Opinions in Ontario brewing are a lot like assholes and IPAs: These days, everyone has one.
There seems to be a lot of beer writing occurring as of late on the subject of beer writing itself—so I thought I too would jump on the masturbatory, navel-gazing bandwagon and offer my two cents and pretend that this little space I’ve carved out on the internets has any sort of influence at all.
The “conversation” largely began on the prolific and insightful “A Good Beer Blog.” Author Alan McLeod had offered up his opinion (as beer writers are wont to do) on an interesting little project being conducted by a co-operative of Ontario brewers who, in a nutshell, are attempting to brew beer adhering to ancient Belgian techniques that will, hopefully, see the beer fermented by wild indigenous yeasts the Brewers are hoping will drift into the open brewing vessels.
This is a broadly simplified explanation, and many other media outlets have done a much more detailed job, so feel free to seek them out if you want more information on the project (though be forewarned, none of them seem to answer my first question about the whole process, namely, won’t birds poop in the beer?!).
Anyway, following this post, Jason Fisher, part of the experiment, and owner and operator of The Indie Alehouse, felt compelled to comment regarding what he saw as some inaccuracies in the article, and it started something of a flame war that carried over to twitter and caught the attention of other beer-interested folks. Among some of the charges being flung were that beer bloggers were largely snarky basement-dwellers, that Mr. McLeod’s dismissal of Ontario’s beer scene was akin to blasphemy and; on a contextual level, an assumption that those opting to write about something simply because they were passionate about it are fair game to be flayed for having that opinion.
And so it is that I have come to write this post—an act that wrongly portends that I am in any way as well-versed in all things beer as Mr. McLeod, or as passionate about and practiced in the craft as Mr. Fisher.
But here’s my two cents anwyay.
Everyone here is right.
Internet beer writers are, naturally, entitled to say whatever the hell they (we) want about about beer. While that may seem a frustrating fact given that it doesn’t chain anyone to a set of defined journalistic standards of integrity, it is the truth. The shittiest of beer bloggers has as much right to a little space online to confabulate on last night’s Bud Light as does the schooled cicerone a place to opine on the yeast pitch rates of a Belgian trippel. Such is the beauty (and rage-inducing frustration) of the internet: All are welcome here.
Luckily, thanks to the discerning tastes of those who would read beer blogs, the wheat tends to be separated from the chaff and those who have some interesting things to say about beer will find they garner a respectable following while those who use their beer blogs to post items rejected by blogTO will likely find a more sparse following (ahem).
So it is probably not wholly appropriate for Jason Fisher to get quite so worked up about the writings (however respected and well read) of a person who opts to write about beer simply because he likes doing so. Alan McLeod can say whatever the fuck he wants, and every person remotely interested in beer should fight ravenously for his right to do so regardless of how he or she feels about that writing.
At the same time, Mr. Fisher is to be commended for speaking out (I know, I’m confusing even myself now). Jason Fisher is a passionate maker of beer and his Indie Alehouse is exemplary of the leaps and bounds that Ontario’s beer scene has been making as of late. That he felt compelled to jump to the defense of the pet project he is undertaking with Iain McOustra, Mike Lackey, Jeff Broeders, and Sam Corbeil, speaks volumes to what is currently making this province’s beer scene thrive: Namely, these guys give a shit.
Good for Fisher for getting his back up. And while yes, he may have taken some uncalled-for swipes at beer bloggers, he too is allowed to have that opinion (Though one might question the validity of of the claim that Ontario is “lacking in ‘beer geek culture’ and beer blogging” given that he felt the need to even respond at all).
[A side note to any beer bloggers who might feign indignation at Fisher's characterization of us: sure we might not all actually live in our mother's basements, but who could honestly bristle at the descriptor "snarky know-it-all who can turn a phrase?" I'd be happy to have that carved on my tombstone. Thanks, Jason!]
Essentially what I’m getting at is that there is no right or wrong in the little tete-a-tete that occurred in Alan McLeod’s comment section. McLeod, in his original short piece (that I actually found largely supportive of the project), has exercised his right to give his opinion on beer-related news, something he has opted to do for a long time. And as he quite succinctly points out in his apology of sorts posted Monday: “I am just a guy writing. Because I like writing. Like I like green beans and raspberry plants.”
There’s no sense getting worked up if he isn’t writing about the raspberry plants in a manner you like (even if you’re a raspberry farmer).
Similarly, Jason Fisher is allowed to have his ideas on what he deems quality beer writing and he’s allowed to have his beliefs on the state of brewing in Canada.
It’s actually awesome that the conversation is occurring at all. That we are having passionate debate about brewing in Ontario is testament to the fact that the industry is growing. But there is no right or wrong; just as there can be no right or wrong when it comes to discussing beer. Ultimately, we are literally discussing taste here. There can be no more objective topic and everyone–bloggers and brewers alike–is entitled to an opinion.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my mother is calling me to dinner.