Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Meaning of Beer

I've changed the header in my blog, I hope you like it. I'm attempting to rationalise why I write this blog, focused by the upcoming deadline for the British Guild of Beer Writers1 Annual Awards. Apparently, at least one blogger has been "prepping" for it. "Oh" I thought "Better do some myself". The problem is, apart from looking through some past posts and being embarrassed about appalling punctuation errors and the like, the only thing I've done so far is rewrite the header. Better get my act together. Luckily my transatlantic advisory service has come up with a short-list of good posts, thanks Ted. This one no doubt will be confined to the "flirting with drivel" category.

Readers may question why I'm setting myself up for a fall. Clearly there are many good beer writers out there and my chances of winning anything are slim, but I live in hope. The point is that the Guild's purpose is "To improve standards of beer writing and extend the public knowledge of beer." There are many members of the Guild working hard to achieve this, but I feel one of the key attributes of the Guild which could benefit from further exposure is the Guild's awards. If I can stimulate a little bit of anticipation ahead of the announcement on the 3rd December then so much the better. Hopefully, adding a little to the profile of beer writing and so improving the profile of beer at the same time, well that's the theory anyway.

All this has made me wonder why we like beer. This seems to be the natural progression of Marks question which hinges, for me, around the need for alcohol in drinks. We would not drink beer if it did not contain alcohol, and indeed I'm curious about the value of a 1.1% beer2. Why drink something that is little more than hop flavoured water fizzed up? Beer, and every other socialising drink needs alcohol, it's part of it's function. Alcohol free beer? A bit like dehydrated water, no point. I commented on Mark's post about the issue of alcohol, and why it is so important. I've got little more to add.

Meanwhile Tandleman has been awarded the honour of announcing this months Wikio wine and beer blog rankings. There are some movers for sure, some new entries and for me a nice jump of 6 places. Chuffed? you bet. But as Tandleman points out, most of the blogs in top of the category are beer, and yet it's called the wine and beer rankings. Something is not right.

Wikio ranks partly by cross linking of blogs. I'm helping those bloggers whom I've linked to here in improving or maintaining their next months ratings. Hopefully there might also be some less easy to define benefits in the friendliness I'm trying to promote. This brings me to my main point. Beer is mainly about friendliness. Having a pint3 is more than just drinking, it's about socialising. There may well be some strange people about in the beer world but generally we're all very sociable people. We are drawn together by more than just a malty, hoppy, perhaps a little fizzy alcoholic beverage. It's a social drink that is just right for promoting the best convivial environment we could wish for.

It's been said before, but it certainly seems that beer bloggers, like beer drinkers, are much more sociable people than the wine buffs. Why else would we support each others blogs? Who are the sad sacks and losers again?

I haven't managed to find the meaning of beer, what really is it that makes the beer world revolve? I've read Three Sheets to the Wind by Pete Brown and still can't answer the question, despite the book being about the author's own quest to answer the same query. Why should a liquor made from the extract of malted barley be so important? Why is the interest in a more diverse range of beers becoming a growing trend in a climate of decline? Why does beer gel people more than any other drink? And, in the interests of trying to tie this disjointed article into some sort of coherence, why is there so little positive news in the main stream press about beer when it is such an important part of our culture?

The alcohol is part of that; it's positive socialising benefits negated by its minority negative effects on society attacked as an easy chink in our armour. But there is far more to it than just the intoxicating effect, there is something extra to beer that cuts through social divides where wine, whisky, gin or rum can't. So it continues to frustrate me that main stream journalism fails to cover the huge amount of good news around in the beer world, we as beer writers have a responsibility to try and change that if we can.

The Guild Awards are part of that, a major event in the Beer Writers diary. If my writing about the Awards risks my chances by more potential candidates4 entering then it is worth it. If I also raise maybe only by a small degree, the profile of the Awards. After all, I'd prefer to enter and loose a worthy competition than scoop awards at something meaningless.

If beer means anything to you as a reader, take an interest in the Guild Awards and watch my twitter account on the 3rd December. Assuming I won't be too busy scooping awards, I'll be sulkily twittering about the ones that are.


1The Guild can be acronymed to BGBW which could also stand for Beautiful Great Big Women, make of that what you will. I think this observation can be attributed to Barm.

2Now before you all knock me down for even daring to criticise the mighty BrewDog, I think they have done exactly the right thing in releasing the low alcohol beer. I'm just not going to buy it. I would happily review it were Martin and James to send me a sample, but I'm not paying for it. You never know guys, I might even be convinced. Either way, giving the nanny state the finger is excellent.

3Or a half litre, or even 330ml if it's something stronger from a bottle, or a twofer or whatever. I worry about people who have hangups over size.

4It is not necessary to be a member of the Guild to enter the awards.


Mark Dredge said...

The extent of my 'prepping' is choosing a few articles, printing them and putting them in an envolope (it's at the point of putting them in the envelope that I've been noticing the terrible punctuation or spelling mistakes, doh!).

I'm currently in the process of editing a post about why I write a beer blog, so this is timely.

The meaning of beer is something that pops up a lot in my mind and I don't know if there is a definitive answer. It's something to do with life and friendship and fun. I'll keep drinking until I find the answer.

I'll be there on the 3rd. My first trip to the awards. Should be good fun - see you there mate!

Rob Sterowski said...

I don't like the new header. It's stilted and reads like a job application that tries to include as many buzzwords and qualifications as possible. I think it would be better if it were in the same direct and straightforward tone that you use for your posts.

Unknown said...

Mark, I look forward to seeing you you there too, it'll be a fun night.

Barm, thanks for the hoist appraisal - I'll give that some thought.

Alistair Reece said...

Guys, if you are on Facebook then come and join the International Union of Beer Bloggers group.

Back to the point. I am not sure beer has, or even needs, a meaning. I think rather than people have a need to create a focal point for their sociable nature. Whether that be twitchers, train spotters or tickers, it is human nature to be part of a larger community of like minded people. Beer gives us our focal point, gives us a subject about which to become knowledgable about - whether that is the insufferable know-it-all beer bore or the kind of person who just wants other people to try good beers they have had.

Perhaps that then IS the meaning of beer, humanity.

Tandleman said...

"Wikio ranks partly by cross linking of blogs. I'm helping those bloggers whom I've linked to here in improving or maintaining their next months ratings.2

Clearly the reverse is true too, so it isn't a one way street.

I have a sneaking sympathy with Barm's point of view on your new header and indeed your post. Seems like a little light jostling for position is afoot?

Cooking Lager said...

Is there free grog at this beer writers do?

Unknown said...

M'Lud, guilty as charged.

But Tandleman, I fully appreciate that it is a two way street. I enjoy the banter and friendly competitiveness that Wikio is generating. Without this competitiveness, and the cross linking and commenting in the beer blogging world, we would all be operating in pointless detached individual microcosms. I don't see a problem with light jostling providing it's all good humoured and sportsmanly like.

Now you'll have to excuse me, I have other world domination plans to execute today before returning to the blogging world to troll, I mean trawl other blogs that I've missed.

Oh, I see a typo, "honest appraisal" was what I meant Barm.

Unknown said...

Cookie, yes I believe there might be, but you'd have to come out of the woodwork and let us know who you really are if you want to go......

Oh, and a great deal of the grog might be very pongy indeed, not at all suitable for necking.

Mark, said...

It's been mentioned a few times in recent months that the beer community is hugely friendly and open to discussion. I think there's a general sense that we all want to promote beer as our passion first and foremost.

Without the welcoming arms of the beer community and those that have said hello on twitter I don't think our blog would be where it is today. Six months ago it wasn't even a twinkle in my eye!