Right to Reply - @ Caroline Nodder, Publican Editor
Right To Reply
BrewDog follows up Caroline Nodder's comments on so-called niche beer...
Journalism today can be assigned to three distinct categories – the good, the bad and the ugly. This blog focuses on the latter and one example in particular by Publican Editor Caroline Nodder. You can check out Caroline's blog here first.
You see, we're all for stirring up opinions and ruffling a few feathers if it means the debate surrounding craft beer has a chance to grow and reach a bigger audience. What the craft beer industry doesn't need, however, are blogs from figureheads like Caroline which only serve to criticise the immense progress that UK craft beer has made, all in the name of opinion for the sake of opinion.
There's a couple of points in particular that stand out for us, like Caroline's suggestion that discussing 'notes' – a beer's flavour or aroma – are pretentious and off putting to drinkers.
While “freshly washed socks in a hailstorm” is quite obviously tongue-in-cheek, it's still important that people can identify flavours, make decisions based on these and not feel embarrassed for doing so if they want to. You wouldn't buy a pasta sauce without reading the ingredients first so why should beer be any different?
Tasting notes can be as pretentious as the drinker wants them to be but – in BrewDog's case - providing an overview via a vlog or sell sheet acts as a heads up of what to look out for and is part of a bigger quest for transparency that's long been absent from mainstream brewing.
What's more, Caroline goes on to describe what the average drinker wants - “They just care that the beer tastes good, is served well in top condition, and that its branding fits with their personal image.”
Surely, over-carbonated, chemical-filled beers that have to be served chilled don't fit the remit of what 'the average drinker wants', let alone any drinker?
In fact, good-tasting beer that's served in top condition is a huge part of the message behind craft beer and while Caroline might not want to know what she can expect from her brew, this doesn't mean others won't; especially those of us who prefer to back up our opinions or preferences with reasoning rather than 'I like it just because I do'.
By stigmatising and labeling the growing dialogue and debate surrounding beer as pretentious, drinkers are likely to be pushed back towards the mainstream because it's seen as a 'safe' option where no questions are asked while others who are passionate and interested in home brewing and the like are further marginalised as 'geeks'.
Caroline is calling for someone like Jamie Oliver to ignite people's interest and excitement about beer in the same way people got fired up about good food. Personally, we believe the answer is education. Education is empowerment.
If brewers can help educate drinkers via transparency, tasting events and an open dialogue with consumers on a number of levels (from twitter to beer tastings), it breaks down barriers and helps people make informed decisions based on personal preference rather those that are constrained through lack of choice or knowledge.
Ultimately, we believe there shouldn't be such a thing as 'the average drinker'. Instead those who participate in the craft beer revolution consistent of a broad spectrum of individuals who hail from all walks of life, untied by a love for one thing: beer.
What do you think? Do elements like tasting notes serve as a deterrent or even distort people's perceptions of beer. Or does encouraging people to take a look at the behind-the-scenes side of brewing make beer more exciting and engaging? We want to know your thoughts.
- A sensible reply to a horribly ignorant, backward reactionary blog by someone one would have hoped would have known better.
Just because Caroline Nodder has no interest in whats in her glass or what it tastes like is no reason for her to marginalise people who do. Espescially when it seems to be for no other reason than her own feelings of inadequacy.
Pretentiousness is to be avoided but as James says, its how you write tasting notes that makes you pretentious, not that you write them at all.
Its worth noting that her beloved Jamie Oliver doesnt take this phillistine attitude to food either. He always talks about what flavours and textures a food has, how they go together and what ingredients produce them. He also always encourages people to buy good quality ingredients and to think about where they come from.
