Fighting The Beer Revolutionary War In The Next Session

For our 79th Session, our host is Adrian Dingle, better known online simply as Ding through his Dings Beer Blog. Not surprisingly, he’s decided to shake things up with a provocative topic, the USA versus Old World Beer Culture.

Anyone with any inkling of my online, in-person and blogging presence in the American beer world since 2000, will know that the whole of my beer experience in that time has been colored by, sits against the backdrop of, and forms the awkward juxtaposition to, my English beer heritage and what has been happening the USA in the last few years. Everyone knows that I have been very vocal about this for a very long time, so when it came to thinking about what would be a great “Session” topic, outside of session beer, it seemed like that there could be only one topic; “What the hell has America done to beer?,” a.k.a., “USA versus Old World Beer Culture.”

This probably won’t be pretty, and you’re probably not gonna like it much, but hey, what’s new?


So on Friday, September 6, let the battle begin. What do you think America has done to beer? And in comparison, what about England? Are we at war? Are we having a beer war? Or is the “special relationship” intact? Grab your musket, a pewter tankard of some session beer (however you define it!) along with your laptop, and let slip the dogs of beer war.


Time To Enter Our Beer Writing Contest

If you write about beer in print or online or broadcast, please consider joining over 100 of your colleagues in the newly reformed North American Guild of Beer Writers. Even if I can’t persuade you to join, if you’ve written something you’re proud of between July of last year and June 30 of this year, you should enter it in our NAGBW Writing Contest, which is open to non-members as well as guild members. Our goal is to raise the level of beer writing by rewarding the best efforts of our colleagues. “NAGBW’s awards honor the best beer and brewing industry coverage in seven categories. Journalism, feature writing, freelance authors, blogs and broadcast or published in print or online are eligible.” Don’t delay, because the deadline is coming up fast; it’s August 26.


The seven categories are for Best Book, Magazine Writing, Newspaper (Paid Circulation) Writing, Brewspaper/Free Zine Writing, Beer Blog, Beer and Food Writing, and Broadcast/Podcast. The cost to compete is $30 per entry (but only $15 for members — see, you should join).

Submit your entry or entries online through our partner Submittable by next Monday, August 26. Again, that’s for work published or broadcast between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013. Online submissions are accepted at, and print books may be mailed to: Lucy Saunders, Attn: NAGBW Awards, 4230 N. Oakland Ave. #178, Shorewood, WI 53211.

If you have any questions, contact via our website, drop me a line, or simply comment here. Award winners will be announced during GABF, date and time to be announced shortly. Perhaps I’ll see you there?

Let’s Hear Your Elevator Pitch For Beer

For our 78th Session, our host is James Davidson, who writes beer bar band, where he writes about his many passions, and also writes about beer for the Australian Brews News. His topic asks everyone to make their “elevator pitch” to be as “persuasive and passionate about beer can you be in the short[est] space possible?” Here’s a fuller explanation of how to make Your Elevator Pitch for Beer:

“Elevator pitch” is a term used by marketers, sales people, film/tv makers and the like. It’s the delivery of a short but powerful summary that will sell their idea or concept to the listener in one swift hit.

Here’s the scenario:

You walk into an elevator and hit the button for your destination level. Already in the elevator is someone holding a beer…and it’s a beer that annoys you because, in your view, it represents all that is bad with the current state of beer.

You can’t help but say something, so you confront your lift passenger with the reason why their beer choice is bad.

30 seconds is all you have to sell your pitch for better beer, before the lift reaches the destination floor. There’s no time, space or words to waste. You must capture and persuade the person’s attention as quickly as possible. When that person walks out of the elevator, you want them to be convinced that you have the right angle on how to make a better beer world.

Here’s the rules:

  1. In less than 250 words or 30 seconds of multimedia content, write/record/create your elevator pitch for beer in which you argue you case, hoping to covert the listener to your beer cause.
  2. Blog/publish it online on Friday 2nd August, 2013.
  3. When your contribution has been posted, leave a comment here with a link to your post. Alternatively, email, tweet or facebook me with a link to your post.

The topic is essentially open. It is whatever you feel passionately about when it comes to the misgivings of beer in today’s market and/or culture.

What is the argument/topic that you believe will best advance a better beer world? You may just want to argue for craft beer over mass-produced bland lagers. Maybe you actually want to end the need to define “craft beer”. Maybe it’s that the way gender is used or represented when it comes to beer, such as attempts to push “girly styles”. Maybe you believe brands like Carling, Samuel Adams or James Squire should be in everyone’s beer fridge. You may be an purist for the cause of CAMRA, or you may want to argue against CAMRA. Maybe you think the outrageous ingredients and hybrid styles of extreme brewing are hurting beer today, or maybe there needs to be more delicious high alcohol triple barrel aged palate wreckers…?

