Today is the 40th birthday — The Big 4-O — of John Holl, who’s a journalist that came over to the dark side full time; dark beer, that is. Originally on the staff of the Gray Lady — the New York Times — he’s now writing exclusively about beer from his home in northern New Jersey, and more recently he was a senior editor at Craft Beer and Brewing Magazine. Online, he’s at Beer Briefing and his latest book is the American Craft Beer Cookbook. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know John during some travel over the last few years, from Denver to Boston, and even in Chile. He’s a great addition to the fraternity of beer writers. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.
Eames acquired a reputation as the “Indiana Jones of beer” in reference to his global quest to learn about the origins of beer and the role it played in ancient societies and cultures. Eames visited 44 countries. In Egypt he found hieroglyphics about beer, and travelled on the Amazon River in search of a lost black brew. In the Andes, Eames trekked in search of a brew made from strawberries that were the size of baseballs.
Eames claimed to have found the world’s “oldest beer advertisement” on a Mesopotamian stone tablet that dated to roughly 4000 B.C. The tablet depicted a headless woman with large breasts holding goblets of beer in each of her hands. Eames claimed that the tagline to the tablet was “Drink Elba, the beer with the heart of a lion.” Eames believed that beer was the most feminine of drinks, and thought that ancient societies considered it a gift from a goddess rather than a god, as from the gods Ama-Gestin and Ninkasis. With Professor Solomon Katz of the University of Pennsylvania, Eames formulated the theory that beer was an important factor in the creation of settled and civilised societies.
Here’s Eames’ obituary from the New York Times:
Alan D. Eames, who cultivated his reputation as “the Indiana Jones of beer” by crawling into Egyptian tombs to read hieroglyphics about beer and voyaging along the Amazon in search of a mysterious lost black brew, died on Feb. 10 at his home in Dummerston, Vt. He was 59.
His wife, Sheila, said he died after suffering respiratory failure while he slept.
Mr. Eames called himself a beer anthropologist, a role that allowed him to expound on subjects like what he put forward as the world’s oldest beer advertisement, dating to roughly 4000 B.C.
In it a Mesopotamian stone tablet depicted a headless woman with enormous breasts holding goblets of beer in each hand. The tagline, at least in his interpretation, was: “Drink Elba, the beer with the heart of a lion.”
He explored similar topics in seven books, the best known of which was “The Secret Life of Beer” (1995), in myriad radio and television appearances and in speeches at colleges and other institutions. A typical title: “Beer: A Gift from God, or the Devil’s Training Wheels.”
Mr. Eames, who followed the golden liquid to 44 countries, often told about his perilous trek high in the Andes in pursuit of an ancient brew made from strawberries the size of baseballs. Or about Aztecs forbidding drunkenness except among those 52 years of age or older. Or about accounts that said Norse ale was served with garlic to ward off evil.
Mr. Eames’s favorite and perhaps most startling message was that beer is the most feminine of beverages. He said that in almost all ancient societies beer was considered a gift from a goddess, never a male god. Most often, women began the brewing process by chewing grains and spitting them into a pot to form a fermentable mass.
Alan Eames with a sack of malted corn on a trip to Peru in 1991. Credit Joel Jacobs
Alan Duane Eames was born on April 16, 1947, in Gardner, Mass. His father was Warren Baker Eames, a Harvard-trained anthropologist. By the time he was 11, young Alan was advertising his magic act. He graduated from Mark Hopkins College in Brattleboro, Vt., now closed.
In 1968, he moved to New York City and opened an art gallery. He spent evenings at the New York Public Library researching beer.
His beer-related business ventures began in the mid-1970s with his acquisition of Gleason’s Package Store in Templeton, Mass., which became known for its large beer selection. He conceived, designed and operated Three Dollar Dewey’s Ale House in Portland, Me., and another with the same name in Brattleboro.
He found ways to cash in on his celebrity, including helping market Guinness stout. In an interview with The St. Petersburg Times, he lauded its “rich dark color, the creamy white head that leaves delicate traces of foamy lace on the inside of the glass.”
