Life As A Beer Writer
Life As A Beer Writer
Jeff Evans (Freelance beer Writer) gives expert video advice on: What is a beer writer?; What do you write about?; What is a beer taster? and more...
What is a beer writer?
A beer writer is a specialist journalist in the subject of beer They supply articles for magazines, newspapers and write books.
What do you write about?
A typical beer writer's day might involve visiting breweries, sampling beers at a brewery, visiting a certain pub to find out about how that pub is run and the beers that it sells, or sampling a range of beers at home from the bottle. It's a mixed bag, really, and the outlets for the stories can be magazines, newspapers, or books.
What is a beer taster?
Nearly all breweries employ professional tasting panels: people who have got very finely-honed palates, and who can pick up slight nuances in flavor. The reason that they do that is so that they know, from batch to batch, that their beer is tasting as it should. If one of those tasters picks up something that shouldn't be there, then they can correct that before the beer either leaves the brewery, or they can scrap the batch and start again.
Who pays your wages?
Being a freelance beer writer, I pay my own wages. I don't eat unless I actually earn, and so, that means I need to be securing work on a regular basis, whether it's regular columns and features for magazines and newspapers, or one off articles. But it does mean being in constant contact with editors and supplying them with ideas, or being ready to respond if they should sing you up and ask you if you are prepared to write a feature about this, that or the other.
Is there a lot of this type of work?
The amount of work that is available really depends on the number of people who are writing. There is a finite amount of work available through the trade press and in the national press on radio and on television. There are not that many people actually dedicated to writing about beer, so at present there's enough work for a soul to keep alive at least, if not make a fortune.
How did you get into beer writing?
My own personal introduction to beer writing came through a marriage of interests. I was working in publishing as a writer and an editor, and I've always had a keen enthusiasm for beer, and the two interests came together when I applied for and won the job of editor of the Good Beer Guide. I edited the Good Beer Guide for eight years, and carried on writing about beer afterwards.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into beer writing?
The first thing I would say is it's a very enjoyable profession. The beer and brewing world is a very sociable one, so it's much more fun writing about beer than it is about nuts and bolts, medical supplies or car engines, unless you've got an interest in those particular subjects. If you've got a real enthusiasm for beer, that's a good start. That'll help you along the way. But of course, you're a journalist first and foremost, so you'll need to have good writing skills, a good sense of grammar, good commitment to the work, and the ability to work to deadlines.
Is lager-drinking frowned upon by die-hard beer enthusiasts?
If you're found drinking a quality lager brewed perhaps in Germany or the Czech Republic, which has been given the full maturation process, brewed from the finest ingredients, and served locally in Germany or Czech Republic, where it's unpasteurized and on tap, that's as fine a drinking experience as you can get. And so, no one would look down upon you for drinking that.
What do you do day-in day-out?
My daily work varies between tasting beers that have been sent to me in bottles, visiting breweries, talking to brewers and publicans to generally finding out about how beer is brewed in different ways around the world, yhe ingredients that are used, and finding out just how good the finished product is.
Is there a danger of becoming an alcoholic?
For me personally, I don't think so. One thing that hangovers do for me is make me feel very unwell, and it's not just unwell for the next day but for maybe a day or two afterwards. The last thing I want to do on those occasions is reach for a beer or any other alcoholic drink. The slippery slope is the hair of the dog, where you go for one of those to try and get over the hangover, but that just encourages you to drink more alcohol, so I would certainly advise against that.
What skills do you need to be a professional beer taster?
To drink beer professionally for a living, whether it's as a beer writer like myself or working in the industry, you really need to have a good appreciation of the different styles of beers that are out there. The ability to know what's an ale, what's a lager, and beyond that, the various shades of ales, miles, stouts, porters, bitters, best bitters, barley wines and so on. Also knowledge on the various types of lagers, be they pilsners, helles lager from southern Germany, rauch beers, smoked beers, or kolsch, which is a cologne style lager. Basically, you've got to know your subject. Once you do that, once you've tasted your way around the world of beer, then you're in a position to know what's a good beer and what's not a good beer.
Does being a beer taster stop you enjoying beer socially?
I have to be a bit careful. I like beer so much it would be a shame to destroy it for me. Personally, by drinking too much and getting fed up with it, I do moderate my intake. I like to have a few days off every now and again. Every week I try to have at least one or two days without touching beer at all, just to keep the palate fresh and the appetite whetted for trying beers. It does mean I can go to a pub and have two or three pints, even though I am drinking beer at other times during the week at home for work.