Samples & Disclosure Policy

Policy Regarding Samples

Yes, I do accept samples and am always happy to receive samples of beer or related products. Please e-mail me to get shipping information, and thanks!

Disclosure Policy

In October of 2009, the Federal Trade Commission published an update to their guidelines governing endorsements and testimonials, broadly defined. The changes primarily effected “Testimonial Advertisements, Bloggers, [and] Celebrity Endorsements.” While I do blog, and the Brookston Beer Bulletin is a blog, my primary source of income comes from writing elsewhere, usually in print for newspapers, magazines and books. As a result, I believe I am largely exempt from the new guidelines, but in the interest of the spirit of the new rules, below is my Disclosure Policy. If you’re reading the Brookston Beer Bulletin, you should know the following. As a journalist and member of the media:

  1. I regularly receive beer samples and related products from a variety of sources, with no expectation of a positive review or indeed any review.
  2. I am regularly admitted to beer events, such as festivals, dinners, etc., without paying the admission fee, again with no expectation of a positive review or indeed any review.
  3. I occasionally am invited on press trips, which is often partly compensated. I will disclose any such trip during the first piece written about such travel, but not necessarily in subsequent writing, unless appropriate.
  4. The Brookston Beer Bulletin is a personal blog written and edited solely by me.
  5. The Brookston Beer Bulletin does not accept any form of advertising, sponsorship, or paid insertions. I write for my own purposes. However, I may be influenced by my background, occupation, experience, or similar factors.
  6. Apart from donations, I never receive compensation in any way from this blog.
  7. I am not compensated to provide my opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics, unless otherwise noted. The views and opinions expressed on the Brookston Beer Bulletin are purely my own. If anything here appears to endorse a particular product, that is only because I believe in it or honestly like it and, based on my expertise, that it is worthy of such perceived endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.
  8. This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest, unless otherwise noted.

From the FTC Guidelines:

§ 255.5 Disclosure of material connections

When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience [my emphasis]), such connection must be fully disclosed. For example, when an endorser who appears in a television commercial is neither represented in the advertisement as an expert nor is known to a significant portion of the viewing public, then the advertiser should clearly and conspicuously disclose either the payment or promise of compensation prior to and in exchange for the endorsement or the fact that the endorser knew or had reason to know or to believe that if the endorsement favored the advertised product some benefit, such as an appearance on television, would be extended to the endorser.

I interpret that to mean that my audience is primarily beer lovers who can reasonably be expected to know my connection to the industry. In perhaps a better example, a movie reviewer such as Roger Ebert does not disclose in every review he writes that he attended the movie free of charge because people can reasonably be expected to know that. Robert Parker does not say in every review he writes that he got the bottle of wine for free, because his status as a wine expert means it’s reasonable that people would understand that. That’s also why every colleague I know does not make an individual disclosure in every piece they write, whether online or otherwise. I only disclose something under special circumstances, in cases where people would not reasonably expect something. In such cases, where appropriate, I will of course disclose any unusual relationship or circumstance. But with samples I receive or most events I attend, I believe my status in the beer community is well-known enough that I don’t have to each and every time, pursuant to the the guidelines.

I hesitate to label myself an “expert,” but for purposes of the disclosure rules I am insofar as I believe I can reasonably say that I’m “known to a significant portion of the viewing public,” at least within the beer community, which is my audience. I’ve been writing about and/or worked in the beer business for nearly 20 years so I don’t think that’s a stretch. Caveat lector.