What beer lover would turn down the offer to write about beer in return for the most common remuneration of such effort (beer)? Isn’t that the only reason why beer writers exist?
A new trophy was recently announced by the annual Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA), which might help validate a beer writer’s existence – the AIBA Media Award, sponsored by The Crafty Pint.
The award will recognise Australia’s top media talent specialising in beer and brewing. Entries are open to anyone one over 18 who is resident in Australia and has published beer-related work between January 1 and December 31, 2013, in the media (including print, radio, TV, film, online or social media).
This is good news. It provides those who are passionate about communicating and analysing beer with more reason to do so, other than free beer.
Beer media is a field I play in – with this blog and social media, as well as my work with Australian Brews News – but I’m undecided as to whether I’ll make a submission to the Award.
Initially, I avoided all thought of entering. I don’t believe my output is anywhere near the class or contribution factor achieved by others in the Australian beer media landscape. I don’t consider myself talented or deserving of such recognition. For one, I write too much junk. Also, I’m not well schooled in grammar. Ultimately, I just enjoy sharing the experience of better beer, so I write about it, and it’s turned into a fun pseudo media job.
Then again, as beer writing is something I’m keen to continue pursuing and advancing, the opportunity to have my work read by a panel of judges is enough incentive to enter the competition and a positive step for my beer writing passion. Although, as a believer in the continuing relevance and higher impact of traditional media, I’d like to see this award go to someone with an audience from print media/newspapers, TV or radio.
Who is Australia’s beer media talent?
Over the last decade or so, many would have answered: Willie Simpson, and quite rightly so. But Willie is now in semi-retirement from beer writing, as he focuses on his brewery, Seven Sheds in Railton, Tasmania. He produces excellent beers, such as the Kentish Ale, which we don’t seen enough of on Australia’s mainland.
Willie left a big gap, yet to be fully filled, but here’s who I think is providing the talent and worthy content:
Matt Kirkegaard (BeerMatt) – freelance writer, beer educator, industry commentator for TV and radio, Editor of Australia Brews News. Matt is currently the most interesting writer in Australia’s beer media.
Yes, full disclosure, I have a connection to Matt and write for his outlet, Australian Brews News. Hence, you may consider me biased.
Nevertheless, I eagerly read everything Matt writes about beer because he is passionate and very well informed. Most of all, virtually everything he produces causes a spark that lights a wildfire of conversation and engagement about Australian beer. We understand the local beer market and industry much better, thanks to Matt.
James Smith (The Crafty Pint) – journalist, freelance writer, Australia’s craft beer cheerleader (excluded from the AIBA Media Award because he is the sponsor) – James is a voice on beer that is worth listening to…any time and any where. More importantly, his actions have spoken louder than his words, resulting in significant promotion and advancement of the local craft beer community through initiatives such as Good Beer Week, The Crafty Pint and now Craft Beer Rising.
I suspect that, over the last 5 years, James has brought more people into craft beer than any other Australian beer media or writer.
Maybe one day this Award will be named in his honour.
Max Brearley – freelance writer, blogger – Australian beer bloggers became familiar with Max through his London based Pub Diaries blog. Then he moved to Perth, Western Australia, and now provides us with excellent writing about beer and food in the west. Topics that usually bore me, Max makes very readable.
James Atkinson – journalist, industry specialist, Editor of The Shout – As far as trade news goes for the Aussie drinks industry, James has the scoop and the contacts. He covers all ends of the beer market, and the articles never overstay their welcome.
Glen Humphries – journalist and blogger – Like me, Glen is still learning about the beer world, which he shares by blogging his craft beer journey of discovery. He must have read a “Blogging & Social Media 101” book written in late 2012, because he has prolific output with text book strategy, blogging almost daily on Beer is your friend with routine topics for each day of the week. His best work is reserved for the Illawarra Mercury, where we contributes features and blogs about the local beer industry.
I’d also like to echo the Ale of a Time podcast (‘Sode 4: Mass Hipsteria and Factual Inaccuracy) regarding the excellence of Pete “Prof Pilsner” Mitcham.
Pete Mitcham – beer writer, educator, host, good bloke – Pete is one of the best communicators of beer in Australia. He can talk about beer to anyone, from beer geeks to unmovable old-school mainstream beer drinkers. You will often find Pete hosting panel sessions and workshops at beer festivals and events, and his sessions are always worth attending. He is knowledgeable, entertaining and always interesting. We often groan at Pete’s “dad gag” routines, but he is a master of communicating the simple pleasures of enjoying beer. Pete always has a story that will help you enjoy your beer more.