I think we probably do need Jamie Oliver types promoting beer but that challenges Carolines point rather than supporting it.Gareth08.03.2011
- I don't think Caroline Nodder would like Hoptopia very much. An important part of educating people is inspiring them to look deeper, to see more than simply a "good pint." In a world dominated by multi billion dollar macro ad budgets, being anything other than colorful when talking about craft beer is an utter failure. Saying something is simply good is a waste of time. As for a beer Jamie Oliver, please! There are plenty of us already inspiring new interest in beer by actively talking about it. Her Twitter account as been inactive since Nov 2009. How well informed is Caroline exactly? The British beer industry needs people like Caroline shitting all over the hard labor of small breweries like it needs a hole in the head. She also seems utterly ignorant of the monumental rise of craft beer in the US, which has been in full swing for, oh 30 years! Why is this woman even being paid to write about beer? Seriously. Cheers! http://www.hoptopia.com Lee Williams (Hoptopia)08.03.2011
- I prefer my unfiltered beers. Im an Aussie microbrewer myself and let me say quite frankly... This chick has shit for brains. Bet she's never even tried an unfiltered brew because it doesnt LOOK the part. Your the epitamy of beer critics. I shall call you The Paris Hilton of beer critics! Go pay someone to wash your chihuahua woman! Nick Nicotra07.03.2011
- The cynic in me thinks this is more about the big fizz factories trying to grasp on to their sales through the brainwash of "branding is everything" as opposed to good beer. Is Caroline and the Publican just a propaganda tool for the big fizz merchants??? I'm with John B above. Drinking beer for its image is the domain of tools. A piss poor article by someone that is living in 1990. AndrewC07.03.2011
- Good reply. I think the way Brewdog and other brewers are approaching beer is definitley the way forward and there's certainly nothing "geeky" about them. Education is absolutley what's needed otherwise people will just be brainwashed by competitive companies like Fosters and have no appreciation of beer. Keep up the good work fellas. Jon07.03.2011
- I actually get where she's coming from. I love real ale, and long avoided joining CAMRA because of my perception of it's stuffiness and the geek factor.
If you love something though you get interested in it, and you enjoy talking about it. This obviously leads to a degree of analysis... when someone educates me about the hops that were used etc, I'm interested. This is consistent with her comment that we need a 'beer' Jamie Oliver.
The last thing I want to do is talk to some pretentious git about beer BUT I do want to talk to passionate educated people about it. So let people ask the question about local and craft beers, it's good that they are taking an interest and either want to sample the wares of their community or are visiting a locality and want to drink in its culture. GOOD!
The snippet about Brewdog is unfair too. I think Brewdog, more than any other ale brewery realises that personal image and drinking do go hand in hand. Young people want to be cool. Therefore they want to drink beer that looks cool. Big brown bottles with a lighthouse, fishing boat, bearded druid on the font etc don't look cool to young people. So let them drink 330ml bottles like their mates drinking Stella, Smirnoff Ice or Becks. But, give it a cool label and snappy name like Punk IPA, 5 am Saint or Trashy Blonde and great beer inside. Brewdog could, with the right backing steer a generation back toward decent beer.
- With you all the way guys. I don't want someone to drink our beer because they like the name, the bottle label or the pump clip (though all those things are of course important). I want someone to make an informed decision based upon our use of quality ingredients and the effect the processes used have on those ingredients to make a tasty beverage. To achieve that, a little communication and description of what our customer can expect is essential. To expect a customer to spend their hard-earned money without explaining what we are selling them is arrogant and foolhardy, so we shall be taking Caroline Nodder post with a healthy dose of NaCl. Mark Seaman07.03.2011
- "“They just care that ... its branding fits with their personal image.”
That is the most depressingly cynical statement I've read in a long while.
I work at a small brewery in Australia. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone at a tasting event told me "I don't like beer" but then discovered they do like one of the several styles of beer that we make. To get them to take that step I had to describe the beer to them. By Ms. Nodder's reckoning, perhaps I should have instead produced an ad with a humorous talking gecko or maybe a dancing robot girl who dispenses beer from her tits.
