Rethinking The Blog Love Fest Over Beer Wars The Movie…

Unless you’ve had your head in your glass for the last few weeks, it’s pretty hard to have missed the onslaught of blog posts and Twitter tweets/tweeks/whatever about the upcoming release of Beer Wars. The first documentary film by producer/writer/director Anat Baron seeks to go “behind the scenes of the daily battles and all out wars that dominate one of America’s favorite industries.?

bw2.jpgLike many others, I first heard of the Beer Wars project at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado, in 2005. The producers shot some scenes at the festival and there was a little buzz about it. The project then fell off the radar and I occasionally ran a search to find out what had happened, with no results. Fast forward to last month and Beer Wars was suddenly back with some strength. In a post on her blog, Baron explained the delay as her having missed “the window when documentary films were big news and were getting rich distribution deals…But now that I’ve given up on that fantasy, the reality is actually more exciting. I get to make the decisions and sheppard (sp) my film without having ‘suits’ make decisions for me.?

While I’m interested in seeing and reviewing the film, the recent blog coverage has piqued my interest the most. In recent weeks, we’ve seen some very fawning endorsements of the film, not only from people who appear in the film, but from beer industry insiders and novice and professional beer writers as well. One particularly breathless account by my usually level-headed colleague Jay Brooks sums up the sycophantic blog mood of recent weeks.

Beer Wars is nothing new. The war itself has been quietly raging for years and years. But only insiders have been aware of it and even fewer still have been willing to admit it and talk about it publicly. This film should blow the lid off of that and make honest debate at least possible. That would be a great first step in bringing more people over to the craft beer side. Just like Star Wars, the craft beer movement is the rebellion and we’re fighting the empire for galactic beer domination. Once enough people realize we’ve got Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and the Ewoks on our side, how could anyone possibly continue to support the dark side? Still not convinced. Watch the trailer. Let the fermentation be with you.

The frenzied fan fare has me wondering about the ways craft beer enthusiasts interact with and respond to mainstream and alternative media coverage of their favorite hobby. Similar to the recent New Yorker piece on Dogfish Head and extreme brewing, craft beer lovers crave attention for the subject of their passion. And that is certainly understandable, especially after many years of not being taken seriously by the media (although it’s debatable whether that attitude has really changed). But there is something about the Beer Wars project itself, and the groundswell of excitement surrounding it, that I can’t quite put my finger on.

In truth, we know little about the project. On her website, Baron provides some details that help to smooth the outer edges.

Everywhere we went, we heard grumbling about the decline in mainstream beer sales. It seemed that innovation was now coming from the small players instead of the giants. The highlight was an interview with Rhonda Kallman who had left Sam Adams to launch her own company. Her tenacity and energy were inspiring.

So the story began to take shape. The independent brewers vs. the big corporate players. The timing was right. An increasing number of Americans were interested in making their own choices and not kowtowing to the corporate marketing machine. Whether in coffee, cheese, chocolate, locally grown produce, people were willing to experiment and explore, even if it meant paying a little more. Craft beer was a natural extension of this trend.

At the outset, one critical note that keeps ringing in my head is that the independent brewer versus big corporate player dynamic would have been spot on five to seven years ago. The Slow Food-style comparisons are even more dated. But today, both paradigms ring pretty false. There remain, of course, challenges between these two tiers of beer industry competitors. But, compared to even just five years ago, the main sources of friction between them have greatly receded and craft brewers have new sources of concern (managing growth, providing consistent and fresh products, balancing innovation versus customer expectations, balancing debt service against expansion needs). It’s an anachronistic exercise to continue to view the beer industry through the prism of us versus them, small versus big. Case in point: ask any craft brewer you know about their access to market concerns five years ago compared to today. It’s the difference between having trouble getting a space on a big brewer’s truck versus finding enough time to return all of the new distributor inquiries from around the country. Access to market is no longer the looming problem. Deciding which markets to turn down and how to keep fresh product on the shelves are the problems today. This is undoubtedly a much simplified view of one aspect of the industry but it serves as an example to illustrate the greater point. The opening scene in the trailer has an individual offering that “They’re all fighting for a piece of a pie that is not growing.? If this is the documentary’s premise, it’s a hollow and inaccurate one in today’s beer marketplace.