He concluded, “It is one of the great joys in this vale of tears.”
Mr. Eames was the founding director of the American Museum of Brewing History and Fine Arts in Fort Mitchell, Ky., known for its festive “beer camps.” He contributed items on subjects from ancient times to the mid-19th century to the Encyclopedia of Beer.
But beer did not always pay expenses, and Mr. Eames sometimes had to take jobs like packing boxes in a vitamin factory and tending bar.
Mr. Eames is survived by his fourth wife, the former Sheila Momaney; his sons, Adrian and Andrew, both of Dummerston; his daughter, Elena Eames of Brattleboro; his stepsons Logan and Riley Johnson, of Dummerston; his father, of East Templeton, Mass., and York Beach, Me.; his mother, Mavis Franks of Denham Springs, La.; his sister, Holiday Eames of Westminster, Vt.; his half-brother, Mark Warner of Baton Rouge, La., and one grandson.
Beer loses its historian
Above all others, Alan Eames loved Guinness. But after traveling the world to find new beers, it seemed too easy to love such a common one. He had another favorite, though: Fruitillata, a milkshake-like beer made with strawberries and corn, brewed only 10 days a year by a tribe in remote South American mountains. One year, he just happened to show up in time for a drink. But then, that was what Eames did.
Eames, a beer historian nicknamed the “Indiana Jones of Beer,” died in his sleep on February 10. He was 59. His career took him across the world, researching beers and the innumerable ways they’re made, and he wrote his findings in books such as Secret Life of Beer.
“He was very passionate about things, and he would develop intense interest in things,” said his wife, Sheila, who was living with Eames in Dummerston, VT. “There’s so much history in beer that he never grew tired of learning about it, reading about it, talking about it.”
She said his introduction to beer came at a beach party in Maine when he was 17.
It was a Ballantine IPA. “He wrote about the attraction of the green of the bottle, the perfect fit in the hand, the wonderful smack of it when the beer hit his tongue,” Sheila says. “He was always interested in history, but I think that was his first real life-changing event, as far as beer went.”
Here’s some of the books he wrote, though he contributed to many more.
- Ale Dreams
- The Secret Life of Beer!: Exposed: Legends, Lore & Little-Known Facts
- A Beer Drinker’s Companion (5000 years of quotes & anecdotes about beer)
I remember when he passed away, and even wrote a blog post about him. I only met Eames once, but we spoke on the phone a couple of times. But by a weird quirk of coincidence, I ended up with several boxes of miscellaneous stuff that Pete Slosberg bought. The books in his collection were donated to UC Davis (I think) but the leftover papers, press releases and other oddball stuff ended up in my garage after Pete and Amy moved to a smaller apartment in San Francisco. But there was some pretty interesting stuff among the boxes.
Today is the birthday of Charles Duff (April 7, 1894–October 15, 1966). He was primarily known as “an Irish author of books on language learning,” although his most famous book was “A Handbook of Hanging,” which also covered “electrocution, decapitations, gassings, innocent men executed and botched executions.” He was an interesting, eclectic person, to say the least, and last year Gary Gillman did a nice job summarizing his quirky life in a post entitled “Charles Duff on the Circa-1950s Irish P
But he also wrote a few travel guides, including one called “Ireland and the Irish,” published in 1952. In it, he starts with Irish history and its folklore, in fact spending nearly 100 pages of the 282-page book, before actually suggesting what the reader should see in Ireland.
Duff also had a lot to say about beer in Ireland at the time, and it’s fascinating to see his views over 75 years later. Gillman also analyzes his writing historically and reprints some of his great writing, and you should read that, too, but I’m also sharing my favorite passages from Duff regarding the beer.
