To What End, The Traveling Beer Writer’s Argument?

I was shaking my head at another piece of Roger Protz’s writing last night. This time it was a bit on Chimay. I like Chimay as much as anyone so my concerns do not relate to the brewer – but you will recall that Mr. Protz is hardly monastic himself. He has a temper and a lack of discretion when it comes to other members of humanity. And he can shock with both error and recreational rudeness. So, it was with that guilty pleasure one has following the misfortune of others that I read this early paragraph about the most commercial of the Trappist monasteries, Chimay:

Some of the criticism, on websites in particular, is couched in a style of vulgar abuse that doesn’t warrant attention. But a number of serious and well-disposed writers have also levelled the criticism that beer quality has declined.

Note those last four words: “…beer quality has declined.” After completing them, Protz goes on for a thousand words or so, writing in a rather hostile tone, making arguments that would lead you to suppose that quality has not changed let alone declined. But then he writes the words (typo his): “Sample of Red and Blue that I have tasted in Britain recently have been less complex than I remember them.” Less complex? Isn’t that usually one example of what one might describe as a decline in quality? Why is the argument structured in this way? Why does he posture and accuse when in the end he is essentially agreeing with the point he is attacking? And why does he use this sort of summation, avoiding natural causal connection:

That, I believe, is the result of some change and slight diminution of complexity in the beers, not a sell-out by the monks to the forces of commercialism. I am well aware that this is unlikely to satisfy those who prefer the conspiracy theory of history.

Isn’t the proper idea for that sentence the more active “cause” not the passive “result” – and isn’t what has been “caused” by the brewery’s intentional change in fermentation processes a loss of complexity and therefore a decline in beer quality? Isn’t that the news here? Why the abandonment of objective analysis? With the given choice of argument and structure – not to mention the mix of accusation and hostility with the apologist’s agenda – what are we left with? A muddle. To what end, I have no idea.

One thought on “To What End, The Traveling Beer Writer’s Argument?”

  1. [Original comments…]

    Jay Brooks – December 4, 2010 5:09 PM
    I’m a bit put off by the inference (or is he downright implying) that critics who write “on websites in particular” are “vulgar” and don’t warrant any attention. But “serious and well-disposed writers” — you know, the ones in print — once they pipe up with the same ideas, then, and presumably only then, can attention be paid. As a professional writer who writes in both places (doesn’t everybody these days?) what’s with the cheap shot at online writing?

    Pivní Filosof – December 4, 2010 5:43 PM
    Because many of them are fearing threatened, that they’ll become irrelevant. And with printed media slowly going the way of the dinosaurs, that fear becomes stronger and stronger.

    In the past, theirs was the Holy Word when it came to, in this case, beer. Their readers could hardly cross check the facts exposed by these authors and they had little chance to bring attention to eventual mistakes the authors may publish (yes, they could send a letter to the editor, which could also be thoroughly ignored).

    Blogs, on the other hand, give the reader the option of adding more information, correcting mistakes, opening debates, challenging the authors ideas and opinions and on top of that, they can speak about things are of more immediate interest. However much Mr. Protz might know about beer and brewing, I don’t think there is a whole lot he can tell me about what’s happening in The Czech Rep., Spain or Argentina, for example, and that, among other things, is where blogs have a great advantage and that is why their popularity is increasing, much to the chagrin of Protz, Alan Brewer and their likes.

    dave – December 4, 2010 7:43 PM
    Also since they changed the fermentation process to speed it up, which then means they make (and sell) more beer, doesn’t that mean they did go along with “the forces of commercialism” (just not through the purchase of cheaper ingredients)?

    Confusing piece.

    Ron Pattinson – December 5, 2010 7:05 AM
    I currently running my annual competition for bullshit in historical beer writing: the Protz Shield and the Papazian Cup:

    Joe Stange – December 6, 2010 4:56 PM
    By ‘websites’ he might be talking about Ratebeer/BeerAdvocate-type free-for-alls, not necessarily beer blogs.

    Anyway, isn’t all this stuff with Chimay old news?

    Alan – December 6, 2010 5:54 PM
    It might be if I was aware of what the news actually was about Chimay.

    Alan – December 6, 2010 5:57 PM
    Remember, too, that Protz went “freaky handbags” over his own website’s former capacity to accept comments at his now dead blog.

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