Saturday, August 23, 2014

Free Beer and Other Quandries for Beer Writing Ethics

What ethics should the average beer blogger be held to?  Listening to a panel discussion on the subject makes me consider what I would consider ethics in my blogging.  Since I am primarily an amateur blogger doing this for my enjoyment, it's not much of a quandary for me.  Nobody gives me free beer (although I am open to it ;) ) so I suppose it's less of an issue from my perspective.  My focus is also more from a judging and beer appreciation and learning perspective anyway.  I will generally only review beers from a stylistic standpoint, so what I get out of them is what I get out of them.  I also only tend to publish reviews of beer that I like.  Since brewers are not held to strict style guidelines in the first place, I'm not going to write up a review of a beer that doesn't fit into a style because it's counter-productive to the BJCP judging learning process.  I'll just leave those for hedonistic ratings on Untappd.
So, ultimately I'm left to define my own ethics.  Here are my rules for blogging:
1) Always be honest but polite.  When I review beers for 'Commercial Calibration' type reviews, I use the same standards I use when doing score sheets in a competition.  Always be constructive in criticism and try to emphasize the positives before launching into the flaws or suggestions for improvements.  Ultimately the brewer may never see my reviews, but somebody put a lot of work into making the product, so I should respect that, even if their work resulted in something I don't like.
2)  Write what you perceive.  The most simple but effective strategy for me is just that.  You cannot criticize what someone else perceives.  If they smell or taste something, it's not their or your fault if you perceive it differently.  Just like judging in a competition, I write it like I perceive first and foremost.  Overall impressions can get into more opinions, but what I get out of a beer is what I get out of a beer.
3)  Know your own limitations/tastes.  One of the biggest struggles for beer judges is to keep your own biases in check.  We all have preferences for what type of beers or ingredients are to our tastes.  The important thing is to know what those are and not to hold it against a style or beer if it's well made, but just not to our idea of what that style should be.
That's a pretty good summary of how I handle ethics in my case.  Will gladly still review free beer, though.  ;)

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