The continued relevance of the idea behind Beer Wars has come up in some conversations I’ve had with industry insiders recently. From what I can tell, in tackling the subject of the beer industry at large, Baron wisely relies upon the tested documentary technique of following a limited pool of individuals and using their personal narratives to tell a wider tale. Baron notes on her website:

Beer Wars begins as the corporate behemoths are being challenged by small, independent brewers who are shunning the status quo and creating innovative new beers. The story is told through 2 of these entrepreneurs – Sam and Rhonda – battling the might and tactics of Corporate America. We witness their struggle to achieve their American Dream in an industry dominated by powerful corporations unwilling to cede an inch.

Of course we all knew that the affable Calagione would be a focus of the film, it’s almost a precondition of media coverage these days. But Rhonda Kallman is a very interesting choice for a second act. Kallman is well-known among beer industry insiders but is decidedly less so for beer enthusiasts, especially young ones. I profiled Kallman in one of my first pieces for Beverage Business Magazine in 2001. While we all recognize Jim Koch and his accomplishments, Kallman co-founded Boston Beer Company with Koch in 1984. He has described her as “smart, resourceful and motivated? and noted that while Boston Beer Co. had no corporate ladder to climb, Kallman built her own ladder. Koch credited Kallman with helping to bring about a fundamental change in the American beer industry and she shared the 1997 Institute for Brewing Studies Recognition Award for outstanding contribution to the microbrewing movement with him. Kallman left Boston Beer at the end of 1999 and went on to form her own contract brewing operation, the New Century Brewing Company.

At the time, Kallman was seeking to release her own national light beer, set to be a step above macro-brewed light offerings. A daring if questionable idea from the start, Kallman’s new beer, playfully named Edison Light, had some buzz of its own. In my interview of the time, Kallman suggested an approach that laid the basis for Beer Wars.

It’s an above premium light beer, a segment that is clearly dominated by giants. There has been no news in the light beer category in years, no real new news at all. And 75 percent of the light beer segment is made up of the big three – A-B, Miller, and Coors. Other brewers, particularly importers, all have light beers as well. But they all really can’t get out of the way of their flagship. Light beer is clearly the direction the consumers are going, at least the targeted demographic that we are all after, which is males aged 21 to 27, and increasingly they are drinking more and more light beer. And that demographic is expected to grow, so people are clearly after that. But we’ll appeal to these people and that young demographic looking for change, a new choice and variety.

Fast-forward seven years and the Edison Light beer project, and its sister product, the short-lived caffeinated beer called Moonshot, have stalled. The national rollout never happened and now Kallman acknowledges that the brand’s reach is limited. After an initial push in the Massachusetts market, Edison quickly retreated to a few hideouts around the state. It’s now available by request in certain parts of Massachusetts, New York City, Southern California, and Trader Joe’s markets east of St. Louis. It probably didn’t help that the beer was released to the public the day before the September 11th attacks.

So with all of this in mind, I’m curious to see Beer Wars and how it handles Kallman’s situation, among other issues. Will the film be honest and note that her operation and its big plans have met with little success or will it simply frame the debate in outmoded terms better suited to a decade ago? And will it draw the necessary distinction between Kallman’s business model, marketing a national premium light beer against entrenched and well-funded competitors in a similar category, and the operations of nearly every other “craft brewer.? I look forward to finding out.

Beyond these substantive points, the trailer itself is full of things that will appeal to the red meat beer geeks, including the otherwise sensible Greg Koch talking some ridiculousness about making angry beer and how it turns people happy. Frankly, I think the late Michael Jackson may have been the only to make any real sense in the trailer and he sadly passed away more than 18 months before the film’s release. I’m also curious to learn whether Ben Stein has some perhaps yet unreleased connection to the beer industry or if his moderating services were simply available for rent at the right price.

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Novelty and The New Yorker…

A remarkable thing happened a few months back. One of America’s most respected periodicals, the New Yorker, a great chronicler of popular culture, published a nearly 10,000 word tome on one of craft beer’s brightest lights. And while public response to the energetic and engaging profile of Dogfish Head’s intrepid leader Sam Calagione bordered on the euphoric for craft beer enthusiasts, the remarkable piece left me a little concerned.

A rollicking good read, the article follows a Ken Kesey-esque Calagione through a patchwork of interviews, bawdy high jinks, and entertaining stories. Using Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver as an uneasy contrast and even unlikelier foil, the resulting profile includes the author’s contextual observations about his lead character as the king of extreme, and, to a lesser extent, about the craft beer industry in general. While the article captures Calagione’s spirit if occasionally portraying him as a barely mitigated eccentric, it’s the lasting impression of the craft beer industry and its association with extreme that bothered me.

