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Who is the world’s most influential beer writer?

Oxford Companion to BeerCan you name the most influential (living1) beer writer in the world? I couldn’t even begin to try.

But right now you could make an argument for Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver — given the attention being lavished on The Oxford Companion to Beer, the four-pound beer book that is a top seller at Amazon.

This is a monster with more than 1,100 entries and it fell to Oliver to decide what got on the beer ark and what didn’t.

“Oud bruin, come aboard. Gose, sorry too obscure.”

“Serebrianka, we wouldn’t turn away one of Cascade’s hop ancestors. Centennial? That’s a lovely letter of recommendation from Ralph Olson, but we only have room for 70 hop varieties.”

That’s influence.

However, Oliver nominated a different candidate for most influential last week at the Great American Beer Festival: Eric Asmimov of the New York Times, who writes regularly about wine and very occasionally beer. Oliver offered that opinion toward the end of a half hour discussion in the Brewers Studio Pavilion about “The Evolution of Beer Scholarship.” He was making a point about how differently publications of all sorts treat beer and wine.

Few newspapers feature regular coverage of beer (although there are many wine columnists). So while Asimov may write seldom about beer, he does so to a very large audience. There’s no denying his reach when he does delve into beer but he doesn’t speak with the same influential voice he uses when discussing wine. And he doesn’t do it often enough to wield the influence he obviously could.

Just to be clear, he could because he is a terrific and sensible writer. In fact, give his story about the Companion a read and stick around for the brilliant conclusion.

As beer programs like Eleven Madison’s and volumes like the “Oxford Companion” are partly an effort to portray beer in all its multifaceted glories, some fear that a consequence will be a rise in the same sort of anxieties and pretentiousness that plague and intimidate wine consumers.

I think this fear is overstated. Beer consumers are a far more confident lot than wine consumers. They’re at ease with beer, mostly because they’ve had a solid grounding in their subject, unlike wine consumers who’ve been brainwashed into believing they must be educated or taught how to “appreciate” wine before they can enjoy it. The “Oxford Companion” is simply a wonderful resource for what, even when it’s complex, unusual, unfamiliar or strikingly different, is still just beer, regardless of how it is dressed up.

Still just beer.

That echoes nicely about the room.

1 In such conversations the word living is implied, because we expect commentary on current events, comparisons of things new. Realistically, four years after his death, Michael Jackson remains the most influential.

67 Responses to Who is the world’s most influential beer writer?

  1. Alan October 6, 2011 at 8:14 am #

    I believe that you have fallen victim to a slightly silly question, sir. I think the question might be which beer writer has most influenced other beer writers. Brewers and drinkers might be influenced in separate ways again.

    I don’t see the Companion is yet in a position to be evidence of influence as we are not sure if it is reliable. Despite some calls to avoid reading with a critical eye, I think that will take some time. This is in addition to the concern I would have with determining “what got on the beer ark and what didn’t” as a measure of a writer’s skill.

    Or is influence neutral? Which is the writer with the largest loyal following might be the better question even if it is quantitative.

  2. Craig October 6, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    Nothing against Oliver, but I’m inclined to agree with Alan. Selective omission (or inclusion) and influence are not the same thing. As I mentioned on Alan’s blog, I’m not sure Oliver was the best choice for this volume—Although, as Alan also also brought up, who else would do it? I would argue that Oliver isn’t a beer writer, at all—He’s a brewer who happens to write about beer occasionally.

  3. Maureen Ogle October 6, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    Here’s my OXFORD COMPANION story:

    When I heard about the book, quite a few years ago, I wrote to Oliver offering my services for some of the entries.

    (That’s how books like this get created: someone gets the title of “editor” and then others with expertise write the entries.) (Oliver is also the ONLY person who earns money from the book. None of the contributors do.)

    I don’t remember if he responded to my email with a “no thanks,” or if I simply never got a response (which amounts to “no thanks.”)

    So that was that until several years later, when I got an email from the real editor (the person behind the scenes who actually does the hard work of editing the hundreds of entries of hundreds of writers).

    She wrote to ask if I would write the entries for five or six topics for which they’d apparently been unable to find a writer. One was Pabst Brewing Company, and one was August Busch IV; I can’t remember what the others were, but they were minor stuff.

    Oh, and by the way, she said, we’re going to press in three weeks. So we need them, like, tomorrow. (I exaggerate only slightly. I think she offered me three weeks.)

