any more though. They are so tainted by their PubCo connections that they lack credibility
On Family Brewers:
  • Family Brewers have a unique position in the UK. They own pubs and breweries and need to make the most of that simple fact. No-one expects them to change from bread and butter brewing, but they need to be bolder, at least on occasion. Too many samey brown beers and a "we know best" attitude from some, is wasting opportunity. They need to be careful that beer life and fashion doesn't pass them by and consign them to the dustbin of history. In short, they need to wake up
  • CAMRA needs a complete "purpose review". It is becoming clear that nationally it is a lobby group, while locally it campaigns for pubs and beer. That needs to be looked at. The fact that no matter what it does, it can't please everyone shouldn't stop an independent look at its purpose in a changing UK beer world with resurgent cask consumption. It needn't be expensive, but it does need to be neutral in authorship and it needs to be done. Too many are sniping at CAMRA and while a lot of it is just lazy stereotyping, some of that sniping has justification. CAMRA needs to respond to the concerns. It is so much bigger now. It needs to change for that reason alone
On Bloggers:
  • Not writing about the 95% of beer drinking is as myopic as not writing about cutting edge stuff. Arithmetically more so. Some too, need to get out and about a bit more, particularly to the pub; they need to raise their heads up and look around them. So I'd like to see broader blogging
  • I do worry that there is a developing blogging clique. There are a few signs of that already. Blogging should (at least at times), be fearless and opinionated, not introspective, "me" and consensual. Swapping exotic beers is fun of course and it is a great idea to bring people together, but we need more than that to push the beer message outwards. Independent thinking is needed. Praise needs to be tempered by criticism where appropriate. It can get a little too "I had this lovely (extreme) beer" and "aren't Brew Dog/ Thornbridge great" for my taste
  • The best beer writers (Pete Brown, Protzy, ATJ etc.) are beer people in the old fashioned sense of the words. They build up their beer knowledge of what makes beer drinkers tick, from the inside, from understanding people as well as beer. From nattering at the bar, from watching how it all clicks together, from travelling and visiting pubs and breweries. And countries. Most (but by no means all) bloggers are home drinkers and really need to get out more. There I've said it again.*
On Twitter:
  • Twitter less and comment and write on blogs more. Comments are needed to encourage bloggers. No comments = no point in a lot of ways. Surely there are enough things on blogs worthy of comment?
On Pubs:
  • Visit them
On Me:
  • Hope fully I will continue to blog as long as it interests me and my readers. I will call it as I see it, like it or lump it. I'll get it wrong, but hopefully, it will be worth reading, at least sometimes
A Happy and Prosperous New Year to all my readers.

* As an observation, look at Impy Malting. She is building up her British beer knowledge from the bottom and though not British herself, has a keen sense of the pub and how it fits into our society. Her most acute observations about beer don't stem from sitting in her living room with a bottle of Double IPA, but by getting out there amongst it. It doesn't always work out for her, but she doesn't have scales over her eyes. (I only wish she'd let me comment on her blog, but for some reason, I can't. Go on Impy - explain)


Velky Al said...

By and large I agree with you here, especially about Twitter. I was hoping that it would drive people to Fuggled but after an initial jump things have settled down again to the same rate as previously. Either my writing is boring and people don't stay, or Twitter is slowly eroding the attention span of people and they can't read more than 140 keystrokes?

On the "same old brown beer" thing, I wonder sometimes if it is a case of people not really appreciating what they have? When I was in Prague, surrounded by all that top lager, I found myself giddily excited by the thought of a couple of pints of Hobgoblin or London Pride on cask whenever I got back to the UK. Now I am surrounded by plenty of top notch ale, and I find myself craving a nice clean Czech pilsner. As such I think the bloggers should give more credit and cybertime to people like Fuller's, Everard's and Shepherd Neame.

Paul Garrard said...

A fair enough list - at least it wasn't a bloody review of the year!!

Happy New Year.

Whorst said...

I built my British beer knowledge a long time ago Mister Alexander. Most people realize that the West Coast of the USA is the capital of ale now. When you're ready to make that leap, you let me know.

Tandleman said...

Mr Keehn. I write a British Beer Blog. West Coast Yankee stuff is great. So what's your beef here?

Happy New Year to you too.

Richard Bailey said...

I agree with your suggestions to blog and comment more and focus less on Twitter; and to emphasise pubs not just beer (enough BrewDog already). Good pointers for 2010.

As to CAMRA's role, I'll need to think a bit more about that. I've only been a member for a year (I thought they'd made the wrong call on the smoking ban so avoided joining before now) and appreciate the publications. Are you suggesting they've now won their campaign against keg beers so should now be disbanded?