Maybe the person in the elevator with you isn’t even holding beer, but instead they have some sugary pre-mix lolly-like alcoholic drink, and you want to convince them that drinking beer is a much better option. Even worse…maybe that person is holding a “low-carb” beer!

Maybe you think everything about beer is actually just fine. So argue your case for that.

And that’s the other reason why I have set this challenge is to help refocus my own argument for beer. The more I have learned about brewing, the beer industry and business, and the history of beer, the harder I have found it to define a strong argument for my own (Australian-centric) beer position statement of: drink “craft” beer instead of soulless mass produced adjunct lagers.

This is an exercise in words. I hope that this can be the easiest and hardest contribution that you have ever made to the beer conversation.

The easiest, because it’s a mere 250 words or 30 seconds. The hardest, because it requires every word to be important, meaningful, useful and powerful. There’s no room for footnotes, caveats or rebuttal.


So on Thursday, August 1, make your pitch. As I suffer from an acute case of verbosity, the hardest part will be keeping it to the length of an elevator ride. Going down?


North American Guild of Beer Writers Membership Drive

For the last few years, I’ve been pestering some of my colleagues that we needed to revive the long dormant Beer Writers Guild that folded a decade or so ago. Happily, people less lazy than me then took up the cause and led the charge, especially Lucy Saunders, who did much of the heavy lifting. Little by little, we’ve gotten the band back together, and have been quietly rebuilding a trade group for those of us trying to make a living writing about beer. Just by word of mouth, we’ve rounded up forty members and are hoping to increase that. Dues for the new North American Guild of Beer Writers are $45 a year for a full membership, $25 for an associate membership and we also have $100 industry memberships for “those employed by breweries, allied industries or agencies, interested in supporting the Guild and outreach to beer writers.” Full details on membership can be found on the “Join Us” page. Here’s the basic information:

We are beer writers.

Sometimes we act as evangelists, advocates and celebrators. Other times we are antagonists, agitators and truth-seekers. We are authors, writers, publicists, bloggers and columnists. We tirelessly cover the brewing industry — and those who appreciate beer — across North America.

Many of us are self-employed or do this as a side “gig” in addition to our “real jobs.” Some of us are employed by breweries, beer distributors, beer stores and restaurants. Still others are publishers and event organizers, while some work for newspapers, websites, magazines and other media outlets.

We are an all-volunteer group dedicated to elevating the level of our craft as we cover the art of brewing.

We are beer writers. We strive to promote better beer.

Won’t you please join us in bringing better beer writing to North America?

We are inspired by learning from shared experiences, and believe that an annual writers’ competition will foster awareness and appreciation of beer and brewing in North America.

If you’re trying to make a living writing about beer, or even doing it as a side gig, please consider joining us at the NAGBW. Things are just getting started, but plans are afoot to have regional get-togethers, meetings at prominent national events, like GABF and the Craft Brewers Conference, and a competition for excellence in beer writing.

Join us to share in beer education, travel, guided tastings, conferences and more. We organize an annual writers contest to encourage public appreciation of beer and brewing. In addition, we organize events to increase members’ knowledge of beer and brewing, and to sharpen their writing, reporting, design and broadcast skills. The group also supports professional standards among its members and other members of the media.

We’re looking for people who take the craft of writing seriously, and who specialize in beer, and want to learn how to be a better writer, how to get more work and also have some fun with colleagues. I’m pretty sure our get-togethers will have better beer than the average trade guild.


Beer In Art Reboot

Once upon a time — okay, a couple of years ago — each Sunday I posted a work of art featuring beer or some aspect of brewing in my Beer in Art series. Sunday got increasingly busy with the family and it was taking a long time to research each artwork, so I quietly migrated the project to a Tumblr blog, also named Beer in Art. It’s been going strong ever since, and every day, not weekly, I post a new work of beer-themed art. The trade-off is that there isn’t as much information about each piece, but the advantage is more art, seven times as much to be exact. There’s nearly two year’s worth of daily art already there in the archives, stretching back to February 2011, when I made the switch.

For example, today’s work is by Robin Casey, a California artist, and is appropriately titled “Ring in the New Year … with Beer!” The art runs the gambit from old, traditional works to modern, abstract takes, along with artistic advertising and illustration, clever doodles and t-shirt art, amateur and professional works, from all over the globe, using paint, sculpture and a digital paintbrush; really anything that uses beer or beer’s ingredients as, or in, a work of art. Check it out every day, around Noon, for a new Beer in Art masterpiece.