    Translation number one: we’ve hit the bottom of the barrel and we’re desperate. Please help us!

    Translation number two: We’ve already done the bulk of the history entries and those are likely based in large part on your book, but hey, wouldn’t you like to drop everything and do these minor entries on short notice for free??

    I declined.

  4. Steve October 6, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    “…some fear that a consequence will be a rise in the same sort of anxieties and pretentiousness that plague and intimidate wine consumers.”

    I think this is already happening — look at the story you posted on the CBS, Stan. Maybe not the same sort of intimidation (though Macro Beer consumers are often intimidated by micros), but the anxiety of not having that new Limited Edition and the pretentiousness of actually having your hands on it (one BA member actually posted a picture of his 6 bombers to show off) is indicative.

    For this reason (that being he doesn’t really see the big picture in the beer world), I often think Asimov’s beer-dabbling is somewhat shallow.

  5. Alan October 6, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    My other point on the question: who is writing about beer in Czech, German, Russian or Chinese? Are we certain our language is the language that best suits beer? Here in Canada, I am pretty sure that the best writing is in Quebec where one finds the best beer and by far the most hippest of the hipsters. And it is in French and I don’t read French.

  6. Stan Hieronymus October 6, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Alan – Too many more questions and I’ll end up offering a review (not ready to do that; big book, and there is the critical eye part) in the comments. I tossed the question out there because Garrett brought it up (by providing the answer). But your standards – influencing writers, brewers, drinkers – Jackson clearly remains No. 1.

    Craig – I haven’t read much of it in depth (other than hops; self interest) but Oliver’s passages tend to be a little less academic than some and thus a pleasure to read. The mark of a good writer.

    Maureen – You’ll be glad to know that John Holl cited your book at the end of the Pabst passage.

    Alan, again – The people influencing our beer behind the scenes – hop breeding, haze stability, studies like “Measurement of Changes in Human Emotions During the Smelling of Hop and Ester Aromas Using a Measurement System for Brainwaves” one of my favorites – all write in English. That doesn’t exactly address your thought but then this particular book is a combination of history, academia (some very technical) and popular culture.

  7. Lee Williams October 6, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Wait, Gose was omitted? Really. At the very least, it warrants a sentence or two. I suppose that’s a “no”, for the likes of Grätzer then as well? Burton ale?

    I hate to say it, but I’ve heard some disconcerting rumblings about this book from various writers; either involved or approached.

  8. Barm October 6, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Most influential is probably Charlie Papazian who (if I have my facts straight) came up with the style categories that inform (for good or ill) the thinking of nearly every American craft brewer. You don’t have to have read his books; the categories have been copied and pasted widely enough to be ubiquitous.

  9. Bill October 6, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    I guess it depends on where the sphere of influence rests. I’d guess Oliver’s beer/food matching book would make him the most influential due to its impact on folks in the restaurant business. Not sure about what the impact of the Oxford book will be. If it’s about getting folks to try beer, it would be a sad state of affairs if Asimov is the most influential writer — he’s a good writer, but he only does 3-4 beer tastings a year, and especially with the new firewall at, his reach has shrunk.

    There’s an opportunity here, folks! We’ve got to get somebody syndicated! Or get somebody a column at a well-known publication! Esquire or GQ needs a beer column.

    Too bad Lew Bryson’s run with Conde Nast didn’t last.

  10. Alan October 6, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    Not trying to highjack or be a dink but, OK, now if I were to name a name it is David Line. Populist English home brewer who informs Papazian as well as Graham Wheeler who inform the first wave micro brewers who inform today’s craft brewers. Line dies too young to be recognized for the door he opened. I am taking “influential” to mean who has most influenced and not most notorious or even most published. Influential in the sense of knowledge transfer: Geary in Maine influences and was influenced and as a result, I like Middle Ages slightly buttery imperial stout. Yum. Buttery beer.

    I simply can’t agree with automatic deference to Jackson even if he is hugely important. The subject is too nuanced. Probably I am halted by the use of the quantitative “most”. I am just not sure that or how or the degree to which beer writing of the observational sort rather than the technical sort has been an influence on craft beer. I probably would not have the same problem at all if the question was “who is or was the best beer writer to date?” The last two words are important as all this, too, shall pass and all our knowledge and opinions shall be exceeded by those today in diapers.