Tandleman said...

Richard - Thanks for commenting. No I believe CAMRA is as needed as ever, but it needs to review what it does and how it does it. A bit of a reality check if you like, as now it is a rather large organisation with quite a lot of power and influence.

This is something all organisations need to do from time to time.

Curmudgeon said...

Good list, not a lot to disagree with there. The point about the introspectiveness and élitism of some of the beer blogging community is particularly well made. Not something you can accuse Cooking Lager of, though ;-)

Unknown said...

Interesting points. I'm glad you suggest a review of CAMRA. I certainly don't think that "they've now won their campaign against keg beers so should now be disbanded" but then I don't think it should ever be a war against keg. But what ever, all organisations need to review their aims and methods from time to time.

Your points about the growing gulf between blogging and twittering and the parallel gulf between pub based session beer drinking and "extreme" beer drinking is interesting. I have an interest in all these areas and a "them and us" is occurring that bothers me. It'll be interesting to see how it develops.

Tandleman said...

Measured comments Dave. I look forward to hearing your take on it.

Barry M said...

Only catching up on some reading after the Christmas break (no reading or writing of blog posts for a while :)). Some good points, particularly about commenting and twitter. It's much better to get comments on posts via the blogs than on twitter, as on twitter is loses context.

On going out more, I'm guilty of that. In Ireland I was definitely a pub guy, but since moving here I'm definitely drinking more at home than I did before. I like being in a pub, but my social circles are considerably different here than I had in Ireland. I'm hoping that'll change in 2010.

Mark Dredge said...

Nice posts. I agree with them, hard not to. Particularly like the Industry, Family Brewers and CAMRA issues.

As for twitter... it's a good tool to be visible in the fastest media around and a good way to communicate with people, but I would always prefer comments to replies on there. Then at the same time I'm guilty of re-tweeting and telling others to read a post but not putting a pohysical comment myself (I must do better there!)

And bloggers... hard to disagree with your overall points. If you look at the spectrum of bloggers it seems that the majority fit in somewhere and have a particular focus or 'speciality' in their writing. Not everyone can write solely about pubs in the same way that not everyone can write about just 'extreme' beer.

I am more of a home drinker (as you know and for reasons which are too large to put down here). But I learn a lot of things from being out and watching people/talking/listening so try to get out whenever I can to learn. The fact that a lot of bloggers are home drinkers is perhaps a sign of the times...

Let's see how it all goes!

Here's to 2010 and all that it holds!

Mark, said...

You echo lots of what I've been mulling over in my head Tandleman and you make an awful lot of sense.

On sitting home and drinking from my living room, I'm guilty as charged, but for too many reasons that is simply the only option for me to try new beers at the moment. I try to make the local pubs as much as I can - and ones further afield - but my disposable income prevents me from travelling and pub-drinking as I'd like. My favourite beer memories of this year are supping as Saltaire Brewery, at the pubs in London and a refreshing Midnight Bell at the eponymous pub near my work. I hope 2010 brings me more time for on-trade drinking but other factors will probably determine that other than will power alone.

On twittering, why not just encourage people to comment more (with which I 100% agree) rather than tweet less? Personally I get lots out of twitter but believe that we also give to others as much as we get. I comment on blogs where I feel compelled too and will continue to do so, but via Twitter we've spread many an article (not just our own) to new audiences that wouldn't have read them, and that we hope is a good thing. Why divide people between twitter and blogging, different people use the wonder of the internet in different ways and that is why so many people do use it.

On CAMRA, the direction needs sorting out. But that's not to say that they should lose they're focus on 'real ale' - many people have said they should drop 'conditioning' arguments and promote beer. At the end of the day, rightly or wrongly CAMRA is the champion of the traditional way of delivering beer and if we need someone to stand up for a more general positive chmapioning of beer as a whole, then maybe another body needs to stand up? Who knows?

2009's been a big beer year, all the best for 2010 and let's see what the ever changing times bring!

Tandleman said...

Good points Mark.

Iknow of course that not everyone can afford to get out and about as much as they'd maybe like, but I still reckon that it'd do them good.

Your point about Twitter is well made. I probably should have said comment as much as you Twitter. When you blog you need comments. It sustains you.

My point about CAMRA is that it just needs an internal review. The focus of CAMRA nationally and local is different. We need to look at that. I don't believe it should become an umbrella organisation for beer though, nor drop its focus on cask beer.

Mark, said...

We endeavour to cross the Pennines soon as we can so we'll come over and sample some of your finest drinking holes!

Gazza Prescott said...