In discussing Dublin, Duff attempts to provide an image of the typical modern Dublin
The atmosphere is
cocktailish, the seats are most comfortable, the carpets soft. I did not find the drinks or service any less efficient, nor, I must say in fairness, any more efficient than in the old days when, before Dublin was really awake in the morning, a kindly and sympathetic barman diagnosed your hangover and might prescribe, as he did for me on one occasion, a seidlitzpowder, telling me not to drink anything alcoholic before noon, when he recommended a dozen oysters and a bottle or two of stout “to settle the inside and get back the feelings of a Christian.” Today the atmosphere is convivial and friendly, and you will get a good drink there. But when you go out into the street you will not have the feelings we had after a session there. I think the main difference is that in the old days the drinkers in ‘Davy Byrne’s’ had a higher opinion of one another than they have now. And in the old days you sat on any sort of old chair with a pint in front of you on a very plain table and knew that there was no other pub quite like this. It is almost ill- mannered to make the comparison, and perhaps unfair to the present house which, after all, is not responsible for the age in which we live.
Another interesting insight about
It is not a bad preparation for a visit to Dublin to read James Joyce’s Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses—in that order if you have not already read Joyce. On your second visit, or perhaps on some later occasion, you can have a try at Finnegan’s Wake, which a Dublin friend assures me is best read by moonlight as you lean over one of the Liffey bridges, and preferably while in that state of imaginative gestation to which a reasonable consumption of the wine of the country—Guinness’s Stout—is conducive. But you will not need any of this preparation to tell you that Dubliners are not always easy people to understand, and experience of Ireland can lead you to the conclusion that it is more difficult to grasp and
analysethe mentality of the Dubliner than of any other kind or class of native. For one thing, Dubliners are a more mixed breed than you will find anywhere in Ireland,because Dublin has been a cosmopoli- tancommunity longer than any other in Ireland. This ‘town of the ford of the hurdles’ had its original Picts, Celtic Irish, its Norsemen, its Normans and then its English as the principal elements in its ethnic constitution. It has also had a generous sprinkling of the adventurous; and of the adven- turers, military, political and commercial, who invariably find their way to promising territories. In Dublin you will find surnames which come director are derived from those of almost every country and race in Europe; one cannot say this of any other Irish city or town.
Duff’s other travel guide was called “England and the English,” in which he followed a similar format as his Irish guidebook. This one was published a few years later, in 1955. Gillman also analyzes Duff’s English writing, too, in a two-part post entitled Charles Duff Eulogises the English Pub – Part I, which primarily provides context and background to the 1950s climate in which Duff was writing. But in Part II he tackles Duff’s take on the Eglish pub.
But I’m more interested in just sharing his stories. Like his previous work, it is filled with interesting anecdotes about like in England, with this one from
By way of final warning, I can tell of an episode I am not likely to forget. There was a shortage of beer in the last years of the Second World War when I was staying at the cottage in Devon. That did not greatly worry local people; they drank their local cider. But very often the American troops stationed in the neighbourhood suffered distress from the lack of alcohol and (I suspect, somewhat to their disgust) were driven back on cider, which they contemptuously regarded as a soft drink 1 Friendly patrons of the pub advised them to ‘take it easy’ until they got used to it. But those hearties just laughed, possibly
regarding thecivilian adviser as needlessly timid; and they just went ahead. At about the third mug the fun began then the cider startedto have effect. Another mug or two and the balloon wentup. The usual effects of strong alcohol were felt :in this caseof an alcoholic beverage to which those strong, healthy menwere quite unaccustomed. We all felt sorry for them, and fortheir poor heads nextday. And as, one by one they rolled off, the locals smiled and called for another mug saying: “Don’t it just show ‘ee !”
My friend would often reminisce and philosophize
about cider, telling me that farm-workers used to have little barrels (he later showed me his; it held about a pint and a half) which theytook with them to their work, but that the young genera- tionknow nothing of this. He thought that modern cider is betterand purer than that of his youth. He had known of men who drank themselves to death on cider, but insisted that this is rare; because, he said, cider is one of those rare drinks which carries its own safety-point and, when that point has been reached depending on the drinker’s capacity and head there is no inclination to drink any more. “How very con- venient!” the conservative drinker will say. The illustrious maycomment: “How awful! ” There it is.
Duff discusses pubs more generally when covering the “prosperous market-town of Bishop’s Stortford (about thirty miles from London) is on the River Stort, which forms the boundary with Essex.”
