Writing About Friends

Stan Hieronymus posted an interesting rumination last week about the difficulty of writing about products made by friends. It stems from a post elsewhere about wine, but the thrust--and Stan's interest--applies to beer, too:

She answers questions not asked, including the issue of writing about people who turn into friends. She writes, “I cannot think of a single wine writer who has managed the sort of hermit-like existence that would be required of them if they were to ensure that they had no real human contact with anyone in the wine trade.”

The discussion about wine junkets and samples of ridiculously priced wines makes it pretty apparent how wine and beer continue to differ (thank goodness). But friendship, that’s universal. It’s one of the joys of writing about beer. Something for me to remember when I write and you to remember when you read.

This is something I've thought about periodically since I started writing about beer. It's true that you can't write about any topic without getting emotionally interested. It's particularly true if you write about Oregon beer, because almost everyone involved in it is likeable. Mostly they're avid beer lovers, enthusiastic about their concoctions, and eager to share. You don't dislike a beer without considering that.

Still, I'll say something counterintuitive: it's not that big a deal. Consider this: very few breweries produce no good beers. Also, no one makes only good ones. If you review beer, you'll rave about some and dis others. I do have breweries I admire more than others, and this must be evident to anyone who reads the blog. But I think it's the case that if you review enough beers, tell enough about what you like and why, and establish some credibility. Brewers are people, too, and they know tastes differ. Doc Wort hates Roots; Roots is one of my faves. Does this say anything about Roots, or just about the reviewers?

(When I first started writing about beer, long before Van Havig's day, Rock Bottom sucked. It was terrible--not one redeamable beer. It was the only Portland brewery I never wrote about. They actually complained to Willamette Week, and I finally had to tell them: "Look, I can either tell people what I think or you can let it go." They let it go.)

Maybe it's different with wine. But there are so many beers and so many breweries that you just tell people what you think. Beer's easy.