Next Session Begins Quest For My Precious

For our 66th Session, our host, Craig Gravina, who writes Drink Drank. His topic takes us to the shire, to the land of the Hobbits, and into the dark cave where Gollum lost his precious ring: the One Ring to Rule Them All. Here’s how to start your own quest:

We all have our favorite brews — even if you say you don’t; deep, deep down we all do. From IPAs to Pilsners, Steam Beers to Steinbiers, something out there floats your boat. What if we look that to another level? What if you were to design the perfect brew—a Tolkienesque One Beer to Rule Them All. The perfect beer for you, personally. Would it be hoppy and dark or strong and light? Is it augmented with exotic ingredients or traditionally crafted? Would your One Beer be a historic recreation or something never before dreamt of? The sky is the limit on this one. If you need to travel back in time to brew at Belgian farm during the 1870s, go right ahead — just say hi to Doc Brown and the Delorean for me. Maybe you’ll need to mount a expedition to the treacherous Amazonian rain forest to bring back some chicha, to spike your brew with; or perhaps, you’ll just dust off that old Brown Ale homebrew recipe, tweak it a bit, and call it an evening.

I’d suspect that most of you out there probably have a good understanding about the brewing process — but if you don’t, no sweat, just wing it. This exercise isn’t about making sure you’ve checked all the right boxes for the BJCP or some homebrew competition. This Session is all about imagining the possibilities — no matter how ridiculous! Feel free to create a recipe, right down to the aplha acid in your hops or conjure up a review just like you’d do for any other beer. However you want to come at this, it’s your ultimate beer, your One Beer to Rule Them All!

One small caveat, however, you do need to name your concoction — no imaginary super beer would be complete without some glorified moniker to seal the proverbial deal!

So that’s your quest, to write about your precious, to find your one ring to rule them all — and try to do so without going bat shit crazy.


So start obsessing, talking with a hiss and hanging around in dank, dark caves. That may be what you need to come up with your own perfect beer. But be sure to resurface into the light and leave the cave by Friday August 3 to let us know what you found. I just hope it’s not a green beer!


Go It Alone For The Next Session

For our 65th Session, our host, Nate Southwood writes about more than just beer at his Booze, Beats & Bites. In addition to music and food, his triple crown includes beer, of course, and the topic he’s chosen is “So Lonely,” meaning going to the pub to have a beer alone. Here’s how he describes what he means:

Speaking of fun, going to the pub with a bunch of mates is great… you have a few beers and a laugh, generally a fun time and all.

I love going to the pub with mates but sometimes I go to a pub alone and I enjoy it.

Other people say I’m weird for this as there seems to be a stigma attached to being in the pub alone — alcoholism.

There are many reasons why I go to the pub alone.

  • Sometimes I just want to spend some quality time alone that isn’t at home.
  • Sometimes I’m walking home and fancy a pit-stop.
  • Sometimes my mates are all busy with their girlfriends/wives/children and I want a pint.
  • Sometimes I just fancy going to the pub and observing the bizarre people around me.
  • Sometimes I want to sit down and write blogs on my tableaux while having a pint.
  • Sometimes I just want to play angry birds while having a pint.
  • Sometimes I just want to prop myself at the bar and discuss beer with the bartender.
  • Sometimes I want to explore pubs that I’ve never been to before but my mates don’t want to.
  • Sometimes I’m just a miserable bastard and don’t want to socialise but want a nice pint.

The way I see it is that I love beer and pubs and I don’t see why I should only go to the pub when I’m with other people.

Am I weird for going to the pub alone?

How do you feel about going to the pub alone? Do you feel it’s necessary to be around friends to spend time in a pub?

So that’s “So Lonely.” It’s funny that given the obvious connection to the Police song So Lonely, both Stan and I both instead thought of George Thorogood’s I Drink Alone and its quintessential philosophy “You know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself.”

So that sounds like an interesting, albeit lonely, task. Besides, given that it’s two days after July 4, you’ll probably be craving some “alone time.” Just remember not to drunk type your blog post on July 6 when you share your isolated drinking experiences.

Next Session Pales In Comparison

For our 64th Session, our host, Carla Companion — a.k.a. The Beer Babe — who these days is writing at Beer Utopia, among others. She’s posted her Session announcement at both The Beer Babe and Beer Utopia, and it looks like you can leave a comment with your Session contribution on either page. Her topic, Pale in Comparison, is a return to our roots with a focus on a particular style of beer: Pale Ale. Here’s how she explains her plan:

What is the one beer style usually makes up the first position in the sample flight, but yet is usually the one that we never get really excited about? The Pale Ale.

While this style serves as the foundation to its big-hoppy-brother the India Pale Ale, lately “Pale Ale” has become a throwaway term. I hear bartenders and servers using it to describe everything from Pilsners to unfiltered wheat beers (I wish I was kidding).

Whether American (typically a bit hoppier) or English (a little more malty), these brews can be complex, interesting and tasty, and are all too often fast-forwarded through in a tasting or left as the “eh, guess I’ll have a pale ale” decision.