It was precisely this easy-going atmosphere which I liked about Bishop’s Stortford. With it goes a great variety of friendly pubs Herts is a good county for beer some of which confront the traveller unexpectedly, and inside are found to be just the sort of typical little country pubs one reads about. You can find a pub almost anywhere in the town. There are the major houses such as the ‘George* and the ‘Chequers’, but I felt attracted by old names such as:
- The Feathers
- The Falcon
- The Anchor
- The Swan
- The Grapes
- The Reindeer
- The Boar’s Head
- The Half Moon
- The Rising Sun
- The Castle The Royal Oak
- The Bull
- The Fox
- The Bricklayers’ Arms
most of them with their colourful, interesting signs. The names I have listed do not exhaust the possibilities of Bishop’s Stortford, and merely represent what I recall easily. The little ‘Bricklayers’ Arms’ on the road to Hadham had just received a fresh coat of paint the last time I was there. I thought it
lookeda very beautiful little pub from outside. Inside I was not disappointed: the beer was delicious, and Mrs. Morgan, the landlady, a great personality whom I am not likely to forget.
I should like to dwell on these pubs, some of which are very old, because of their importance as an institution of considerable import in the social fabric of this country. Hertfordshire, and, indeed, all of this eastern area, can provide examples of more than ordinary interest. At St. Albans there is the ‘Fighting Cocks’, which is said to be the oldest inhabited licensed house in England. Thomas Burke mentions A.D. 795 as the date of its foundation. “The
travellerby carwho takes the Great North Road the historic highway linking London with Edinburgh will come upon many pub signs which will inevitably attract his attention and often make him stop for a closerscrutiny. A little conversation with landlords and know- ledgeablelocal people will quickly show that the English public-house (as we usually call it now), with which one may include the terms ‘inn’ and ‘tavern’, embraces a vast social his- tory that can be traced back to Saxon times. For over one thou- sandyears the house which provides food and drink for the travellerand wayfarer, and a centreor dub for local people, has been a part of English life. If I have not mentioned the subject until now, it is not because other areas of England are less rich in public-houses than this eastern part, but merely that it falls in more conveniently at this stage. What I say about the pubs here can be paralleled for most parts of England and, as it is, I can deal with it only in the most summary way. Take, for example, the ‘Letchworth Hair at Letchworth, formerly a manor-house and, some may say, too much of an hotelto be considered as a ‘typical’ pub. It is mentioned in Domesday Book. And the ‘Sun’ at Hitchin, which was used by the Parliamentarians during the Civil War (1642-1648), and, in 1745, was the place in which North Hert fordshiremen enrolled for the ResistenceMovement that was to face the advancing army of the Pretender. Some of these old buildings are architecturally and artistically extremely interesting, externally or internally, and sometimes in both senses. As we move northwards, a slight detour takes us to Buckden and Huntingdon, both in Huntingdonshire. The first town has the ‘Lion’ with a lounge beautifully adorned by some magnificent oak beams; the second town has the ‘George’, with its long frontage and a lovely row of fifteen windows. Stilton, where one of the world’s great cheeses is made, has the ‘Bell’ dating back to the spacious days when men travelledon horseback, more often than not in companies in order to be able to cope with the activities of such gentry as Dick Turpin. Lincolnshire has some noteworthy houses: the ‘George’ at Stamford where, in 1746, William Duke of Cumberland put up after his victory over Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden; and the curiously named ‘Ram Jam Inn’, a haunt of Dick Turpin and his men. At Granthamthere is another ‘George’, visited by Charles Dickens in 1838 and about which he wrote to his wife, “. . . the most comfortable inn I ever put up in”. In Granthamthere is also the ancient ‘Angel and Royal’ with seven hundred years of history behind it and originally a favouritehouse of the Knights Templars. Kings held their courts there; the present building dates from about the middle of the i4th century. These few dips will indicate the scope of the subject, but I think I have said sufficient to show the reader that the English pub is a very old, very strong institution and in every way worthy of his attention. I have never yet entered a pub, however humble, from which I did not emerge refreshed in mind and body, and I think that a good argument could be put up in favour of the pub as the most characteristic institution of the people of England: of the men, that is, for it is only in comparatively recent years that women are frequenting licensed premises with the approval of the younger generation of men, of course, but often with the strong disapproval of old regulars. To theseit is unbecoming to the spirit and atmosphere of their club that lively and frivolous girls the more attractive they are, the worse it is ! often in slacks or even shorts, should lower the serious tone of the establishment with their disconcerting jazzing, crooning and giggling. This little survival of Puritanism is quickly passing and in many places no longer exists. It will soon be gone. The pub will survive by adapting itself to the social environment: as it always has done in the past.
