Sunday, 3 March 2013

My thoughts on the basics and ethics of beer tasting, blogging & commentary...

The year 2012 is winding down.... It is time to plan the first batches of beer for the new year and to reflect on the year gone by. To say the least it was an eventful year. It was not quite what we expected, not in a bad way, but more in a a sense of learning a couple of new things, growing pains of starting to do things on a bigger scale and getting to grips with a few issues we thought we had a handle on... All in all it was a good beer year for us and I am pretty happy with the way things are going. The next year will be exciting, daunting, interesting and a big learning curve all rolled into one. There is one thing in the small South African beer community that got me hot under the collar this year and in this last part of the year I have reached my tipping point. The issue in question is irresponsible and anonymous commentary on brewers, breweries and their beer. Before I get into this let's look at the bigger picture: The South African Craft Beer Revolution is in it's infancy. We come from a background of fizzy yellow lagers and South Africans are slowly developing a more adventurous approach to beer. Most of the brewers are learning on the fly. We do not have a good frame of reference or many expert brewers to turn to for advice on many typical craft beer styles. We learn by means of trail and error and input from consumers. Small scale brewing techniques, beer marketing and all the various other issues with setting up a brewing business is a challenge, especially considering that most start-ups are brewing alongside having normal day jobs. As a small and pretty much amateur community we are all figuring this out as we go along. We are learning new things on a daily basis and we intend to learn these lessons quickly. Constructive criticism and advice from people are mostly appreciated and well received. Now back to irresponsible and/or anonymous blogging - and for that matter - twitter users. Yes, I am directing this at a very particular person or group of people on twitter... They know who they are and may even read this if the internet connection is not too spotty under the bridge or in the dumpster they live. I have had enough of irresponsible critique, commentary and/or opinions posted anonymously on the internet & twitter. My reasons for saying this are the following: Most of the small breweries starting up are small family businesses or sideline projects funded with money earned doing other jobs, loans and heaps of passion. We are all in it to make the best beer possible and to (hopefully) set up sustainable & profitable businesses. We are not huge conglomerates intent on extracting as much shareholder profit from consumers by means of mass production of fizzy yellow water. We are community centric, local industries with personal connections to our customers. Irresponsible critique, comments and/or opinions are not helping any of us in the beer community. It hurts both the consumer and producer... Bottom line is that this untactful behavior simply leaves a sour aftertaste... I guess it is pretty safe to say that we have more beers with minor (or even fairly big) defects that hit the market than we should. In fact it is an opportunity for discussion and maybe even education. There is no excuse for spewing derogatory critique on a public forum while hiding behind an anonymous avatar. If you are at a festival and there is something wrong with the beer you are drinking, walk up to the brewer and have a civil conversation with him. Discuss the problem and if you know how to fix it offer advice. If the brewer is not there or you are having a problem beer at a bar or at home send an email to the brewery or a direct message on twitter. At least give the guys an honest chance to respond, give you a better beer, give your money back or switch out kegs. I would say an honest and open person commenting on beers and handing out critique is much more credible than an anonymous coward. None of us like negative feedback, but it is necessary and all of us are willing to listen and learn. Well, that is enough of my banter. May 2013 be a great beer year for producers and consumers.

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