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The beer myths that keep on giving

Ben Franklin misquotedEarlier this summer Martyn Cornell wrote that the Wikipedia entry on India Pale Ale “so completely, uselessly wrong as to be actively dangerous: the mistakes in it are going to be repeated by other writers too lazy to do their own research, and they are likely to take years to stamp out.” A bit of a discussion about Wikipedia followed with a bit of a sidebar about how dang frustrating it is to see myths get repeated as fact.

We were in the Canadian Rockies at the time, and later it seemed too late to chime that small breweries are also a culprit when it comes to the IPA story. A shorter version of the Wikipedia entry gets shown thousands of times a day to drinkers ordering from brewpub menus or customers reading the blurb on the neck label. In the long run this propagates the information just as dangerously as Wikipedia.

I thought of that this week when we visited Independence Hall in Philadelphia — yes, “America’s Best Beer Drinking City” but this was a home school field trip. The gift shop sells all manner of items quoting Benjamin Franklin, including T-shirts and coasters, proclaiming, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

The problem is that Franklin probably never said this. Mid-Atlantic Brewing News explained this well nearly three years go (no link to the story – sorry), and Bob Skilnik had more details shortly thereafter.

What do you think the chances are the gift store will withdraw these obviously good sellers from its inventory for the sake of historical accuracy?


7 Responses to The beer myths that keep on giving

  1. Nathan August 29, 2008 at 3:17 pm #

    That Wikipedia entry is pretty bad! Not only inaccurate, but not very well written or organized.

  2. Kristen England August 29, 2008 at 9:32 pm #

    I really don’t understand the ‘wiki-ality’ of everything regarding beer. ‘Because we say, it its true!’ Thats just bollocks. Stan, Gordon Strong and I shared a great bottle of discounted St Bernardus Christmas 750ml (b/c it was old, after Xmas?) when he came up for a visit and had a good discussion regarding various ‘ideas.’ Its funny when people have nothing to base their ideas on other than books that were written with circular references that say anything/nothing. I love the fact that Stan always keeps his morals and will say you are full of it when you have nothing to back up your own an argument. Cheers again to Stan for making us all make sure we don’t pass on the drivel that people copy b/c they ‘heard’ it somewhere.

    Stan, you better be keeping your arm warmed up with your violin lessons (for the kid – douches stop being creepy) so you can keep up with the ‘Deutcher’ mensch. I wouldn’t want you to lose any respect over there. Just remember one phrase, when you are completely drunk and you here However, if you are drunk and writting and the bartender comes over and say, ‘Was machst Du da für Scheiße?’. You just say, ‘Bier schreiber!’ Hopefully that will do! If not, order a few rounds of Obst and things will work themselves out.

  3. Todd August 30, 2008 at 6:32 am #

    I just read the other day at probrewer about a legal situation where a lawyer mentioned that other “lawyers use wikipedia in court cases”.

    I guess the assumption is out there that wikipedia is factual enough for the courts.

    As with any information, “don’t believe it all, and don’t disregard it all”.

    How are the hop harvests out there Stan?

  4. Stan Hieronymus August 30, 2008 at 8:02 am #

    Kris – You’ll notice I didn’t start in on the whole candi sugar things . . .

    Nathan, maybe I should have drawn some analogy to talk radio.

    Todd – Wish there were time to swing through upstate NY and check out the hop crop. We’ll be in the Halltertau region in early October, so maybe will have a better idea what’s going on there.

  5. Velkyal September 2, 2008 at 1:26 am #

    Perhaps I am butting in on this conversation but did any of you correct said misinformation on Wikipedia?

  6. Thomas September 3, 2008 at 9:13 am #

    In regards to the Brewing News and lack of link honestly that is my biggest problem with all their publications. They contain good regional beer info but the lack of a real online presence, they have a token website at best. One of the problems that wikipedia would have with correcting the article, is unless you can link to the stories that have correct information it isn’t considered necessarily accurate and in this day and age there is no excuse for the Brewing News publications to not be.

    It’s a tangent point to the main point of this post to which I agree, but it may help address Velkyal question as why it can’t be fixed.

  7. Velkyal September 3, 2008 at 11:50 pm #

    I was looking on the discussion page for the article in question and there was support for the information to be changed. Of course it being Wikipedia then citations are required, but as long as they are present then the article can be freely changed, or even add a section in the main article discussing alternative views of the history of IPA.

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