He also stresses that one should never discuss politics or religion in a pub, good advice now as then.
Again it comes back to the desire for political stability, for if there is one thing that the English have learnt by bitter experience, it is that nothing can cause greater disturbances than religion, especially when used for a political end. A man’s religion is his own affair. Hence, in conversation it is never even discussed! The unwritten law of the English pub is: No religion.
Today would have been Michael Jackson’s 77th birthday. I first met Michael in the early 1990s, shortly after my first beer book was published. He is all but single-handedly responsible for the culture of better beer that exists today. He began writing about good beer in the 1960s and 70s and his writing has influenced (and continues to influence) generations of homebrewers and commercial brewers, many of whom were inspired to start their own breweries by his words. There are few others, if any, that have been so doggedly persistent and passionate about spreading the word about great beer. I know some of my earliest knowledge and appreciation of beer, and especially its history and heritage, came from Michael’s writings. Michael passed away in August 2007, ten years ago. I still miss him, and I suspect I’m not the only one. A few years ago, J.R. Richards’ new documentary film about Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter: The Movie, debuted, which I helped a tiny bit with as a pioneer sponsor.
I did an article several years ago for Beer Connoisseur, for their Innovator’s Series, entitled Michael Jackson: The King of Beer Writers, A personal look back at the man who made hunting for beer a career. I reached out to a number of people who also knew Michael for their remembrances as well as my own, and as a result I’m pretty pleased with the results (although the original draft was almost twice as long).
I’ll again be playing some jazz and having a pint of something yummy in his honor, which has become my tradition for March 27, which I’ve also started declaring to be “Beer Writers Day.” Join me in drinking a toast to Michael Jackson, the most influential modern beer writer who’s ever lived.
At the Great Divide Brewing’s media party in Denver over fifteen years ago.
On stage accepting the first beer writing awards from the Brewers Association with Jim Cline, GM of Rogue, Stan Hieronymus, who writes Real Beer’s Beer Therapy among much else, and Ray Daniels, formerly of the Brewers Association.
At GABF in 2006, still wearing the same glasses. But my, oh my, have I changed. Sheesh.
Today would have been Bill Brand’s 81st birthday, if not for the tragic events of February 8, 2009. Bill, of course, was hit by a Muni Train that evening and passed away twelve days later, on February 20. He was a bastion of support for the local beer community for decades, and one of it’s most visible media faces. He did a staggering amount of good to help brewers throughout the Bay Area, and wrote about the beer he loved so much with an unmatched passion and zeal. His Bottoms Up blog was read by millions, the newest form of his What’s On Tap newsletter that stretched back into the early 1990s. It was my great honor to take over his column and try to continue his legacy of support for craft brewers in the Bay Area and beyond. Drink a toast to the memory and legacy of William “Bill” Brand today. Happy birthday Bill, you are most certainly missed.
Today is the birthday of Guy Debord. If you’ve never heard of Guy Debord, don’t worry, you’re by no means in the minority. Lots of people haven’t; undoubtedly most people have not. So who was he? Guy Debord (December 28, 1931–November 30, 1994) “was a French Marxist theorist, philosopher, filmmaker, member of the Letterist International, founder of a Letterist faction, and founding member of the Situationist International (SI).” In 1967, he wrote a book called The Society of the Spectacle (although it wasn’t translated until 1970). At some point when I was reading a lot of political works, maybe twenty years ago, I picked up a copy and really enjoyed it. It was a very prescient look at where society was heading, and was quite interesting.