  11. Jeff Alworth October 6, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Beer writing had a beautiful first phase, and the most important figure there was Michael Jackson. He not only opened the world of beer up to the masses, but he helped inspire a generation of brewers. There can be little doubt but that he will go down as the most influential beer writer for some time.

    We’ve entered a second phase, where the role of the writer is not yet defined. Jackson was a combination travel-writer and journalist, and he opened the world of beer up to a huge group of people. (I’ll defer to the British readers to comment on his influence at home; I’m speaking of the US.) The world is now open. Information is out there. So, what’s next? Is the role of beer writer to document the unfolding of the beer industry in the post-craft era? To create a more codified system of criticism? To coax people into the world of good beer? Will beer writers look more like Robert Parker in the coming generation, or perhaps Ruth Reichl. Or perhaps someone like Bruce Chatwin.

    We don’t know. The Beer Companion places a stake in the ground for one kind of book; in the spring, Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb will release The World Atlas of Beer, another type. Perhaps there are others in the works. Personally, I think the work of historians like Martyn and Ron and Stan and Randy remain the most important writing, but influence is another matter. Hard to measure.

    Or perhaps–and this is the thing that wakes me up in a cold sweat–the age of beer writing is dying. We may be on to a new era in which hive-mind resources like BeerAdvocate replace writing. Maybe the most important beer writer in ten years will be an app.

  12. Craig October 6, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    First, I agree, Oliver is a good writer, but his role on the companion was as editor—as I’ve stated before editorial work and authorship are vastly different. Secondly, yes Garret Oliver is influential—as a brewer. Craft brewers may change their recipes, brewing procedures or even thier business models, because of Oliver. However, I can’t imagine that beer writers will change their style or approach to their wrting, because of his work on this book.

    To be honest, it seems like the beery blogosphere, is vastly more influential on how beer is thought about (whether that be beer production, consumption, review or news) rather than any one, single writer.

  13. Alan October 6, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    I like Jeff’s points except that there was a first phase before his first phase, Richard Boston and the lads

  14. ATJ October 6, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    Blimey, am surprised Gose isnt in it, but then in history books about Europe whoever heard of the Slovakia-Hungarian war of 1939?

  15. Sid Boggle October 6, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Asimov? I really like that book he wrote. ‘I, Robot’ I think it was… 😉

  16. Stan Hieronymus October 6, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    To be honest, it seems like the beery blogosphere, is vastly more influential on how beer is thought about (whether that be beer production, consumption, review or news) rather than any one, single writer.

    Spot on, Craig.

    The effect of what’s being written about beer in total – let’s include print and not only what’s written in English – is why I hadn’t even considered the matter of naming a single individual until Oliver brought it up last Friday.

    Other good points here, that I’ll try to get back to later today.

  17. Joe Stange October 6, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    Is that true, per Maureen’s comment, that the contributors were unpaid?

    I had some late correspondence with Oliver in which he wrote something like “oh hey, I should have asked you to help us out with this book.” Maybe I didn’t miss anything.

  18. Stan Hieronymus October 6, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    – Barm, Martyn Cornell has nicely summarized the invention of style. Talking to people who worked on the first style guidelines (that became the BCJP guidelines) they totally sought MJ’s input.

    – Re questions about Gose. I think Pete Brown put it well: “Let’s get the quibbles out of the way first: in today’s world of forensic pedantry surrounding beer, some people are bound to find errors. Others will take offence at subjective entries. Others still are bound to find glaring omissions, and some bits will have been out of date by the time the book went to press.”

    Somebody else can do the post that lists an A to Z (just one per letter please) of what wasn’t in. This was an impossible task.

    – Jeff, if you are going to slag plug “The World Atlas of Beer” I think you should also mention “The Beer Bible.”

    – Alan, if we are climbing into the Way Back Machine let’s see if we can find the 16th century works of Heinrich Knaust (including what are said to be descriptions of at least 150 beers).

    – Bill, and Lew has a great Klout score. You might be on to something.

    – Joe, a writer recruited early to the project told me the pay was 5 cents a word.

  19. Alan October 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm #


    And I was saddened by Pete’s truly silly statement. Not worth repeating. If the book is worth reading it is worth thinking about critically. And it will be. Specifically, if there is room for the silly empty redirects like that of “Sam Calagione” there ought to have been space for Gose. Or at least Heinrich Knaust.