Totally agree with the "blogging clique" thing. Seems to me (as someone who doesn't blog as he's way too lazy and opinionated) that a vast majority of beer bloggers haven't got a feckin' clue what they're talking about. They've not been anywhere, drunk anything, seen anything, and it shows in their writing - and in this I include most of those who get the gongs these days.

I've been travelling the length of the UK searching out new beers for 20 years now. There's hardly a town i've not drunk in or a brewery I've not had a beer from. Too many bloggers seem to think a nice writing style and mutual self-congratulation is the way forwards but it's not if they haven't travelled and drunk a lot of beer to build up background knowledge - some have never been to Sheffield or Manchester which is just pathetically lazy.

And don't even get me started on "the south is best" mindset...

HNY all.

Kristy said...

Doesn't there need to be a clearer distinction between beer blogging and pub blogging??

If you're a "beer" blogger then why do you need to get out more and appreciate pubs - in fact you can probably have access to more styles and variety of beer delivered to your door than if you visited every pub in the land. If you set your stall out as someone who wants to review different beer styles then do it.

If you're a pub blogger then why are you limiting your writing just to beer? The wet led community pub is a fast becoming a thing of the past and pubs with food offers will be significantly the majority by 2018 so if you are supporting the pub industry surely you need to cover a much broader range of subjects?

And as for cliques I couldn't disagree more. I have found the beer blogging community in the main a hugely welcoming bunch (especially for someone like me that works for a dirty corporate brewer!!). Like minded people will always gravitate towards each other though - am not sure that constitutes a clique unless they refuse to let you join in.

You don't just have to go to Sheffield to try some great beer and for those that have to assume they know more feels very cliquey to me!!

Mark Dredge said...

Gazza, you have been drinking for 20 years and that's allowed you to drink all over the country, drinking beer from all the breweries. Most of the 'new' bloggers are still in their 20s and the blogs are the online story of us gaining those lifetime experiences (just look at how the blogs develop, the different things people are drinking, what they are saying it them - it's experience shaping and changing opinion). We can't gain a lifetimes drinking experience over night. And it's not like anyone is writing utter crap, lies or bad things about beer. Everyone is being positive, drinking beer, supporting the industry. What's the big deal?

Don't start labelling or talking about a 'clique' or a divide *will* occur and that's not good. There's a difference of mentality/experience between bloggers, but that's a good thing. There are some who bridge that, of course, but we should be celebrating diversity and not chastising it. Beer blogging is democratic, not a dictatorship. This view is as single-minded as cask beer = good, Stella = bad.

And the south is best, of course. It's only the beer that's better up north :)

Mark Dredge said...

Kristy, well said.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tandleman-- thanks for the asterisk. I don't know what's going on with your comments. I did indeed have to ban some IP addresses early on, but yours was not one of them! I sometimes find your comments in my spam and post them too late-- apologies. They are up there, though. I've checked settings to make sure you get through but am a bit befuddled. It's a technical problem.

I don't know what you mean by building my knowledge up "from the bottom." I guess if I'm in the gutter I'm looking at Staropramen! (in this instance, punnage prioritized over decent beer). Cheers!

Tandleman said...

I was hoping and pretty sure this would start off a debate. Firstly, Kristy; "Doesn't there need to be a clearer distinction between beer blogging and pub blogging??" Anyway, I write about beer and the industry. So no actually. To a lot of beer drinkers, the two are synonymous. That is the point and it it is hardly a seventies thing to think that the best place to drink beer is in the pub. After all if you spend most of your time drinking beer at home, you are treating beer as just another drink. Beer is so much more than that. It is about people and place, about moment and experience, it's about being there. Even at home drinkers have written about how a cold bottle of crap fizz tastes wonderful on a sunny island. And I don't know about Gazza, but I won't be tricked into thinking the pub is dead and wet led is a thing of the past. As long as there is good pubs and good beer and people who like to socialise,there will be demand. It is of course true that you can get all the beers you want sent to your home, but that's as sterile as saying why eat out in restaurants? - you can cook it all at home.

I guess the point for us older beery types isn't so much that we are jealous of the availability of beer at home that we had to go out and seek, often abroad, but the fact that so much is being missed by not getting out and about. Having that bollecke of De Konink in a wonderful bar off a Antwerp square, of having your own beer mat covered in ticks in Zum Uerige, talking to the brewer over a pint in countless breweries, having the craic in Dublin over a pint of unpasteurised stout in the Porterhouse, of serving beer at the Chicago Real Ale Festival, of following countless blind alleys looking for a certain pub or brewpub, stumbling across that almost perfect cask in (insert town of your choice) etc. etc. Why did Pete Brown not write about drinking a cask of IPA in his kitchen? He could have DHL'd it round the world and drunk it when it got back? Because it wasn't the beer that made the book, it was the experience and the anecdotes. You just don't get that drinking at home, but of course it is a matter of choice.