Anyway, later in his life, he wrote what amounted to a two-volume autobiography called “Panegyric,” in 1989, which was translated into English finally in 2004. Apart from having read his one book, I don’t know very much about Debord’s life, his overall philosophy or anything, really. But having just read this chapter, he must have been amazing. This is his take on the writing life, or more correctly the drinking life of a writer.
After the circumstances I have just recalled, it is undoubtedly the rapidly acquired habit of drinking that has most marked my entire life. Wines, spirits, and beers: the moments when some of them became essential and the moments when they returned have marked out the main course and the meander of days, weeks, years. Two or three other passions, of which I will speak, have been more or less continuously important in my life. But drinking has been the most constant and the most present. Among the small number of things that I have liked and known how to do well, what I have assuredly known how to do best is drink. Although I have read a lot, I have drunk even more. I have written much less than most people who write, but I have drunk much more than most people who drink. I can count myself among those of whom Baltasar Gracián, thinking about an elite discernible only among the Germans — but here he was quite unjust to the detriment of the French, as I think I have shown — could say, ‘There are those who got drunk only once, but that once lasted them a lifetime.’
Furthermore, I am a little surprised, I who have had to read so often the most extravagant calumnies or quite unjust criticisms of myself, to see that in fact thirty or more years have passed without some malcontent ever instancing my drunkenness as at least an implicit argument against my scandalous ideas — with the one, belated exception of a piece by some young English drug addicts who revealed around 1980 that I was stupefied by drink and thus no longer harmful. I never for a moment dreamed of concealing this perhaps questionable side of my personality, and it was clearly evident for all those who met me more than once or twice. I can even note that on each occasion it sufficed but a few days for me to be highly esteemed, in Venice as in Cadiz, in Hamburg as in Lisbon, by the people I met only by frequenting certain cafés.
At first, like everyone, I appreciated the effect of mild drunkenness; then very soon I grew to like what lies beyond violent drunkenness, once that stage is past: a terrible and magnificent peace, the true taste of the passage of time. Although in the first decades I may have allowed only slight indications to appear once or twice a week, I was, in fact, continuously drunk for periods of several months; and the rest of the time, I still drank a lot.
An air of disorder in the great variety of emptied bottles remains susceptible, all the same, to an a posteriori classification. First, I can distinguish between the drinks I consumed in their countries of origin and those I consumed in Paris; but almost every variety of drink was to be had in mid-century Paris. Everywhere, the premises can be subdivided between what I drank at home, or at friends’, or in cafés, cellars, bars, restaurants, or in the streets, notably on café terraces.
The hours and their shifting conditions almost always retain a decisive role in the necessary renewal of the stages of a binge, and each brings its reasonable preference to bear on the available possibilities. There is what one drinks in the mornings, and for quite a long while that was the time for beer. In Cannery Row a character who one can tell is a connoisseur proclaims, ‘There’s nothing like that first taste of beer.’ But often upon waking I have needed Russian vodka. There is what is drunk with meals; and in the afternoons that stretch out between them. At night, there is wine, along with spirits; later on, beer is welcome, for beer makes you thirsty. There is what one drinks at the end of the night, at the moment when the day begins anew. One can imagine that all this has left me very little time for writing, and that is exactly as it should be: writing should remain a rare thing, since one must have drunk for a long time before finding excellence.
I have wandered extensively in several great European cities, and I appreciated everything that deserved appreciation. The catalogue on this subject could be vast. There were the beers of England, where mild and bitter were mixed in pints; the big schooners of Munich; the Irish beers; and the most classical, the Czech beer of Pilsen; and the admirable baroque character of the Gueuze around Brussels, when it had its distinctive flavor in each local brewery and did not travel well. There were the fruit brandies of Alsace; the rum of Jamaica; the punches, the aquavit of Aalborg, and the grappa of Turin, cognac, cocktails; the incomparable mescal of Mexico. There were all the wines of France, the loveliest coming from Burgundy; there were the wines of Italy, especially the Barolos of the Langhe and the Chiantis of Tuscany; there were the wines of Spain, the Riojas of Old Castille or the Jumilla of Murica.