    • Stan Hieronymus October 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

      Although I said I would leave A-Z to somebody else it looks like we have at least 5 letters claimed:

      B-Boston, Richard; C-Centennial (hop);G-Gose (rather than Grätzer); K-Knaust, Heinrich; L-Line, Dave.

  20. Jeff Alworth October 6, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    “Slagging??” I slagged no one. I haven’t even laid eyes on the Beer Companion (though Amazon assures me a copy’s on the way), so I’m in no position to comment.

    Maybe you meant “flog”–but I’m not ready for that either. Yours I’m happy to flog, and I might even pre-flog Hops based on BLAM and BW Wheat. But not a book with 413 contributors who are not me.

    (And I am well aware of the multiple meanings of flog and am relishing them now.)

  21. Alan October 6, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    Now you are just saucy.

  22. Stan Hieronymus October 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    I have no idea what happened, but this is a reminder not to enter comments via my phone (I blame autocomplete). Particularly ones too long to review easily.

    Although I should take the easy way out and say, sure flog, I tried to type plug (as in to praise and promote sales). I’m sure the World Atlas will be excellent, but I predict the Beer Bible (is the T up?) will be the biggest thing since, well, The Oxford Companion to Beer.

    OK, no more saying nice things about each other’s books. Instead, a quick quiz. One contributor to this thread also pitched in on this thread. Who was it?

  23. Maureen Ogle October 6, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    FWIW, perhaps nothing, the Oxford Companion series is typically VERY well done and highly respected and solid enough that scholars can trust it. So let’s all hope the Beer volume maintains the standard.

    As for the money thing: I only know that no one offered me money, but I gather that some people were. So. Hoorah for them. Seriously. Although five cents a word isn’t much.

    The usual deal with this kind of book (and there are bazillions of such books, most published by university presses) is that some Famous Person is appointed “editor,” for which task he/she sometimes (but not always) writes a introduction, gets his/her name on the cover, and collects ALL of the royalties.

    And the actual “writers” (or, as they’re known in the biz, the contributors) get zero. So if Oxford was offering five cents a word for this gig, that’s five cents more than usual.

    Whether this is “good” or even “great” beer writing remains to be seen.

  24. Alan October 6, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    “…solid enough that scholars can trust it…”?

    To weigh down things? Hold open doors? Far too early to say if it is largely correct rather than trustworthy. My review of a few entries that I know about is not suggesting anything near trust. It is well worthy and adds greatly to the discussion.

  25. Jon October 6, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    Wait, I’m late to this party, but how does a 4-pound, nearly 1000 page book “only” have room for 70 hop entries? Or not have room for Gose? One the one hand I can appreciate the Pete Brown quote Stan laid out regarding this type of thing but really—if you’re going to produce a book this big regarding beer, how do you not include things like that? I will have to side with Alan in this regard…

    …though I am still looking forward to this book. At some point.

  26. Peter H October 7, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    The arguments at the bar about which styles belong are fun, but I don’t think that is what the book should be judged on.

    It will be the MOST influential if writers use the entries for other stories. So those entries should be guaranteed correct. I want to read the book for fun, not to spend my time searching for other versions of what is printed.

    So what Alan said, except for the saucy part.

  27. Maureen Ogle October 7, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    Alan, the Oxford series is written for “experts,” yes, BUT the underlying assumption is that it should meet the minimal requirements of academia and academic scholars.

    So the oddball thing about the beer volume in this series is that, well, academia doesn’t currently have any kind of “beer” speciality. Yes, there are solid people writing solid pieces about, say, beer from a historical perspective, but those few people come nowhere near to being an academic “field.”

    But the intent, I’m sure, about this book was that it still adhere to the same standard as the rest of the works in the series (which, again, are all VERY good). (Yes, I am an escapee from academia.)

  28. Alan October 7, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    I agree, Maureen. My point is that from the bits I have scratched it does not achieve that standard. I rely academic and profession writing in my job as evidence or support for the creation of policy or the application of law. I have had to have it peer reviewed from time to time due to gaps or errors. I would have had the entries more vigorously peer reviewed – as this is how you build up that legitimate and substantive academic field.

