I know I tend to be in the minority in my take of whenever beer is featured on national network shows, because I feel that when it’s not done well, more often than not, the poor information spread out to unsuspecting viewers does more damage than if they’d heard nothing about beer during their morning coffee break. Yes, I know I should be thrilled that mainstream media has deigned to cover beer at all, but until they learn to get it right, it’s hard for me to be a cheerleader for bad journalism. A case in point is the Today Show yesterday did a segment entitled “Best Microbrews For Fall.”
They start out by saying, to explain why they’re doing the segment, “it’s October, so why not hold our Oktoberfest right here.” Well, for starters, Oktoberfest officially ended October 5, over a week before this was broadcast. The reason that most people think Oktoberfest takes place the entire month of October is because of shoddy work like this. Here was an opportunity to educate and instead they simply passed along the wrong information most people believe. Could it really have been so hard to check out when Oktoberfest took place?
Then they introduced their guest, Ray Ilse, as the editor of Food & Wine magazine. Yup, you read that correctly. The editor of Food & Wine magazine was their guest to talk about beer. But if he’s the editor, that must be a recent promotion. He’s not listed on the magazine’s website. That distinction goes to Editor in Chief Dana Cowin. Other editors listed on the masthead include Managing Editor Mary Ellen Ward, Executive Editor Pamela Kaufman, Executive Food Editor Tina Ujlaki and Executive Wine Editor Lettie Teague. Notice there’s no beer editor, of course. So maybe that’s Ray’s title, but a search reveals that of his last thirty articles for Food & Wine, twenty-nine were about wine and only one even mentions beer, an interview from last year with “California-based chef and beer provocateur Sang Yoon” who brought up beer and presumably changed the focus of the original article. So that’s their beer expert.
Maybe it’s a little self-serving, but would it be too much to ask that they contacted someone from one of the dozen or more beer magazines when doing a story on beer? Is that really too much to expect, for chrissakes? They’re not having car mechanics on to talk about new surgical procedures, are they? No, you want a medical expert, you get a doctor. You want a beer expert, you get … a wine writer?
First, they launch in to him being there to talk about them new fangled “microbrews,” a term no one in the beer industry uses anymore, except perhaps to describe “a brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels (17,600 hectoliters) of beer per year,” which is the specific definition. But if you’re around beer people these days, hearing someone say microbrews is like catching a person dropping “groovy” into the conversation.
After some less than witty banter, the first beer they try is Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen. Now, I’ve been to the Ayinger Brewery in Bavaria, but I wasn’t aware it was considered a “microbrewery.” Last year, they produced 140,000 hectoliters of beer and originally opened in 1878, but I’m pretty sure in any case they’d be considered an import beer owing to the fact that they brew in, well, Germany. If nothing else, when talking about “microbrews,” most people in the U.S. will assume a U.S. media outlet is talking about American beers.
Other beers they tasted included Smuttynose Pumpkin Beer, Lindemans Pomme Lambic (another imported beer), Rogue Dead Guy, Hobgoblin (sigh, yes, another import), and Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock. That means nearly half of the “microbrews” featured on the show were imports.
To add insult to injury, at one point they pull out from beneath the table one of those construction hats with two Harpoon Winter Warmers in each side and a tube leading down to your mouth so you can drink the beer on the go or at, as Ray Isle suggests, a baseball game. Now that’s a great way to highlight beer’s sophistication. After at least trying to say that “microbrewed” beer is more flavorful, they lost all credibility by dragging out this gadget. What an insult to the beer community.
At the end, Isle offers one of the Today Show hosts another taste of the Harpoon Winter Warmer in a proper glass, and he declines, saying “you know what, I’ve probably had enough beer so far.” After initially saying how excited he was about beer being on the show, literally seven tiny sips of beer — it couldn’t have been more than a few ounces total — was too much for him. I guess all that flavor got to him. Oh, and one last thing. The music that ends the segment is Cream’s Strange Brew. Please tell me how that was appropriate?
You can see the entire horror show below, it’s only a little under four minutes, but it’s excruciating for me to watch them torment and torture the beer. This may the scariest thing I’ll see for Halloween this year, and it’s certainly a doozy. What a travesty.