Utter rubbish. The reason that craft brewing is growing in leaps and bounds while the big breweries who rely on "image branding" continue to slump is that people are learning about what is available to them. And to do that you need words like biscuity, floral, citrussy, caramel, etc. But I guess that would just be wankery.Ian Morgan07.03.2011
- An absolutely ridiculous blog post, clearly a writer who has a bias outlook on her lifestyle and preferences. If she had such a love for the beer industry she would know all about the American Craft Beer revolution and how it has inspired a nation that once relied on Budweiser and Coors to start thinking outside the box and becoming passionate about seriously great beer. She clearly does not get this and this is why she will never understand brewery's such as Brewdog who are doing a fine job of setting the record straight in a nation of uneducated drinkers. Tom Clay07.03.2011
- To take an Aussie expression, this woman "has her head up her arse". Come on out love, and smell the hops! I love BrewDog for their flavour, but also for their attitude towards beer, and that includes giving me the tasting notes. The key example of having the tasting notes was last night, when I was trying IPA is Dead. The notes about the Nelson Sauvin are spot on, and I used them to help my uncle appreciate it too. As for the consumer not wanting to know what hops were used, I love knowing that! It's brilliant, because I can work on finding the flavours the tasting notes provide and find other beers with the same hops to find out how they are different. The only bad thing I can say about BrewDog is that it's so hard to get the beers I want to try down here in the land of Oz! RichardHFish06.03.2011
- I'm shocked that she's written that post because to me it seem to show a distinct lack of understanding and appreciation of the fineries of the brewing industry. I blather about beer on my vlog for whoever cares to watch/read it cos I'm excited by beer and the journies it takes me on, so I want to share that with others. Seems this lady hasn't journeyed with beer beyond the end of her nose! Beer Beauty06.03.2011
- The vast array of flavours available from the simple beverage known as 'beer' does mean that tasting notes can be vital, especially when you are spending £10+ per bottle. Most mass-produced lagers do not come with tasting notes and this is where I believe we should help. I sugest that we print the following tasting notes on adhesive labels and attach where appropriate: 'yellow, fizzy, served in green glass and tastes of f*%&k all'. I intend to pitch this idea to a few well known brewers along with a free sample batch of labels - I think they will be well pleased! beerhawk06.03.2011
- Spent the afternoon in the Brewdog today. Had two of the regulars and Three of the guest beers that were on today. Enjoyed every one of them. They were of a few diffderent styles, Two IPAs one bitter and fruity(Punk), one fruity, floral and a lot less bitter. (400 Pound Monkey IPA). followed those with a Mikkeller coffee stout.
Three very different beers, despite two of them being of the same style. My point is and I know I'm getting there slowly, that without some tasting notes from well trained and informed barstaff how are customers supposed to choose a craft beer. I'm easily pleased but I do like an idea of the taste of what I'm buying before I decide to purchase. It's easy if you are buying mass produced lager. Everyone knows it will be cold wet and generally tasteless. If you are buying craft beer you are going to need a little guidance. It is truly a joy to behold a fellow customer come to the bar, unsure of what to have, get a few tasting notes from the barstaff and a small sample of two or three beers and then decide on a pint of 5AM Saint or Punk IPA. Have they decided to purchase due to the propaganda of a beer mulitnational? No They have made an informed choice, having been provided with some information, and a small sample of the product. Like James said its all about education. Information is power, and the more people we can educate, about how good beer can actually taste, of the multitude of different styles, and how it doesn't have to be about pouring a gallon of tasteless yellow swill down your neck on a Saturday night the better.
I'm proud to be a beer geek, and to participate in the craft beer revolution.
We don't need a Jamie Oliver.
The people drinking the beer will decide whats good (and not so good), and with the power of social networking we can share this information.
It might not be everyones glass of beer, it's certainly not Carolines.
I'm confident that she will become a casualty. There is no place for her on the last plane to Miami, there is no last plane to Miami. She will be left behind.
Viva Le Revolution.
- At nearly 28 years old I represent the median age and sex on this planet at the moment. Although I may have always been labeled a geek/nerd in school and hated it, I enjoy being a beer nerd.
I find Caroline's claims to be unfounded and more or less her opinion on beer. What does she know about the average drinker? Yes, people want beer that tastes good. ALL BEER DRINKERS DO! Why would you drink it if it were bad? There are more types of beer drinkers than there are beers and those are both growing daily.
To be able to describe something is inherent as humans. Why do we have all these descriptive words if we don't use them? I honestly am confused to here such rhetoric from a journalist. Is this a person that relies on the same words to grab her audience?