    That being said, I do not believe that this is actually an expert text or an attempt at an encyclopaedia so much as a wonderfully thick and interesting snap shot of a very wide swath of topics which are relevant at this time presented in summary form. I wish it was annotatable in an open source format and do hope it is subject to successive editions like, say, Hugh Johnson’s Atlas of Wine. But even saying all that, it is a wonderful addition to the bookshelf and the discourse so I would caution others reading too much into what I am saying. Like Stan, I am always wary when folk say “I agree with Al”! 😉

  29. Mike October 7, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    For those interested, there are great chunks of the book already available on Goggle Books. From what I’ve seen so far, it looks like the editor has chosen American home-brewers as the target market. There are numerous articles that look like they belong in a chemistry text book and some of the old myths propagated by the BJCP and their followers (Ratebeer, etc.) are repeated by authors who should know better.

    Neither scholarly nor entertaining are words I would apply to this book based on what can be found online.

  30. Steve October 7, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    I wrote 15 entries, including lautering, carbonation and the brewing process. The rest were all minor descriptions of technical terms of interest to only brewers. I was paid for my work at a rate of 5c a word or 10c if I wanted to be paid in books from the OU press. Garret was directly involved in every step, assigning topics, providing feedback and approving final edits. This evidently involved personally reviewing every entry, adding, deleting or rewriting in some instances. He probably wrote a part of every single entry. While I cannot speak to the historical accuracy of the book, I agree with Maureen that the history of brewing has not been a topic of disciplined scholarly research for long (if ever). However that is not true of the technical brewing field. The problem there lies in the widespread proliferation of speculation and dogma that began with the first homebrew writers and has exploded on the internet. The number of multiple references that can be traced back to a single mistake in a home brewing book or article online is staggering. I’ve already seen posts on this thread disappointed that the book didn’t match their understanding of the facts and blaming the book. This book wasn’t written with a single voice despite the editor’s heroic efforts to coral it into some kind of uniform presentation.

  31. Stan Hieronymus October 7, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    Good timing, Steve. Since I wanted to follow up on Maureen and Alan (we can call you Al? I’ll have Paul Simon in my head all day) concerning academia and peer reviews.

    Granted, I’m not Joe Newcometobeer picking this up at Barnes & Noble, having read on the internet there’s a fact error on page xxx. I will look at the bottom of an entry and see is was written by Gary Spedding or Steve Parkes (not to make you blush) and consider it peer reviewed.

    With Val Peacock and Tom Shellhammer at point on hops – my particular obsession at the moment – I know those are bullet proof. In fact, I visited Shellhammer last month and learned about some new research going on at Oregon State that will turn some heads. But it won’t be in “For the Love of Hops,” even though that book isn’t out for a year. It needs more checking, more peer review.

    But as Maureen points out there aren’t traditional academic beer scholars (like who types those words in that order?). So not every entry can be vetted in the exact same way.

  32. Mike October 7, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Steve, I don’t know about the US, but Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson both have been writing, for several years, “disciplined scholarly research” on the history of brewing in the UK.

    “The problem there lies in the widespread proliferation of speculation and dogma that began with the first homebrew writers and has exploded on the internet.” I could not agree with you more.

    To many, the romantic myths might seem more exciting than the mundane truths about beer history, but is the point of books like this entertainment or accuracy?

  33. Alan October 7, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    I think that is a very good point, Stan. I do have a much greater sense of certainty in the technical entries than the cultural / historic one but, again, that reflects the nature, the maturity of the available data. To Mike’s point, if there is entertainment (which I think is related to curiosity) it is in the pursuit of the topic further than any brief entry could ever allow.

    [BTW – my next oldest bother apparently was supposed to be “Alan” but my mother say a guy at a garage a few days before his birth with “Al” on his greasy overalls. She only remembered that incident again well after she had filled out my birth certificate. No “namer’s regret” cooling off period under Ontario law in 1963 apparently.]

  34. Ron Pattinson October 7, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    I contributed one article – on Barclay Perkins – to the book. I don’t have the book and have only seen the pages available on the Google Books preview.

    What worries me is that the book will be generally assumed to be authoritative and reliable, for various reasons.

    Like Alan and Stan, I concentrated on the entries I know something about. In my case, the history of beer styles. The articles on Burton Ale, Berliner Weisse, Barley Wine and Brown Ale don’t inspire much confidence.

