To be honest, its been quite for a while there. Too quiet. I would have been questioning the value of my time put into this weekly round up but, fortunately, I am far less self-aware than that. My plunking together of this thing every seven days takes about as much effort and thought as scraping a razor across my face each morning. That being said, what a week it has been in the world of thinking about beer and brewing. Cats and dogs! We’ll unpack that a bit but before we do, just as a reminder that no one should have hard feelings, I offer this photo of Monty, the Hook Norton Brewery horse who retired this week. Nice horsey. See? That’s so nice. Not like a huge cow at all. OK, enough of that. Settle in. On to the mud slinging!
Next, this piece on opening a restaurant in Toronto and then failing at it was extremely instructive for anyone still considering the foolish route of following one’s passion:
Out of desperation, Dorothy invited her mother to the restaurant for dinner, where we sheepishly explained our problem. A sensible woman, my mother-in-law was always convinced that my restaurant was a stupid idea. We were handily making her case. Nevertheless, she agreed to lend us a few thousand dollars to cover payroll. But her loan was eaten up so quickly that by the next payday, I was short again.
There are so many people who’ve lifted me up this year, and believe me, I’m a neurotic mess, I need a lot of lifting. If you have ever told me you liked reading a blog post I wrote, or sent me some constructive feedback, or left a comment that caused me to think differently about something I’d written, or met up with me for a pint and a chat, or sent a Ko-Fi tip my way, or DMed me to see how I was, or allowed me to awkwardly hug you at a beer festival, or asked me to read something of yours, it means the world to me. Not because of what happened last week, but because this year I finally started doing something I’ve always wanted to do.
Fabulous. Again and much more conversely, the massive self-inflicted botch Boston’s Trillium is undergoing has been instructive in a number of ways including (i) how not to seek to correct a story, (ii) what can be found in the public record – and, not the least of which, (iii) how it filtered and organized beer writers into camps of sorts. Crystal Luxmore appeared to put the whole thing down to a “disgruntled employee” in her tweet upon the matter. But then wrote of outrage. Bryan Roth subtly hinted at something of seeming pro-ownership view in GBH: (i) allowing that working for crap wages in a “prestige” business (a term he included, left laying there but never really explained in the context of a 5000 brewery universe) while also (ii) including this fabulously and maybe telling wee nugget:
As these back-and-forth public spats tend to do, there’s no winner in a series of “he said,” rebuttals.
It’s a way of discrediting the complaint, isn’t it. And to what end? There is a risk of turning business ethics and employment standards into a matter of personality, framing the “disgruntled” as having “spats” is a conscious choice that a writer makes, leaving doubt as to purposes. Jeff Alworth (like Jason and Craig) saw things far differently in a piece (as well as follow ups) that he introduced by tweet in this way:
A Trillium worker revealed that his pay had been cut from $8 to $5 an hour. That was only the start of the brewery’s trouble. How owner JC Tetreault responded was a case study in bad crisis management.
Jeff backed that up in the comments by way of a response to his own piece:
I’m assuming that Trillium was making enough money to continue to pay their employees $8/hr. Trillium is wildly successful, and has been under constant expansion for years. Pay cuts look bad and result in disasters like this for the darlings of beer. Unfair? I don’t think so.
To be clear, all these writers are excellent but they may come to the discussion with a view and sometimes interests. I certainly do. This is normal. It’s the marketplace of ideas – in both the senses of ideas fighting for their place and also the voices fighting for… let’s just say their own place. Very normal. Except… it is not much discussed in the great big fiction that is the unified, harmonized, sanitized beer community. Fabulous organic clannishness hot takes all.
Speak of which and perhaps conversely, right after that Pete Brown announced that the British Guild of Beer Writers has issued a Code of Conduct! Heavens to Betsy! This is the sort of thing that filled a beer bloggers mind in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. And 2011. You can read the Code here for yourself. A few questions immediately jumped out for me:
1. the document speaks of members of the Guild as professional [s.1.1] and that a disagreement between members should be
dealt with in an appropriate business-like manner [s.1.3]. This is the deathknell* of the Guild to the degree it might want to present an organization which might be considered to speak as or for consumers not because of the standards that are being set but due to the reasons stated for setting the standards. This is especially odd give many if not most Guild members are not professionals in either the sense of (i) being solely a beer writer or (ii) supporting oneself with writing. Many tinker. Many others write and earn in a wider context of revenue streams as we saw last week.
2. the prohibition of endorsing “any commercial product or
service save for the promotion of her/his own work or the medium in which it appears” [s.2.2.1] is going to be very problematic for those members, perhaps most of them, who spend most of the time promoting the commercial product known as beer.
3. Good luck having anyone involved abide by the requirement to “give full disclosure if reporting on a press trip or other visit or significant hospitality that has been paid for by the brand or company being written about, or their agencies” [s.2.2.3] if by full disclosure we mean full disclosure. Too often all we can expect is the “trust me” or assertion (and one quite correctly asserted) that writing does not pay well enough not to take all… err… the support one can.
I do not point these things out to be unkind but to state that the undertaking of such a thing as a Code of Conduct is a minefield. Unlike others, I congratulate the BGBW for trying to take on the role of diffusion technician.
Now, to conclude, some shorter news items…
Note: Eoghan warns not to read to much into a loose organization acting as a loose organization as members leave the shadowy HORAL.
Remember: There are other sorts of bad employer practices in craft brewing.
Warning: the cheese has been always been high at GBH but this piece is extraordinary. It’s like a 1970s Coke ad or a dreamy John Denver song.
Affirmed: IPA is meaningless.
Also affirmed: stories too good to be true often aren’t.
Fabulous: Stan reports upon lambic exports in the 1830s.
Even more fabulous: excellent and extended research reported out on the demise of All About Beer Magazine.
Isn’t that enough for all you all? The good. The bad. And the ugly. Can’t I lay down my head now and have a well deserved nap? I think I shall. I think I will do just that. Happy early December without an edition of #TheSession. Pause and reflect as we move towards that quieter Friday. In the meantime, remember to check out Boak and Bailey for their news nuggets most Saturdays.
*Fine. Yes, “partial deathknells” are a silly idea… but I got your attention.