The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic.
I’ve written for the Session before, but this is my first time hosting. I asked folks to tell me what they believe are issues the beer community finds difficult to discuss, and I must say, it’s fantastic to see what folks have to say. I’ll update this post as more posts come in, and probably do a second round-up next Friday. But, for now, let’s dive into what people have already said.
Interestingly, though I doubt any of these folks know each other, the first five I link to are a fantastic group of posts because one naturally leads to the other.
First, Derrick Peterman makes the bold statement that beer festivals are “basically sanctioned binge drinking and becoming increasingly irrelevant.” While I don’t know that they are becoming irrelevant, I definitely agree that they are more and more problematically “sanctioned beer drinking.” Certain festivals are known for over-serving, and even those that are not tend to be pretty light on the moderation.
That lack of moderation leads to being unable to discuss the health effects of our chosen hobby/profession points out Kate Bernot. We, as a community, seem unable to discuss anything from the hangovers to the fact that we’re consuming something that easily impacts mental health. She makes the point that this is doubly true for her, as a white woman working in beer. She has to “be able to hang.”
Queer women, especially of color, also have to be able to hang. And possibly be subject to harassment due to their queerness and/or erasure of it. Ann Marie B asks us to start considering women, particularly queer women, in the beer community. And more importantly, making the space inclusive. We’re out there. We’re able to hang. But maybe we shouldn’t have to be ON 110% of the time.
In fact, is that demand what’s preventing people from joining our community? Given that the beer community is male-dominated, in many ways, anyone who isn’t male/perceived-as-male is expected to hang. Jen MacCormack stepped up to the prompt, despite not being a beer blogger. She mentions feeling she’ll be dismissed for being a woman. And she asks us to consider if it’s just her “or is there some subtle signal [she’s] getting from the beer community that this isn’t” for her.
Who else is getting those signals? What role does class play in the beer community? Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey make the point that those defining the community to a large degree are “university educated, middle class (US: white collar) nerds.” They argue this is not the way it should be, and there are scores of beer drinkers who are not “like us” who should be heard. Seems reasonable to me.
Then there’s the more truly beer-centric problems in beer culture right now. Alistair Reece argues that we, as a community, use words like “innovation” too lightly, creating “new” styles that aren’t new at all, merely variants on something else (usually with the addition of “C-hops”1). While I’m not sure I agree with him fully, I do see the points he’s getting at with “what truly constitutes a new style” and “don’t just accept the word of someone who’s trying to sell you something.” What do you all think? Are beer writers and drinkers merely regurgitating what we’re being “fed” by breweries trying to out-do each other and lacking critical thinking, or is there more critical thinking happening?
And when you go to write up your thoughts on Reece’s post, bear in mind what makes good beer writing says The Beer Nut (in Ireland). Putting some effort in makes everything clearer and more enjoyable. He requests beer writers “at the very least, learn which one’s ‘palate’ and which one’s ‘palette’.” Seems reasonable. For more help on becoming a better beer writer, look to Oliver Gray, who helpfully has a primer on palate/palette/pallet.
Phil mentions a bunch of things we could discuss, had we the willingness, but particularly has words for his fellow members of Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). He asks a simple question. Is CAMRA “a campaign rather than a drinking club”? The behaviors of one don’t line up well with the behaviors of the other. I suspect this is a rather hard question to address, and it’s important to bring it up. Those of us who are not in such an organization aren’t off the hook; if we’re blogging about beer, what’s the goal. And is beer blogging a drinking club or is it more?
Please keep them coming! This is a fascinating thing. I’ll keep updating as I get more posts in. And if YOU want to host a session, go volunteer! The rest of the year is still wide open.
Edited on 14 Sept 2015 to add the last three that came in (including mine!) after the 4th. Since it was so few, I figured it was better to just add them here.
Dan over at Community Beer works, a nanobrewery, writes on their blog about the socioeconomic situation of the beer community, and asks us to consider if beer is just a beverage, or if it’s something more. “If you want it to be more, to be capital I Important, you need to put in the work to make it live up to that.” Bonus points from me for a subtle Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference in there.
While Dan mentions the inexpensive $12 per 16 beers case, we all know what he’s mentioning is macrobrewed lagers. So it’s interesting to see Gary at Beer et seq implore us to consider lagers more thoroughly. I’m happy to take that challenge, and I hope others are too. Metropolitan Brewing in Chicago is only German-style lagers and is one of my absolute favorite breweries there, and so I’m happy to have this discussion. Over a lager, of course.
Finally, there’s what I had to say. Why, as we seemingly come to gender parity in the beer community, do we still not see much feminine presentation
Thanks again, all. And, please! Someone step up for next month’s session.
1 “C-hops” are hops like “Cascade,” “Centennial,” and “Columbus” varieties. They’re hops bred here in the U.S. and tend to be very bitter and citrus-y. You can read a hair about them over at Brew Your Own Magazine’s site. ➥