    According to the book:

    Mild is a type of Brown Ale.
    Lactobacillus and normal yeast are the only micro-organisms in Berliner Weisse – no mention of brettanomyces.
    Almost no analyses of Burton Ale exist.
    Bass No. 1 was a pale Barley Wine that inspired Gold Label.
    IPA had lots of alcohol to survive the journey to India.

    And I haven’t yet seen any of Horst Dornbusch’s style entries. There are bound to be some real howlers there.

  35. Steve October 7, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    I’ve searched, in vain, for textbooks that describe “dry hopping”, “first wort hopping”, “acidification of mashes”. Happy to see them included.

  36. Stephen Beaumont October 7, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    A late comment, and a quick one. I was offered a nickle per word for a couple or a few entries, I forget which. I declined.

    The idea that Eric Asimov could be the most influential writer on beer is, I think, well grounded IF one thinks only of America. Reaching beyond the beer cognoscenti to the general public is what MJ did so well, and what Mr. Asimov does through the pages of the Times. But on a global scale he is almost insignificant, and I’m surprised at the parochialism Garrett displays with such a statement.

    Gose does receive mention in The World Atlas of Beer. Centennial hops, too.

  37. Alan October 7, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    “Gose does receive mention in The World Atlas of Beer. Centennial hops, too.”

    Atta boy!

  38. Craig October 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    What’s funny about all of these posts is that they mimic the “what is the definition of craft beer” arguments. Everybody is coming at both arguments from differnt perspectives.The intention of the book seems to be what folks are at odds with. I think it all comes down to what the individual see as being the most important aspects of beer, i.e. historical accuracy, ingredient entries, processess. Is the volume to be used as reference, a teaching tool, general reading?

    It’s a slippery slope, this one.

  39. Stan Hieronymus October 7, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    Craig – Arguments Discussions about the definition of c***t beer, aside from being well worn, are often philosophical. Whether Achel or Westveleren is the smallest of the Trappist monastery breweries is a matter of fact. Facts can be checked, and should be.

    (In the Companion each is described as the smallest, which would bother me more if the production numbers weren’t listed. They are and it is easy for a reader to do the math.)

    For more examples, see Ron’s comment above.

  40. Joe Stange October 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Among many other nice things that could be said about the book, I will mention that “quadrupel” is not among the listings.

    On the topic of these Oxford books being meant as useful references for experts/academics… I don’t know. It’s a US$65 book that paid some contributors a nickel a word, possibly others nothing at all. That sounds to me like a book meant to make money. I don’t have a problem with that at all, except to note that for $0.05 a word or less you will sometimes get what you pay for.

    Another nice thing: The book is just flat out fun to read, and I suspect it was meant for that too.

  41. Craig October 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    The fact is, however, the readers preference to history/process/technique/and or wherever else that readers interest lies would determine if that person feels the Companion is successful in it’s approach.

    Literally are the two discussions (what is craft beer? And is the Companion successful?) the same? No, but they do share a wide variety of opinions attempting to determine an answer to both queries.

  42. Steve October 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    “I don’t have a problem with that at all, except to note that for $0.05 a word or less you will sometimes get what you pay for.”

    Joe… I’ll bear that comment in mind when I read your blog.

  43. Joe Stange October 7, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    Well played, Steve, and a great example.

  44. Alan October 7, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    Except of course we have to take into account the indirect and far more valuable “good will” that a well run blog adds and the resulting enhancement to the direct revenue stream. Nickle work is still nickle work.

    [Did I say that out loud? I know my digital publishing has earned me over 100 times what my printed writing has earned me (and I am relieved of the editor) but did I say that out loud?]

  45. Chris October 8, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    I don’t know the names you mentioned (Spedding, etc.) but I see Peacock is listed at technical advisor for hops. But higher up Horst Dornbusch is associate editor. Not sure what to think when I read this:

    Classic Horst.

  46. Steve October 8, 2011 at 8:04 am #

    I wrote my entries for the same reason I wrote the chapter on brewhouse practices for the “MBAA Practical Handbook for the Specialty Brewer” for no compensation. For me it enhances the reputation of my brewing school to have my work published in something that can be considered by some to be a text book, although evidently not by the members of the blogging community represented here.

  47. Alan October 8, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    A text is only as good as its actual content. Would you have us turn a blind eye to what is plainly there?