I would have had very few illnesses if drink had not in the end caused me some, from insomnia to gout to vertigo. ‘Beautiful as the tremor of the hands in alcoholism,’ said Lautreamont. There are mornings that are stirring but difficult.
‘It is better to hide one’s folly, but that is difficult in debauchery or drunkenness,’ Heraclitus thought. And yet Machiavelli would write to Francesco Vettori: ‘Anyone reading our letters … would sometimes think that we are serious people entirely devoted to great things, that our hearts cannot conceive any thought which is not honourable and grand. But then, as these same people turned the page, we would seem thoughtless, inconstant, lascivious, entirely devoted to vanities. And even if someone judges this way of life shameful, I find it praiseworthy, for we imitate nature, which is changeable.’ Vauvenargues formulated a rule too often forgotten: ‘In order to decide that an author contradicts himself, it must be impossible to conciliate him.’
Moreover, some of my reasons for drinking are respectable. Like Li Po, I can indeed exhibit this noble satisfaction. ‘For thirty years, I’ve hidden my fame in taverns.’
The majority of the wines, almost all the spirits, and every one of the beers whose memory I have evoked here today completely lost their tastes, first on the world market and then locally, with the progress of industry as well as the disappearance of economic re-education of the social classes that had long remained independent of large industrial production; and thus also through the interplay of the various government regulations that not prohibit virtually anything that is not industrially produced. The bottles, so that they can still be sold, have faithfully retained their labels; this attention to detail gives the assurance that one can photograph them as they used to be — but not drink them.
Neither I nor the people who drank with me have at any moment felt embarrassed by our excesses. ‘At the banquet of life’ — good guests there, at least — we took a seat without thinking even for an instant that what we were drinking with such prodigality would not subsequently be replenished for those who would come after us. In drinking memory, no one had ever imagined that he would see drink pass away before the drinker.
For our 141th Session, our host will be me again, which will make sense shortly. As you may know, I write the Brookston Beer Bulletin, and have been involved in The Session since Stan Hieronymus first conceived of it in 2007. For my topic, I have chosen The Future Of Beer Blogging, which seems to be changing a lot lately, I believe, and is certainly different than it was ten years ago.
My topic is fairly broad and open-ended, but centered on what has happened to beer blogging over the almost eleven years since we started the monthly Session. Back in those dark ages of the mid-2000s, beer blogging was relatively new, and many people were jumping in, no doubt in part because of how easy and inexpensive it was to create a platform to say whatever you wanted to say. It was the Wild West, and very vibrant and engaging. You could write short or long, with or without pictures, and basically say whatever you wanted. People engaged in commenting, and whole threads of conversation ensued. It was great.
Fast forward a decade and there are many more ways that people interact online, and blogs, I think, lost their vaunted place in the discussion. Now there’s also Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and countless other ways to communicate online. This has meant blogging, I believe, has lost its place at the top, or in the middle, or wherever it was. That’s how it feels to me, at least. I think one incident that confirmed this for me is that recently the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference changed its name to the “Beer Now Conference,” a seeming acknowledgment that the landscape has changed. They explained the decision thusly:
We love bloggers. But after many discussions with key players, we have determined our community has reached consensus that the term “bloggers” is too limiting. Blogging, after all, is just one medium used by beer writers. Even with our switch in 2015 to the name Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference, we believe we are not including those who primarily communicate on beer via podcasts, photos, and video.
So where do you think the future of beer blogging is heading? What will it look like next year, or in ten years? Will it even still be around? If not, what will replace it? People won’t stop talking about beer, analyzing it and tasting it. But how we do all of those things certainly will. That’s what I’m interested in with this topic. What do you think the future will hold? What will we all be doing, beerwise?
To participate in the November Session, simply leave a link to your session post by commenting to this announcement, or email me, ideally on or before Friday, November 9, or really anytime this month. Since this is late notice, and our second-to-last Session, take all the time you need.