Your mission — if you choose to accept it — is to seek out and taste two different pale ales. Tell us what makes them special, what makes them forgettable, what makes them the same or what makes them different.


So that sounds like a fun task. She’s right about Pale Ales getting overlooked these days. It used to be one of the most popular styles. In the early days of the microbrewery, everybody had a pale ale. So stay out the sun — and keep your complexion pale — and
be here June 1 to tell us about your pale drinking experiences.

Session #63: The Beer Moment

Our 63rd Session is hosted by Pete Brown from the UK, and as his Session falls on Star Wars Day (May 4, “May the Fourth,” “May the fourth be with you”) he’s decided on a similarly cheeky topic: The Beer Moment. Read his entire stream of consciousness or the abridged version below.

I write to try to encourage other people to share the simple joy of beer as much as I do, to switch on people who drink beer but don’t particularly care about it that much, to suggest to them that there’s so much more they might enjoy. No one says you have to do it this way, and no one ever made me the spokesperson for beer. It’s just how I decided to write, in the same way others decided to write in an opinionated way about what they love, and what they hate.

So in that spirit, my choice of topic — with 62 topics already covered — is this: simply, the Beer Moment.

What is it?

Well, what is it to you? What does that phrase evoke for you?

That’s the most important thing here. Switch off and float downstream, what comes to mind? Don’t analyse it — what are the feelings, the emotions?

I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot recently, because I’ve been talking about it to various people who are working hard to try to improve the image of beer in the UK. Because whether we articulate it or not, whether we drink vile, sunstruck Corona or barrel aged imperial stout brewed with weasel shit, it’s about the moment far more than the liquid itself. The only people who disagree with me on this are people I wouldn’t want to share a beer with.

The moment — for me — is relaxation, reward, release, relief and refreshment. It’s a moment to savour, a moment of mateship, potential, fulfilment, anticipation, satisfaction, and sheer bliss.

It’s different from the moment you drink wine or spirits — it’s more egalitarian, more sociable. It’s not just about the flavour, nor the alcohol. It’s about the centuries of tradition and ritual, the counterpoint to an increasingly stressful life, and the commonality, the fact that it means the same thing to so many.

At least — I think it does. What does it mean to you?


I was especially taken by Pete’s instructions, where he paraphrased the opening line of the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows (one of my favorite lesser-known Beatles songs), which in full is “Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream.” The phrase itself is from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and that sounds like an excellent place to start; relaxed and floating, mind free of distractions — beer in hand.

The “beer moment” is for me the essence of what makes beer one of my life’s passions, distilled — or perhaps more correctly fermented — down to its core ingredients. In many ways, as Don Younger famously quipped, “It’s not about the beer, it’s about the beer.” And as inscrutable as that may sound, I believe Don was on to something. While beer is, of course, the liquid glue that binds us all together, it’s the opportunities and potential that sharing that beer creates that is the essence of the beery moment for me. Beer is the great facilitator. I makes so many other things possible, most of them entirely positive. If that’s starting to sound too zen or new agey, don’t despair. Let me put it another way.

My job often requires me to drink beer alone, which is far from my favorite thing to do. It’s perhaps the worst way to have a beer, even though it’s sometimes necessary. Alone, beer is stripped of all its intangibles, its raison d’etre. You can evaluate the constituent parts, its construction, even how they come together as a finished beer. In other words, on a technical basis. And that’s how you should begin, but there must be a discussion waiting at the end of that process. I just finished judging the World Beer Cup in San Diego this week, and even in this august setting, after silently scoring the beer and making notes, a lively discussion follows each flight. That’s as it should be, whether in a professional judging setting or the local pub. It’s the sharing of the beer that makes the moment.

The number of ways, places and settings in which beer can be shared is limitless. It has adapted itself to virtually all societies, civilizations and communities since, almost quite literally, the beginning of time. It has been an integral part of countless ritual moments, both solemn and casual; a part of people’s lives from birth to death, used to celebrate both moments and many more in between. Of all of the moments in our lives — something on the order of 39,420,000 minutes for the average person — those that involve sharing a beer, those “beer moments,” are infinitely more enjoyable, more memorable and will be the ones that we remember on our deathbed. In a sense, with a few notable exceptions, the beer moments are the ones that truly matter most.

That’s at least in part why I’m also so obsessed with holidays. They provide yet more reasons to celebrate, and celebration almost always means sharing a beer. Though in truth I believe even no reason at all is a perfectly fine reason to share a beer with a friend, and indeed two friends coming together is in and of itself reason enough, I’ve always enjoyed finding new reasons to celebrate life. And why not, I’ve only got — fingers crossed — a few decades left as a beer drinker, and there is much to celebrate, many more beers to share with friends and family. I want as many of the moments left to me as possible to be “beer moments.”

I love this very appropriate artwork that a Lagunitas fan sent into them, and which they posted on their Facebook page.