The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts The Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing of all the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry (see link, posted to comments in due course). This month’s Session is hosted by Ding at Dings Beer Blog (www.dingsbeerblog.com) and his question is this: ‘What’s your role in the beer scene?’ Are you simply a cog in the commercial machine if you work for a brewery, store or distributor? Are you nothing more than an interested consumer? Are you JUST a consumer? Are you a beer evangelist? Are you a wannabe, beer ‘professional’? Are you a beer writer? All of the above? Some of the above? None of the above? Where do you fit, and how do you see your own role in the beer landscape?
For twenty years I worked in ‘big beer’. Working my way up from a green-gilled management trainee, selling cases of Lamot Pils in Liverpool or Launceston, Tennent’s Gold Bier in Partick or Pencaitland, to a marketing person launching brands or making their adverts to the heady heights of running innovation or sitting on the Board. My role was clear: and it was commercial. To sell more beer, more profitably. To impact the share price in a positive way. To help the business earn bonus.
But always there was an itch to scratch, a lack of fit. That business was run by accountants. It thought at one point it listened to consumers, at others that it was customer-centric. But it was neither. It was run for the money, nothing more. That’s fine, but it meant that sometimes, beer was actually a loser. Some brands, remarkable in their longevity were actively run down (‘cannibalised’ is the business term) to grow focus brands, often which had less real potential – except for leveraging the money machine further. And the itch grew itchier. Before the world of work, at University, my knowledge and passion for beer grew. I was never a homebrewer (it never really crossed my mind to try to be honest, I had no role models who did it) but I was interested in beer, both as a drink in itself and as, without sounding naff, a drink of the people. This was the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Jilly Goulden was expectorating about poncey food on the box and all the focus was going on wine. On exclusivity. On snobbery. On one-upmanship. And it wasn’t for me.
So I became interested in beer and travelled and drank widely. I watched ‘The Beer Hunter’ and I bought the books. But I went to beer cultures too: notably Germany and Belgium and saw what reverence for beer really was. It fired me up.
Then two decades in big beer slowly killed it… yet, not quite. The itch is there and today I scratch it; with abandon, without fear of the need of aqueous cream. I can immerse myself in the world of beer again without any guilt, without any feelings of corporate betrayal. And oooooh. It feels good. Almost three years ago, on the back of a general desire to write, but not yet having the plot for my novel agreed, I decided to write about beer. More than anything for myself, and for the practice of finding my voice. I blog on other things too – but beer is my first love.
So does that give me a ‘role in beer’? Until the question was posed, I had never given it much thought, and truth be told I am not wholly sure. I have spent my working life in business involved in some way with beer, so I bring a commercial and branding angle to beer that is missing from many craft operations. Perhaps that is my role: but no, I am not trying to be a craft brewing consultant*. Perhaps I am a beer writer, after all I write about beer. But no, in the main I loathe beer reviews and am too critical of my own writing to take it too seriously. But what am I is pro beer. I want all brewers to up their game; to realize that brewing good beer is important. That branding your beers well is just as important. That retailing beer in the right way, serving properly, in the right glass, is important. Because that way more and more discerning adults will be pulled back into beer’s sphere of influence. That can only be a good thing, can’t it? I am, in short, a beer zealot.
* although to continue the ‘Simon Zealots’ / Jesus Christ Superstar theme, to paraphrase, “You might as well take it, my rates are good”
© Beer Tinted Spectacles, 2014