  48. Steve October 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    No you guys go right ahead and pick it apart 🙂
    No David Line isn’t in there, and I relied on his recipe for a Fullers ESB clone long after I knew the actual recipe, but neither is Geoff Palmer, Anna MaCleod, or Wolfgang Kunze. There’s no mention of the Russell Schehrer Award which represents a craft brewing hall of fame.
    Perhaps this discussion has given all of the semi pro beer writers some ideas to pitch to publishers. An AHA style book for Gose perhaps as we all love a beer that tastes like it was made with sea water. (should have been included btw, as should centennial hops because they are such a signature of some quite famous beers)

  49. Ron Pattinson October 9, 2011 at 2:16 am #

    They let Horst Dornbusch write the Scottish beer articles. Horst Dornbusch, who can’t even get German beer right. I’ll be spending the next few decades trying to repair the damage.

  50. Stan Hieronymus October 9, 2011 at 8:00 am #

    Steve –

    Perhaps this discussion has given all of the semi pro beer writers some ideas to pitch to publishers.

    After reading the discussion here and elsewhere I can’t imagine why anybody would want to write a book about beer.

    Of course I wonder about that on a daily basis ;>)

  51. Alan October 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    I do agree but not in terms of effort so much as medium. No author can be accused of creating the instant staleness of print – but there it is. No good editor should be accused of thoughtlessness in the face of historic effort either. I find much of this discussion to be far more about the nature of the presentation of information than anything. The various directions of snark aside, it is all about the effort and intent to better understand beer.

  52. Steve October 10, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    “After reading the discussion here and elsewhere I can’t imagine why anybody would want to write a book about beer.”

    LOL! and Amen.

    (BTW — I’m hoping another Steve in the list doesn’t confuse — this is my first post and I’ve never been paid for my beer writing. ;))

  53. Steve October 10, 2011 at 6:13 am #

    (…this is my first post…)

    First in this thread, that is.

  54. Pete Brown October 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Alan – I wasn’t suggesting the book should not be read critically – not at all. I was just trying to dispense with criticism quickly in order to get to praise asap. I did that because – and here’s a point to make in a discussion about beer writing – I increasingly think there’s too much criticism and navel gazing and not enough praise and celebration. I’m not saying ignore inaccuracies or accept lower standards, just that unleavened negative pedantry gets really, really dull after a while. Other bloggers have a very different take on beer writing than I do, and I am very grateful personally to those who spend all their time trying to get the micro details right – I depend on them for what I do. But I write to try and bring more people into beer, to help them appreciate it more, to make people passionate and enthusiastic about beer, and I think this book is a great tool for that.

    I’m astonished at people slagging Garrett on here. I know from the many conversations I had with him that editing the book was a heck of a job and one that took him ages. As for him ‘not being a writer’ – oh, come on! I’m not sure I totally agree with myself here, but I could probably make a pretty good case for Brewmasters Table being the most important book about beer in the last ten years before this one came along.

    As for the five cents a word… I’d have loved for it to have been more, and I grumbled about it while I was writing my pieces, but I wanted to be part of the project. And the list of very good beer writers, more knowledgeable than I, who seemingly felt the same as I did, is long indeed.

  55. Pete Brown October 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    Oh and Ron – as the author of the IPA entry, nowhere does it say IPAs were brewed strong in alcohol in order to survive the long sea journey to India. As someone so keen to get facts straight, I’m surprised at you misquoting the for misrepresenting the entry.

  56. Ron Pattinson October 11, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    “IPA is a beer style characterized by high levels of alcohol and hops.”

    First sentence in the article. You’re right, it doesn’t actually say it was brewed strong to survive the journey to India. I’ve seen the strong to survive the journey claim so often I sort of jumped into that one. My apologies.

    I’ve no real argument with the IPA article, though I’m not sure I’d have written that first sentence.

    The bits of Horst’s stuff I’ve seen are truly dreadful and should be burned.

  57. Barm October 11, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

    Not in Pete’s article, but the entry on Edinburgh says IPA was “a high-alcohol, heavily hopped beer that traveled well, particularly to the Indian subcontinent”.

    Based on what I’ve seen so far, Pete contributes some of the most careful and meticulous writing to the book.

