Sunday, October 25, 2009

Why Bother?

The universe moves in funny ways. Recently, I was asked no less than three times in one week, by three different people in three different pubs, why I write about beer. Given that I’d read a couple of articles in the blogosphere recently along the same lines, I thought I would put together an answer - at least for myself. Why do this?
For me, it’s simple philanthropy. When I enthuse about something, I simply want other people to enjoy it too. Whether it be beer, films, music or books, I simply have to tell people I know about what’s good out there – hence one reason for the name of the blog.

Alongside this, I have somewhat of a social conscience. Our family trade was Butchery, and I grew up valuing ‘the smaller guys’ in terms of food retail. I never shopped for meat or veg in supermarkets until I had to (ie moved out of home, to somewhere with no Butchers, or Grocer’s). This saddened me - and at the same time that I was learning to fend for myself, food-wise. I’ve always been into food and travel, and getting into beer was just an extension of that. I started TGS as a food site, with recipes and supplier profiles, but as the ‘Farmer’s Market’ explosion happened a couple of years ago, so did the number of sites that did what I did, only much better. Then, over a pint, I realised that my twin obsession – Beer – needed the love.

These breweries that I loved were not getting airtime. As simple as that. So I switched focus, and the site remains that today. I wrote my first post proper, and haven’t looked back since.
The only way I know how to do this is to write. I’ve always written in my spare time – mostly short fiction, with a couple of published stories under my belt. But whereas writing fiction is essentially a narcissistic and insular thing to do, blogging about beer and ‘shouting out for the smaller guys’ fills another need; giving me that philanthropic glow.

People may scoff at the odd food/beer matching article. But I really don’t care – the amount of friends and colleagues I have nefariously weaned off cheap lager by serving them great meals alongside a great beer more than justifies it as a going concern. Without it, they would not have made the leap, and that’s what it’s all about.
It’s the same for highlighting the smaller, independent breweries. I know full well that the majority of you who read TGS regularly (ie, my trusted buddies who I link to) are in the same boat, so in some respects I’m preaching to the converted. But for everyone of my fellow beer geeks, there are one or two ‘interested unknowns’ who drop by. And if they go up to a bar and pass over a pint of ‘Italian’ or ‘Danish’ lager brewed in the UK, for an independently produced beer – and enjoy it – then that’s the bullseye. That’s one more customer for the craft guys.

The Micros and Crafts that we all love don’t get into supermarkets; they don’t have publicity budgets or sponsorship deals with Champions’ League football teams. So I will do it for them. For free. Why? Because I want them to do well and not disappear because if they did, I would have one less great beer to drink.

Don’t get me wrong - It’s not all good. For every great beer I drink, I’ll drink two that are dull, plain, boring, or just bad. But I don’t blog about those – because it’s not the point. The blogs’ called The Good Stuff. Plus, taste is subjective, and what I consider pisswater could be another man’s nectar. I will always try to be constructive. As a rule of thumb, if the beer moves me to write, then it’s good. The rest of them – well, if they want to get mentioned on here, they must simply try harder.

TGS is not primarily a beer news site – again, there are tons of sites out there that do that better than I do. I will not wade into arguments about Beer ties, PubCo’s, or Binge drinking. It’s not my place. I may comment on other sites simply to throw my hat into the ring. I’d much rather debate the ‘bigger issues’ over a pint, in person. And, as those who know me will testify, I do, often.

Speaking of ‘in person’, another way that blogging has brightened my life is by bringing me into contact with some genuinely great people, and to some great pubs, breweries and bars. We all have beer in common and I’ve yet to meet a fellow beer blogger or beer professional who had turned out to be a complete twat. We all have a common goal, and I think we do pretty well, between us, of championing the right beers, breweries, and issues at the right time – in a much more honest way than the mainstream press. We are the ones at the pumps, buying the stuff. I’m not a journalist; I work full-time, so I do what I can do. I have no ‘party line’ to tow, or editorial bias worries. This is all a hobby and I try to treat is as such.

So there it is. A long post, so thanks for reading, if you did. Here’s to more great beers coming our way. And If I had one piece of advice to give to people who love beer it’s this: Brew your own all-grain beer. You’ll learn more about beer brewing it than any amount of reading or tasting. Not only that, but you become the first rung of a ladder that ultimately provides great-tasting and unique beer to the masses. This is the spirit of truly Independent Brewing.


Unknown said...

And if you enjoy it you need no other reason.

Mark Dredge said...

Great piece Leigh, very well articulated. We are all championing the same little guys and wishing them well.

The Beer Nut said...

I’ve yet to meet a fellow beer blogger or beer professional who had turned out to be a complete twat

Don't worry, I'm sure you will eventually. You tosspot.

Leigh said...

BeerNut - Lol, indeed! Cheers, mate!

Barry M said...

Good stuff, Leigh :)

Katie said...

Great post and well written... I feel exactly the same. I have learnt so much through blogging and met some great people. Its just the icing on the cake when someone says they tried somewhere new and enjoyed it or a restaurant makes contact to say thanks for a good review. (Pickles and Potter have framed my review and put it on their toilet wall... I feel bloody famous!)

Leigh said...

Katie - fame , indeed! haha

TIW said...

Good post. As it happens, your blog was one of the first food 'n' beer ones I read, and it's nice to read one that has a Yorkshire outlook.