Beer is only as pretentious as you want it to be. Education about beer is a good thing. Certain kinds of hops are better than others. Some people want to know how long it took to brew the beer, or how cold it had to be kept at. Some people want to push the limits and drink 41% ales or brews with juniper berries or whiskey infused barrels of imperial stout. To each his own.
I am a homebrewer and my friends enjoy my info on each beer. They find it interesting that I might use one kind of hops in a beer and then have a picture of where the hops came from on the label. They like to know the alcohol content and some like to get smashed off one bottle. They like to hear about the person that made the beer and how long the process took.
I say boo to Caroline...image...that is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. If you drink a beer for the image it fits with then you are a tool, and I'd rather be considered a geek anytime!John Byrne06.03.2011
- Tasting notes,in fact any information about any product, is as useful as you want it to be. If you're not interested, fine, just buy the beer/wine/whisky but if you are interested, the notes CAN help. I run a deli, and sell wines as well as local craft beers. Some people like to know a bit about the products, doesnt make them "geeks". Alastair Fawn06.03.2011
- Caroline's right however her way of putting the point across has sadly come over as an attack on the entire craft/cask/niche sector, focussed on the wrongs rather than applauding those doing it right.
Niche beer as a whole (by that I'm using to describe cask, craft etc) is still a place that for the most part is of little interest to the mainstream drinker. Sure some of us only care about how it tastes but the majority, especially younger drinkers still want a brand in their hand that says something about them and most of the niche beers readily available are too in your face with their heritage, stuffy tasting notes and ye olde branding to appeal. At the end of the day they chose Carling cause it says "I like football" even if it does taste shite. Plus the attitude of those that drink this sort of thing, and the organisation that represents it (CAMRA) is still far too much "if you don't like it, fuck off back to your shitty lager.", hardly welcoming, is it?
Many in the first instance will be afraid of "knowledge, change and progression" as a previous comment put it, but the way to deal with this is not to tell those afraid to fuck off back to where they came from but to start talking to them in a way that they understand, to educate them slowly and over time bring them along with the "revolution".
What's needed is a balance, and one that the (growing) minority, Brewdog included, are starting to cater for, a minority that Caroline seems to fail to recognise. Be it by accident or design, Brewdog is well branded and for meagre budgets compared to the big boys, well marketed. It's appealing on first glance to the younger drinker because it's not old fashioned, it's not trying to cram it's ingredients, tasting notes or stuffy heritage down your throat from the first glance of the label. However you do have all that, and you have it in a language that is much more down to earth for anyone under the age of 40, it's on the back label, or on a website, or blog or twitter etc. where those that do want to know more that can find it. Where many others fall down is that they think they can rely solely on hammering home the taste, flavour and history message to hook people in and appeal to them, in the modern day you need much more than that to succeed.Doug06.03.2011
- You are the least pretentious brewers around. Why wouldn't you want to know what a drink might taste like just as you would a food.
What a silly blog piece she has written with no intelligent fore thought applied. Just a need to say something, anything, has driven this I think. If she had truley considered what she was saying she would have hesitated before attempting to denigrate the craft brewing sector.
By the way IPA is dead is dangerously fantastic. I can't help just "poppin in" to the nearest stockist even though it's a half hour detour on my way home. Cheers.Tim Clyne06.03.2011
- Tasting notes are essential in knowing what to expect from a beer, especially for bottled ones as there's no opportunity to try before you buy. Most whiskys have tasting notes, most beers should too. Its only those beers with no taste that don't bother to have tasting notes. Stephanos06.03.2011
- I think brewdog are the very thing that jamie oliver is in the beer world, a big "fuck off" to pretentiousness. You are making things that people can be passionate about, made with high quality ingredients, and nothing added for the sake of it, no gilding the lily, and this attitude, and all the branding that goes with it only serves to back this up. Beer is becoming cool instead of the preserve of old men who like twigs and leaves floating around in their bitter, the view that many people do still have. Keep it up! Toby06.03.2011
- Her blog post about niche beers and "beer geekery" is ridiculous. She sounds like someone afraid of knowledge, change, and progression. Leave her to drink her Bud Light, and she can thank us for the beer revolution later. NobleEconomics06.03.2011