  58. Steve October 12, 2011 at 6:07 am #

    In Martin Cornell’s book “Amber, Gold and Black’, in the chapter on IPA, the author describes how the long voyage over rough seas dramatically improved Hodgson’s October beer. So the sentence “a high-alcohol, heavily hopped beer that traveled well, particularly to the Indian subcontinent” seems reasonably accurate.
    Sorry to drag this down into the realm of “unleavened negative pedantry” Pete.

  59. Ron Pattinson October 12, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    Steve, except at 6 to 6.5% ABV, it wasn’t particularly strong. About the same as entry-level Mild or ordinary Porter.

  60. Steve October 13, 2011 at 5:54 am #

    Early on in my brewing career I worked with John Wilmot, ex head brewer at Mackesons and the Wilmot in Godson, Freeman and Wilmot a London brewery in the early 80s. He was born in 1900 and brewed with Drybroughs in 1914, and kept all of his brewing books. I saw recipes from the 20s using California barley malt, Tunisian barley malt, Californian hops etc. He always talked about how strong beer was before the war and the levels of drunkenness he personally witnessed as a child. I wish I’d thought to ask him to bequeath me his books. At Tisbury we brewed Old Grumble at 1.060 (actually 1.0599 for tax reasons) same starting gravity as Ringwood brewed Old Thumper and those were about as strong as I ever wanted cask beer to be.

  61. Alan October 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    [I wasn’t aware this was still going on. ]

    Pete, I hear you but I just don’t get “in today’s world of forensic pedantry surrounding beer…” You may have thought the words were not so strong but I think they are a wee bit of “kick at arse” so that is where I was coming from.

    While I honestly am not as interested in promoting good beer as exploring my own interest in it, I do agree that there should be a pleasure in good beer, in discussions of good beer and in books about good beer. But when I can’t read the entry about my own country without shaking my head a number of times and then I find another problem and another and another… well, how long do you go? Is the book solid or isn’t it? I judge all books on that basis. I don’t think that is being hyper critical so much as aware.

  62. Joe Stange October 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    From Pete: “I increasingly think there’s too much criticism and navel gazing and not enough praise and celebration.”

    Not talking about the book, but just generally, I increasingly think the opposite of this. Not so much on the “navel gazing,” but I think beer writing could actually use more critical perspectives and less “hooray beer!”

    But I sense that you have given the issue a lot of thought and would be interested to here more. Here, your blog, wherever.

  63. Martyn Cornell October 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    Steve, that line in AGB about how “the long voyage over rough seas dramatically improved Hodgson’s October beer” is one that, even a couple of years after writing it, I think I’d be inclined to tone down now: it’s become increasingly obvious that, actually, there is little or no CONTEMPORARY (ie 19th century) evidence to support this claim. Later experiments suggest changes DID happen on the voyage, but I’m not aware of any 19th century writer who says so.

    I’d love to praise a book that has taken such a huge amount of effort from a very large number of people, but from the tiny amount I’ve seen, there appears to be a worrying amount of inaccurate information being repeated – worrying because, as others have said, because this is an OUP book, readers will assume it must be right.

  64. Jon Griffin October 19, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    @Maureen – So the oddball thing about the beer volume in this series is that, well, academia doesn’t currently have any kind of “beer” speciality. Yes, there are solid people writing solid pieces about, say, beer from a historical perspective, but those few people come nowhere near to being an academic “field.”

    There actually are academics in the beer world, and classes are taught in higher education institutions.


    As for those who argue all the time about this style and that, understand that like the music business or film business, styles are a necessary evil. Half created by marketers and half created by participants.

    I teach in my classes to the BJCP guidelines, but never expect every beer to fit. They are exactly that, guidelines, and should only be looked at as a starting point to classify, compare and contrast.

    BTW, I didn’t write anything on the styles so I have no skin in that game.

  65. Pete Brown October 20, 2011 at 12:57 am #

    “that line in AGB about how “the long voyage over rough seas dramatically improved Hodgson’s October beer” is one that, even a couple of years after writing it, I think I’d be inclined to tone down now: it’s become increasingly obvious that, actually, there is little or no CONTEMPORARY (ie 19th century) evidence to support this claim.”

    Martyn, I’d argue there’s plenty of circumstantial 19th century evidence – namely the multiple ads in the Calcutta Gazette, which would often talk about he being having ‘ripened’ on the journey, and how this or that particular consignment was now ‘fully ripe’ and ready for drinking, strongly implying that it was in a different condition that when it had left the UK.


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