After first denigrating craft beer as a ‘fad’ and then pronouncing it ‘dead,’ the mainstream media has had a particularly fickle relationship with craft brewers. Despite these slags on the fine efforts of struggling craft brewers, the news media’s subtler approach to craft beer in recent years poses a bigger challenge to the industry. And the New Yorker article’s title put the issue front and center in the magazine’s first real foray into the craft beer world, “The rise of extreme beer.?

For the last five years, newspaper editors, magazine writers, and television producers have sought to define craft beer as being extreme. And for a while, craft brewers were perfectly happy being portrayed as representing a break from the average, tired, mass-produced brands. While a handful of adventurous brewers have seen success by pushing the brewing envelope in an effort to redefine the very nature of beer, the overwhelming majority of craft brewers still run very traditional operations. Beyond obscuring the true efforts of the vast majority of craft brewers, the direction of such media coverage serves to subtly suggest that the efforts of smaller breweries are unusual in a way that appeals to only a very limited segment of the public.

Craft brewers should be concerned that their efforts and products, which for mainstream success must focus on both flavor and accessibility of their products, will grow isolated from potential customers by way of inaccurate media coverage. Oliver’s stated concerns in the New Yorker article about the alienating effects of appealing to such a small demographic, and by its definition of having craft beer equated with and defined as extreme beer, are understandable. For the majority of craft brewers who are looking to grow their businesses, the notion that they are doing something strange should not be encouraged. Instead, their efforts should be portrayed as a return to normalcy after a long-standing hibernation of taste, a welcomed homecoming from a time where bland, flavorless beers and foods reigned. In the same way that the average consumer does not look upon Chinese, Mexican, or Thai food as the extreme of eating, craft brewers should be wary of having their efforts defined as weird or strange by the media.

To be sure, the New Yorker article was a watershed event in the history of the craft brewing renaissance, one that symbolized an arrival on a new stage, a proper introduction to an audience that prides itself on sophistication. As the mainstream media continues to focus its attention on craft brewing, I hope that the industry can achieve a balance of coverage and avoid the restrictive and isolating label of novelty.

–Article appeared in Volume III, Issue I of BeerAdvocate Magazine.

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Media Draft: Anheuser Busch, Paid Travel, and the Ethics of Beer Writers…

Perhaps with the idea that no horse is too dead to beat (an unfortunate reverse of the idiom to be sure), an upcoming event (and another debate over at Appellation Beer) has me thinking about the ethics of beer writing. Beyond mere samples and the occasional free meal, the food/beverage/tourism writer’s bread and butter is free travel. Trips paid for by an interested business, be it a brewery, importer, hotelier, or restaurateur, are an effective way of securing coverage of an event or a location. Writers, who otherwise might not be able to afford to visit the location or attend the event, of course welcome the opportunity to attend these events, where they enjoy free airfare, transportation, hotel rooms, and are plied with free drinks and meals. The free trip has long been a part of the marketing arsenal for larger companies seeking to secure coverage. Travel writing has an especially long and seedy history with paid trips, as does the wine writing trade.

In a little over two weeks, America’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch, will again engage in this time honored marketing tactic by ‘inviting’ a dozen or more beer media members from around the country to attend the second annual St. Louis Brewers Heritage Festival in Anheuser-Busch’s hometown. Sponsored in part by Anheuser-Busch’s public relations offshoot, Here’s To Beer, this is the second year the brewery has paid for the presence of beer writers. Held May 8-10 at Lindell Pavilion in Forest Park, the event brings together “big and small brewers from the St. Louis area” including Schlafly Beer, Allandale Brewery, Augusta Brewery, Square One Brewery, Anheuser-Busch, O’Fallon Brewery, and Morgan Street Brewery. This year’s VIP media attendees will include magazine publishers and writers, podcasters, website publishers, and a host of freelance writers.

While I applaud with a light golf clap Anheuser-Busch’s efforts with Here’s To Beer and with trying to promote better beer in its hometown (louder applause is reserved for how this signals the continued strength of craft beer), I’m troubled by the free trips the brewery sponsors, the range of which have been written about elsewhere. As part of a continuing series, I’d be interested in soliciting the thoughts of others on the appropriateness of paid travel in beer writing and whether disclosure (or sunshine as it is sometimes called), is enough to overcome the appearance of bias. I have to admit being particularly taken by Ray Daniels’ surprisingly honest preface to this All About Beer Magazine article from maybe a decade ago.