Who have I missed?
There’s Beer Diva Kirrily Waldhorn, who is also an excellent beer communicator, but her focus seems more directed towards education, consultancy and events, as opposed to media. (Apologies to Kirrily if that’s incorrect.)
Other (new) media…
I’ve been fascinated with podcasts for about 18 months now, hooking in daily to hear people talk without restraint or regulation. It’s reached a concerning stage where I start suffering withdrawal if I don’t get a weekly fix of TOFOP or The Nerdist. I’ve gravitated to comedy podcasts, but I also listen to whatever Aussie beer podcasts I can find to keep up-to-date with all that is happening.
There’s only a handful of Australian based beer podcasts. Here’s what I listen to every time they release an episode:
- Ale of a Time – Melbourne’s Luke and Dave catch up every 2 weeks to talk about what’s been happening around them in the beer world. They’re only 4 episodes in, so Dave and Luke are probably yet to find their best rhythm and comfort zone, but they are polished (comparatively) and thoughtful, it’s easy listening. I’ve enjoyed every episode so far and recommend this podcast to anyone with local knowledge of the Melbourne beer scene.
- Sessionable – the Sydney beer mafia/crew/guys/team/whatever spend an hour talking about how good Riverside Brewing is. haha…yeah, joke, but they do love the small and young brewery from Sydney’s west. It’s a forgivable obsession, because Riverside makes great beer and its excellent to see such passion for a local small brewery. They tend to be a bit rough and raw, which is fine because it’s like listening to mates chatting at a bar. Just watch out for when they laugh, loud… you’re ear drums may get blown out. Team Seassionable established my favourite catch phrase of last year (and ongoing): “What is craft [insert any topic here]?”
- Inebriation Nation – radio quality sound and voices from a show born on the Sadly Lacking Radio internet radio network. It features a characterful Sydney based crew including US expats and the wonderfully nonchalant Drunk Kevin. They are all relatively new to Australian beer, yet present very balanced and non-geeky discussions about the industry thanks to their global experiences and easy-going world view of beer.
(Of course, the best is Radio Brews News, which will hopefully return again soon, but there’s my bias again.)
I also follow and enjoy the blogs found of the right-hand side menu of this site, under “Aussie Beer Bloggers”.
And while I’m on the blog train of thought, here’s what I’d like to see from Australia beer bloggers moving forward…
Beer writing beyond 2014
What are the tired stories, the “hack” news/analysis/commentary topics that established bloggers and beer writers should now avoid?
Here’s what I avoid reading and writing about these days (and yes, I’m well aware that I’ve been very guilty of focusing on them in the past):
- Brewing collaborations – an easy topic to consider “news”, but the act of a collaboration is no longer news, so if it’s worth writing about, find another angle that makes it unique/new/interesting/important.
- The style debate – what relevance does this have to drinkers and readers? Exact beer styles are important for subjectivity in competitions, but outside the judging circuit…style arguments are BORING and often don’t tell you anything about why you should drink the beer. Can a Black IPA just be a “hoppy dark beer” (with a flavour adjective for the hop profile) and if not, how would that change whether I enjoy drinking it or not?
- Gender and beer – equality is important, but making news out of gender in relation to beer and brewing is sending us backwards rather than forwards. How is it productive to make anything about beer gender specific?
- Anonymity – the anonymous internet is dead. If you want to be listened to, if you want to have a voice and be a part of the debate…be identifiable to give your output credibility. If your excuse for using anonymity is because you’re concerned about the security of your identity online, then get off the internet.
What are the topics that need more attention?
- Beer and society – let’s talk more about finding the right balance for the enjoyment of beer. In Australia, “alcohol induced violence” is a hot topic, culturally and politically. It needs to be address. Avoiding this issue is unproductive. Maybe there will always be stupid people who abuse alcohol and cause harm. Maybe it’s a psychological issue, maybe it’s a cultural issue, maybe or it’s a bad combination of other substance abuse. But…if you enjoy drinking beer without harm, let’s find ways to share the enjoyment (and benefits, maybe). Let’s acknowledge the existence of a problem in Australia and communicate beer with balance to break down any stigma and negative connotations. (I’m still working out how to do that.)
- Marketing the truth – beer related PR and marketing can be brilliant and entertaining, it doesn’t need to be false/wrong/lies/spin. If you see bad beer marketing, write about why it’s wrong. If you see beer marketing that is excellent, write about that too. Let’s give beer better PR through clever marketing.
- Beer yarns – share the great tales of human experience when beer is present or the destination.
What are the beer topics that you’d like to see written about more and less?