I could go on, but you get the picture I'm sure.

Mark; I am not sure that youth is material here. People in their mid twenties were chasing beer round the country and beyond thirty years ago. I was one of them. I assume Gazza was and even more so. Much more so I'd imagine.

You are off to the States soon. I'm betting two things. One, that you won't be sitting in a hotel room with lots of bottles and two, you'll come back with a different point of view about getting out and about. Hell, after a pub crawl of Sheffield you probably will. Just a pity I can't be there. It would have been fun and probably hardly cliquey at all. (-;

PS - We are all beer drinkers and doing our bit I agree, but let's not be too "cheery beery". Blogging shouldn't always be cozy. It should challenge.

Tandleman said...

Hi Impy. Glad I'm not barred as I think all of my missing comments have been ones favouring you. I'm a fan.

You know I can't remember exactly what I was meaning, except I like your comments on our British beer culture. Whatever it was, it was certainly a compliment!

Mark Dredge said...

Nice response T. I do completely agree with you about being out and about and actually doing it and 'feeling it' (nice Pete Brown example too!). It's very important. I'm more of a home drinker right now because pub drinking is less of an option (none nearby, financial limitations, time... I've written a post about it and will blog sometime). This year I'm making an effort to really go out and about as well as reading and learning as much as I can that way. I'm not blindly hoping that I'll just happen to gain 'experience' or assuming that I don't need it; I want it.

The other side to this is the availability of good bottled beers. We can go online, order a lot of excellent bottles and they arrive at our door. It's a convenience things and it's a part of modern drinking, like it or not. But that's a whole, other issue...!

It isn't about youth but it is about experience. The drinking experience you and Gazza have gained is something that I will gain in time and it will improve my knowledge and the balance of my writing, I'm sure. But bottle bloggers DO go to the pub. I don't think there are any who are solely at-home guys. I just think it's a little unfair to 'attack' home drinkers for a lack of front-line experience.

I don't plan to vist any breweries or bars in the US. I will go to one beer store, stock up on the stronger, rarest, hoppiest beers and then sit in my hotel room blogging and tweeting ;)

Shame you can't make it to Sheffield. I'd like to arrange a trip to Manchester soon. We'll make sure you are free for that one. You can explain what cask beer is to those of us who haven't tried it before :)

Tandleman said...

I Look forward to it and to reading about the tweet up. I'm expecting a lot of shenanigans and will be disappointed if there isn't.

Don't worry about the home drinking. I'll shut up about it now. I may be an old grump, but that's the only fun in growing old. Just tell me to piss off!

Kristy said...

I really agree that a lot of the enjoyment of drinking beer comes from the experience and I'm all for going to the pub as much as possible but I have no problem with people trying their beer at home either and think we should support that as an experience. The sad reality is that the off trade will be bigger than the on trade for the first time ever this year - if more people are choosing to drink at home I want us to do everything we can to make sure they choose beer. If that means introducing them to new beers and new online retailers then that has to be a good thing.

To suggest that means people are treating beer as just another drink does the a huge disservice to the many great posts of different beers that are being written about. I don't believe that anyone is blogging about Typhoo (or Yorkshire tea!!) with such passion and eloquence and doing such a great job of introducing the beer category to a new audience.

Personally I'm incredibly jealous of a number of your experiences and would love to recreate as many as I can and I plan on going to the pub more often too. I just think that we should be supportive of people choosing beer whenever they choose to have a drink - where ever that is!!

Tandleman said...

"To suggest that means people are treating beer as just another drink does a huge disservice to the many great posts of different beers that are being written about."

I think I explained the context of that remark. I don't doubt what you say is true, but for this writer, it just misses the target a little. I'm drinking a Yorkshire cuppa as we "speak" btw. That's proper tea and tea is my second favourite drink and if I had to give up on one, it'd be a close run thing.

Indeed we should all support beer, particularly British beer and write about it too and while the trek to the supermarket may well be irreversible, I'm not giving up on the pub any day soon. (The flip side of your argument is of course that stay at home bloggers encourage that trek, but I won't go there. (-;

PS. So pleased you are chipping in on this. Beer drinking women are great!

Kristy said...

aaah, something we'll always agree on, beer drinking women are great, if only there were more of them!

And I ONLY drink Yorkshire tea ;o)

Gazza Prescott said...