Advanced Warning: While researching this article, the author received from Anheuser-Busch complimentary travel, accommodations, food, drink and general camaraderie with his fellow beer writers. If you think this compromises objectivity, you may be right. If you think that beer writing pays enough for anyone to bring you this kind of information without brewer support then your perception of the beer world is twisted like some M.C. Escher block print. Either that or Mad Cow disease has finally become manifest in America. In either case, you need to have a beer, read the piece and then decide for yourself what you actually think. Jumps to conclusion, knee jerk reactions and other un-pondered perspectives need not apply.

If sunshine is enough to clear the ethical clouds, Ray’s is pretty bright. But is disclosure enough? When a writer acknowledges that a trip is paid, and then says the following, how is a consumer/reader supposed to respond?

Did I just say that Anheuser-Busch is “a stench in the nostrils of the Beer Gods?? I know I did. I went and looked, and sure enough, I actually said it.

I take it all back. Last week, A-B’s beer makers flew me and a dozen other beer writers to their Elk Mountain hop farm in northern Idaho for the hop harvest. (Those are hop flowers in the photo right here. They sure are purty, aren’t they? Like little pine cones filled with beer flavor and aroma.)

I spent two days in the company of the brewers and their beers, where they hit me upside the head with a 20-pound sledgehammer called the Cold, Hard Beer Facts.

I now regret having said such viciously foolish things. These guys are keeping the flame in St. Louis, no matter what the marketing department makes them do with fruit and sugar and horny goat weed. (Just kidding; there is no horny goat weed in Anheuser-Busch products that I know of…I just like saying it.) They trotted out some new specialty beers that are simply fantastic, and they were proud of them.

So were the beers actually that good or were the big portions of the salmon lunch, cooked three ways, that made the writer, Lew Bryson, “moan” the clincher? In this case, it’s assuredly the former in my opinion, but the appearance of bias is clearly a problem (even with proper disclosure).

So in the wake of Anheuser-Busch’s upcoming Heritage Festival, expect to see a lot of coverage in the beer press, on blogs, and over the airwaves about how the brewery is up to great things. Keep an eye and an ear out for whether the writer or speaker discloses that he or she received a slew of free stuff before sharing their thoughts with you. The disclosure should be right upfront. And if it’s there, when you’re done reading or listening, ask yourself this question, “Are you absolutely convinced the person wasn’t influenced by the free plane ride, shuttles, hotel room, day trips, beer, meals, and other activities?” If the answer is yes, then worry no more. If the answer is no, we all have some worrying to do. All, that is, except Anheuser-Busch…

Editor’s Note: Lew’s name was added at his request. The article in question appears on former beer writer Kerry Byrne’s football website, Cold Hard Football Facts

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Media Draft – Ethics and Beer Writing Continued…

For the last several weeks, Stan Hieronymus’s website, Appellation Beer, has played host to a bit of a rarity, a debate over journalistic ethics. What started as a few riffs on the notion and purpose of criticism quickly devolved (in part my own fault) into a larger debate on the proper role of writers in the beer trade. I’ve written and spoken a number of times in the past about my concerns over what I perceive to be a serious lack of professional ethics in the area of beer writing. The recent debate among a number of well-known professional beer writers, amateur writers, and consumers has started me on the project of trying to delineate a set of guidelines for ethical beer writing that I hope will (or should) garner some acceptance.

Before I suggest some protective measures, I thought it prudent to first raise a few of the ethical quandaries that I see in our industry in order to illustrate the need for some guidelines. Like any other industry, beer writing’s ranks include amateur hobbyists who pen the occasional article or column for their local ‘brewspaper,’ full time reporters who either cover beer as a beat for major newspaper or magazine, and professional writers who focus exclusively on covering beer and brewing. These different groups of writers have very different interests, restrictions, and levels of training. While your average journalism school graduate will have to take and pass a class involving a discussion of journalistic ethics, and the professional newspaper reporter is bound by his or her employer’s code of conduct, the hobbyist writer lacks any true ethical guideposts beyond their own creation or adoption.

It is my belief that this lack of ethical guidelines has caused beer writing to lack professionalism. This state of affairs contributes to a general absence of respect for the trade of beer writing. And where beer writing is not respected, the subject of coverage, namely the business of brewing, suffers. For a long time, it seems as if writers and brewers didn’t quite know what to make of one another. Sometimes hesitant to interact, brewers expected positive coverage from the writers. In return, writers quietly expected special treatment, be it the occasional free beer, meal, or access to events. The relationship eventually grew quite cozy, with the two groups serving each other’s interests quite well. The problem with this incestuous relationship is that the consumers never figured into the equation.

