Saturday, April 16, 2005

"All" about beer again as publisher answers the Curmudgeon.

Here's the background.

In February, 2005, Daniel Bradford returned to the family magazine, "All About Beer." Mr. Bradford's previous position as head of the Brewers' Association of America disappeared when the BAA was merged with the Association of Brewers (AOB) to yield the Brewers Association.

Regular readers know that I'd long since taken to referring to the magazine as "Some About Beer" owing to an omission explained in this article, which was published in early 2004:

When “Some” About Beer Simply Won’t Do: The Sins of "All About Beer."

More recently, when I received a mailing from "Some About Beer" urging me to "help grow the high-end beer market" by using shelf tags with featured beer ratings generated by the dreaded Beverage Tasting Institute, I decided to write directly to Mr. Bradford and solicit his opinion about BTI and the "beer bar" article that led to my renaming the magazine.

In short, I asked for an apology, and it was forthcoming.

Without further comment, here is his response.



Another thing that I missed in my absence.

I couldn’t read the whole article on the website (it didn’t scroll beyond the BTI bit), but you observations about BTI are pretty common. The answer is rather simple, though. We don’t publish low reviews, which they do give out. I know that may seem like a bias. However, I’m pretty clear in that I don’t want to publish bad news. I don’t make up good news. I just don’t publish negative stuff. Call it a personality defect, but I firmly believe there is so much to say that is great about our industry that I just don’t see the reason for crabbing about negatives. We both know that you get two beer lovers at a table and you’ll have three opinions about whatever they are drinking. We both also know there are a lot of uniformly shitty beers out there which you and I would both spit out, but there are thousands of great beers out there.

As for the fact that people pay to enter, that’s the case with the GABF, the World Beer Cup, the British Industry International Awards, for every judging that I have worked with or know the details about. We’ve entered magazine competitions, too, and paid an entry fee. There is a self selecting aspect to that, by the way. You usually don’t drop the cash on a beer which you don’t feel will do well. Sure there is a reality factor (what brewer doesn’t feel their beers should win a medal?), but you’d be surprised at the correlation between winning in different competitions. At my brewpub we regularly pick up awards in whatever competition we enter. We don’t enter many any more because we’re doing really well and the beers are very well respected locally.

However, one thing I do like about BTI which is different than GABF or WBC is the beers are judged based on how much the judges like the beer. That’s it, how much do you like it on a scale of 1 to 13. No more, no less. No beer is thrown out because it doesn’t agree with a written style definition, the single largest reason for a beer not winning a medal at the GABF or the WBC. Now, the BIIA asks their judges, all commercial brewers, to judge a beer simply on whether they would stake their pension on taking it to market, a completely different approach.

Now, as to your joint being excluded in our list, I’m sorry about that. I don’t know your place but reading your writing tells me it’s a pretty dedicated beer joint. I suspect it has that atmosphere I call a “peak pub experience.” I get this stupid grin on my face, like last Friday night at Gritty McDuff’s in Freeport, when I just know I’m in one of those places. However, the list that we published, if my fading memory serves me well, was submitted by a group of several hundred beer writers and industry professionals, and not put together by the staff. There were omissions that lots of people were very passionate about.

I do know being a bona fide curmudgeon is a thankless task. Whether by position or personality a curmudgeon is honor bound to poke at things, to stir things up; which can rub people wrong. I’m almost the opposite, but more by passion than position or personaltiy. I’m like the cheer leader looking for the best in everything. Frankly, I grew up in a small town in Maine, in a very large family filled mostly with women, of very, very old Yankee stock. I can get down and trash talk with the best of them. I’ve just decided to head in a different direct. Having a young kid can do silly things like that to you. So, keep up the finger poking. It serves to keep everyone on their toes which us cheer leaders do need.

And I sent you a comp sub, which you won’t be able to cancel, Roger because its free! Thanks for taking the time to get on my case, and I do hope to get by your joint and see if it is a “peak pub experience.”


Daniel Bradford, All About Beer Magazine

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