Participation in The Session has been waning for quite some time now, and finding willing hosts has become harder and harder. I’ve had to cajole and beg for hosts many times, and I’m not sure why I’ve kept it up other than we’ve been doing it so long that I just kept going out of habit. But the reality is that if people don’t want to host and fewer and fewer people are actually participating I’d say that’s a pretty strong signal that the time has come to shut down the Session. So in consultation with Stan, we’ve decided that December 2018 will be the last Session. It’s been over ten years and by the time the smoke clears we’ll have done 142 Sessions, which is a pretty good run. Thanks to everybody who’s hosted and participated over the years. After this Session, there will be one more, and I could think of no more fitting host than the man who started it all, so Stan Hieronymus has agreed to be the final host to put a bookend on this grand 11-year adventure.
So by next year, The Session will be a distant memory. Now what? Is there something else we could, or should, be doing as an online community of people who write about beer through the internet? I don’t know the answer. I hate to see this end, but people’s priorities and methods of communication have been evolving so I’m not sure in what form we could keep any engagement going. But I can start a conversation. So let’s discuss. As a coda to this month’s session, please consider what we could do as a group to remotely weigh in on the beer world from time to time. Maybe the answer is nothing. But maybe it isn’t. As a bonus topic, what ideas do you have for what to do next?
While staff was told earlier last month, Tom Dalldorf of the Celebrator Beer News, today made the official announcement that he was shutting down the print side of the business, suspending the printed version of the 30-year old brewspaper. As the former GM of the Celebrator, it was sad to see this news, but in today’s media climate where many breweries use guerilla marketing and social media over traditional journalism, it’s not terribly surprising. People have to support a robust media in order for it to thrive. The model of how people consume their beer news has undoubtedly changed in the last three decades, and there are less advertising dollars being spent, despite the growing number of breweries, on a greater number of media outlets. C’est la vie.
Here’s the press release from publisher Tom Dalldorf:
After 30 years of publication the Celebrator Beer News, the first publication to focus exclusively on craft beer, has suspended its print edition. Tom Dalldorf, editor and publisher, stated that the economics of a print magazine requires an advertising base that simply is no longer viable.
“The pervasive use of electronic media has rendered print media superfluous. The expense of design and layout and printing and distribution doesn’t work for the beer enthusiast the way it did just a few years ago,” said Dalldorf. “The craft beer world has grown tremendously in the last twenty years and beer enthusiasts, craving news and opinions on their favorite subject, are depending on websites and apps for news and reviews,” he said recently.
Consequently, Celebrator has re-launched its website on a WordPress platform that will allow it to be more timely in its coverage of the rapidly changing craft beer world. “Our new site allows us to get stories, news and information up instantly rather than waiting up to two months for the next print issue to drop,” said Dalldorf. Celebrator Beer News is now available 24/7 at celebrator.com. A mobile app is in the works as well, according to the publisher.
Hopefully, the Celebrator can make the transition to an online publication.
Tom and me at the 30th Anniversary Party.
And this was the final cover of the last Celebrator Beer News in print.
Thursday’s ad is for Rheingold, from 1942. In the 1940s and 1950s, Rheingold recruited a number of prominent celebrities to do ads for them, all using the tagline: “My beer is Rheingold — the Dry beer!” This ad features American journalist and author Alice-Leone Moats. In this ad, Moats, who traveled the world as a journalist, tells a story of being in Africa and being delighted to find a cool, refreshing Rheingold Extra Dry.
Wednesday’s ad is for Rheingold, from 1946. In the 1940s and 1950s, Rheingold recruited a number of prominent celebrities to do ads for them, all using the tagline: “My beer is Rheingold — the Dry beer!” This ad features American sports writer Stanley Woodward. “Sportswriting legend Stanley Woodward had a 43-year career [as a] sportswriter and editor.” In this ad, Woodward confesses that he’s gotten many, many sports predictions wrong, but then suggests one prediction he won’t get wrong is that you’ll like Rheingold Extra Dry.