Positive coverage has so long been the expected standard in beer writing that what little inclination towards criticism or coverage aimed at bettering the consumer’s experience was quickly lost. For a long time, beer writers have believed that criticism means writing that Young’s Old Nick Barley Wine is actually more an old ale than a barley wine (and self-gratifyingly thinking that this is a radical and brave opinion).

While the average and even above-average consumer might never take a moment to think of the ethics or critical skills of those whose reportage they are reading, that doesn’t mean that those souls providing the reporting shouldn’t consider the issues themselves. Despite the dozens upon dozens of beer niche based publications that we have, America has no beer journalism/writing/reporting group or association where people can discuss these issues. Our counterparts in Britain indeed do have such an organization and it has a set of agreed-upon ethical rules that it expects members to follow.

AABWhile the debate over the proper principles of ethical writing should address the dozens of thorny issues, my interest in this subject was recently revived by an old issue of All About Beer Magazine that randomly (or serendipitously) crossed my path. While recently sipping a 2007 Alaskan Smoked Porter at the beer friendly bar at the Wine Exchange of Sonoma, I pulled a dusty, old January 1996 issue of All About Beer off the shelves. Turning to the letters section, I was pretty surprised by its contents. But first, please permit me a brief aside in order to provide some context.

As part of the Appellation Beer debate, I offered one obvious example of an ethical quandary relating to All About Beer’s Beer Talk section, which includes reviews from beer luminaries across the globe. For some time, the list has been comprised on John Hansell (editor of Malt Advocate Magazine), Steve Beaumont (beer writer/restaurateur), Charles Finkel (beer importer/distributor, brewery owner), Stan Hieronymus (beer writer/Appellation Beer), Charlie Papazian (president of Brewers Association), Jeff Evans (British beer writer), Roger Protz (British beer writer), and Garrett Oliver (brewer at Brooklyn Brewery). Each writer reviews four beers per issue for a total of sixteen products covered.

While there are many ethical guides and policies available for journalists to review, perhaps aspiring (and present) beer writers should review two basic sets. As one of the oldest organizations dedicated to representing the interests of a broad range of journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has created a straightforward and accessible Code of Conduct. Formed in 1909 and boasting nearly 10,000 members, I think it’s pretty safe turf on which to start a discussion of journalistic ethics. At the hear of SPJ’s code is the principle that “Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.? Now what exactly does this mean? The code goes on to explain that:

Journalists should:
—Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
— Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
— Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
— Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

In its brief tenure, the now defunct North American Guild of Beer Writers existed “to encourage writing that is informed, accurate and fair-minded on the subject of beer.? The NAGBW promulgated its own ethical code and asked members to “uphold professional standards through conduct that is legal, fair and honorable.? The NAGBW’s code, in part, suggested that members should:

Avoid conflicts of interest. Examples of conflicts of interest include (but are not limited to) the following: a) Writers, while employed in a public relations or spokesperson capacity, also writing about clients, client’s products, client’s competitors, or sponsoring organizations, in an editorial capacity, without also disclosing current employment;

Each of the SPJ and NAGBW points raise some red flags for many beer writers but let’s stick for the moment with the All About Beer Magazine example. In journalism, the law, and other professions, the standard one is held to is not an actual conflict but the appearance of a conflict of interest. It’s not that someone is inherently biased but that their position or particular situation might create the appearance of bias. As such, most publications (outside of the beer world) have stern rules about such conflicts. While I do not dispute that the eight men who participate in All About Beer Magazine’s Beer Talk section are not qualified to write reviews (I do question why the panel lacks one of dozens of similarly qualified women writers), that several of the panelists have at minimum a clear conflict of interest in reviewing the products is problematic. Of those listed, it appears to me that Finkel, Papazian, and Oliver probably should not be writing reviews due to their professional situations (Papazian as the professional organization leader of all small brewers) and Finkel and Oliver because they are reviewing the products of their competitors (or their own products if so assigned it is possible). To my mind, while these gentlemen might very well be good souls who can put aside any possible bias or conflict, this is not the applicable journalistic standard. Having brewers sit on tasting panels or allowing them to write articles in magazines and newspapers is a little like letting the vice-president of design for the Ford Motor Company write reviews of the newest line of Chevy’s in the pages of Car and Driver or the Detroit Free Press. The VP might really love the Chevy but if s/he criticizes it, you’ll never know whether their position influenced the opinion.