Mark, don't take it too personally! I just feel that the beer blogging community seems to have developed from a bolshy, up-and-at 'em type devil's brigade into a cosy, cheery-beery, self-congratulating bottle-drinking lovefest which does beer and, more importantly, pubs a great disservice.

I lived in Kent (that's your base, isn't it?) for 2.5 years and I always managed to get to the pub - I lived in Ashford but every week did the tour of Canterbury, did the Elephant at Faversham and met up with John of Swale brewery most weeks too for some "quality control"! This was the mid-90's and Kent was a far worse place for beer then, believe me!!!!

I don't want anyone to take it personally which is why I didn't name names, but it seems me and Mr T are on the same wavelength here which is probably down, as has rightly been said, as we're both older than the majority of new bloggers and have been around the clock travel-wise, but see it as a wake-up call; get out there, champion great pubs and beer, don't be content to fawn over whatever Brewdog churn out these days...

Sheffield will really open your eyes to cask ale drinking, just don't expect horse brasses, roses around the door and cheerful landlords (!), that's not it's style. It's a gritty, proper drinking city with some of the best beer and pubs in the UK and I can say that from personal experience of many years, although - as ever - it's only my opinion and I'd never claim to be any kind of guru on these matters; beer is a very personal thing, one man's poison and all that...

Bailey said...

No, I give in -- what does cheery-beery mean? Is it a euphemism for positive and enthusiastic?

Tandleman said...

I think if you preface these words with "uncritically" or something like that, you're probably on the money.

Bailey said...

My previous comment was a bit flip but I'm really struggling to get my head round what the problem is. I know that Mark in particular is a fan of BrewDog (so much so that I interrogated him to check he wasn't in their pay before adding him to our blog roll!) but it's not like he hasn't criticised them wr their beers when he thinks it's due. He likes beers you don't rate much, but I don't think that makes him uncritical.

Speaking for myself, I tend to make critical judgements at the stage where I decide whether to write a post or not -- if a beer is boring or a pub is crap, I can't usually be bothered to summon words to describe it. And how many posts can people be bothered to read about disappointing experiences anyway?

Tandleman said...

It isn't a go at Mark, it is a general observation about uncritical blogging, of only seeing the good, while ignoring the bad. I believe that blogging should be critical at least some of the time. It makes for better reading and a better reflection of the beer scene. That's where "all cheery beery" comes in.

I've done all that extreme beer stuff and come out the other end. It isn't a main interest to me now and never was to the extent I observe now, but I do understand the enthusiasm of others - I've been there. Personally and actually. But life isn't all extreme beers. It can just get a bit one dimensional.

I've now doubt that it doesn't suit everyone, but if all we get is bland praise of certain holy cows, it just doesn't reflect reality. It's a question of balance.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tandleman-- thank you. I took it as a complement. Maybe my punning joke fell flat!

Mark, said...

I'd like to think not everyone is as lazy as you reckon Gazza, in fact I know I'm definitely the opposite even if I do say so myself!

There are many people who won't have had the benefit of years or perhaps the disposable income to travel as much as others (I must sound like a broken record this week) rather than been lazy sods. Luckily I've managed to have a good pint in lots of towns and cities in the UK and a few of Europe's capitals over the last 8 years that I've been able to legally drink and try and get out as much as possible (this year the best I could do was the pubs of Norwich, Wensleydale, London, Leeds and those between Edale and Haworth on the Pennine Way, which were all much better than sitting in my living room). I say this somewhat from my own perspective, but I'm sure almost everyone would prefer to drink from the source and experience the excitement of finding new beers in new places, but for many (myself included whilst my better half is unemployed) that's a pipe dream rather than a reality they can't be arsed to pursue.

I think I understand what you mean by 'blogger clique' Tandleman (and Gazza) but I would say that my experience is that the beer blogging folk I've met (whether online or for a pint) is more of a welcoming community that enjoys reading and writing about beer and everything that goes with it.

Where I agree with you is that I think some breweries do get overly patted on the back for a variety of reasons. Much of it is deserved on merit of brewing skills but with such an active presence from breweries in the modern connected world bloggers shouldn't be scared to voice their opinion. In the end and more importantly than criticism, an honest voice is essential (and I will guarantee any nothing less from myself).

Regardless of all of this, we all come together to share beer experiences from very different backgrounds and perspectives and that should be encouraged (and constructively criticised) whether someone is writing about best bitters at the local, extreme beers on distant shores or a 4 for £5 selection from the supermarket. There's lots of blogs out there serving a variety of purposes and we should praise and utilise that diversity.