This has all been a very, very long-winded way of getting to that January 1996 issue. From its pages, I learned that the Beer Talk section gained some new members in the previous issues. Of these members, several of the above-named individuals joined the panel’s ranks. The response by consumers and members of the trade was surprisingly hostile, especially to Finkel’s participation. Here follows the text of some of the comments.

“Perhaps the AAB panels should be composed exclusively of non-partisan reviewers, like Fred Eckhardt and Charlie Papazian. Surely Daniel Bradford must feel confident about the panels, but there is obviously a potential for conflict of interest.? — Jim Dorsch

“Has anyone noticed that the prez of Merchant du Vin always trashes the best examples of his competition in All About Beer reviews. This month he spews about how Piraat (grand champion at this year’s California Beer Festival and heartily recommended by the other panelists) is a disgrace to Belgium and smells like rotten potatoes. Come on, this is not a matter of differing opinion but a commercial vendetta.? — Robert Rogness

“You might consider using judges that are not competing with the beers they are tasting.? — John Thomas, Gourmet Beer Society, Temecula, California

To his credit, Finkel was not shocked by the response. Allowed to respond, Finkel crafted a smart and honest defense.

“As you recall, when you first invited me to be a reviewer, I explained that I might not be the best choice since some readers might question my sincerity in reviewing competitive beers. I further explained that, no matter one’s commercial interest and level of expertise, a review of taste in which the critic sees the labels is never as good as a “blind review. We are all influenced, like it or not, by commercialism.

…I apologize if I have caused any ill feeling. That is never my intention. I refuse to be influenced by commercial greed… — Charles Finkel.

Daniel Bradford, editor and publisher of All About Beer Magazine, also added his thoughts on the conflict issue.

“Ed Note: When we purchased the magazine two years ago one of the biggest complaints about AABM was the lack of strong criticism by the reviewers. Most are writers and, contrary to popular opinion, writers are not universally disinterested. We invited Charles on board, fully familiar with his take-no-prisoners approach to beer reviewing, to balance out the other reviewers… — Daniel Bradford.

In terms of avoiding conflicts of interest, All About Beer Magazine’s Beer Talk section does a poor job. As the beer world is presently inhabited by a number of talented, independent writers, it would be quite easy to find suitable and experienced replacements. Beer Talk is a case where even disclosure of the conflict fails to alleviate the perception of bias, especially where the perception is entirely unnecessary (and well known, since at least January 1996). The conflict, perceived or real, is further puzzling and ironic as All About Beer Magazine’s publisher, Daniel Bradford, founded and administered the North American Guild of Beer Writers and likely had a hand in writing that organization’s ethical code.

I find it interesting that while All About Beer Magazine initially experienced some resistance to the conflict inherent in having a business person review the products of his competitors in a trade publication, the song remains the same more than twelve years later. And we no longer even give a second’s thought to the issue. I hope the issues raised on Stan’s website continue to be debated in much larger forums in the future. Along the way, I look forward to receiving the thoughts of brewers, consumers, amateur hobbyists, and my fellow beer writers.

–In the interest of full disclosure, I presently write for BeerAdvocate Magazine, where I pen the ‘Unfiltered’ column, and I also write a bi-monthly feature for Beverage Magazine. I occasionally also write for a series of other magazines, a list of which can be found on the ‘about Beerscribe’ page.

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Media Draft: Cheapflights.com’s Beer Lover’s Airport Guide

I don’t usually post press releases (as my three loyal readers can attest) but this particular offering caught my eye. A PR representative sent me a release for an airport beer guide produced by the travel website, Cheapflights.com. The Beer Lover’s Airport Guide and accompanying podcast detail where to find craft beers in 15 of the nation’s busiest airports (including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detriot, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington. The four-page guide has not a single mention of Budweiser, Miller, or Coors and focuses on tap rooms for breweries from Harpoon at BOS to Laurelwood at PDX and Wasatch at SLC.

The podcast (available as an MP3) is a pretty well-done narrative report on airport beers, with occasional quotes (not live) from sources such as Julia Herz of the Brewers Association and Dan Gordon of Gordon Biersch. While the multiple uses of the word ‘quaff’ detract, I’m also not crazy about its relaying of the tired myth that Sam Adams was a brewer. Beyond these minor nitpicking points, it’s pretty big picture stuff but still a welcome addition nonetheless.

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