Ace beer writers Boak and Bailey – as it should be compulsory to introduce them – recently caused a fair amount of comment among the beer blogging community with a post all about cliches. Certainly over here at Running Buffet HQ I felt nervous; scared out of my wits, you may say, although that would be a tad overdramatic. A quick rifle through the archives reveals a worrying level of lazy cliche being employed.
When you start out, it is inevitable that you will be influenced by those around you, those whose blogs you read. If everyone else tends to write in cliche, then it is only natural to fall into step. Now, I’m not making excuses –
Okay, I am making excuses, and they are not very good ones. For a start, not everyone writes in well-worn cliche and, secondly, even if they did, for me to follow is just laziness. Have a bit of pride man; a spark of originality. Could it be that the writing’s on the wall for all of these time-honoured cliches?
The trouble is this: I don’t know what I’m talking about. Not generally – although you could mount a convincing argument – but, more specifically, about beer. I am not a brewer, a buyer, a seller, a bona fide beer journalist or, in any other way that would make me stand out from the crowd, particularly knowledgeable. I just drink the stuff. At best I can pick out half a dozen different flavours, but you generally have to beat me around the head with them to make me sit up and take notice. Dark Star Espresso: yes! yes! I’m getting coffee notes. You can’t slip that one past me you crafty buggers.
But I still don’t know what molasses taste or smell like. There may be a heap or a hint in there, but I would be none the wiser.
So why bother, when there are many others out there doing a better job of it than I? It’s a good question – why, thank you – and not an easy one to answer. Or, perhaps, it is. Another Boak and Bailey post provides some advice to bloggers and one of their tips is this: blog because you want to blog. Through writing about it here on this blog, I have become more interested in beer and have been driven to try all sorts of beers that would, otherwise, have not crossed my path. Every cloud has a silver lining, eh? But if I am to continue then I would be well-minded to have an angle, a style, that counters the cliche risk. What angle, though?
I found an answer in some notes I had scribbled down a few months ago (another Boak and Bailey tip: always carry a notepad). I was drinking a bottle of Liberation from Hampshire’s Suthwyk Ales, a Christmas present from my parents, who live nearby. I had been surprised by the beer: it had started slowly, without drama, but had gone on to be more and more likeable the more I drank of it. And I thought to myself, were this beer a person, they would be the one you are introduced to at the start of the evening as, perhaps, working for the local council; something a little dull. They seem nice, quite friendly, but you know that you are soon going to be edging away towards that livelier crowd over there by the bar. But as the evening progresses, you find that you are still there, still chatting to the same guy. It turns out that he actually has a heap of funny stories, he is amusing company and you are getting on like firm friends. True, your paths are unlikely to cross once tonight’s celebrations have broken up but, for now, you are perfectly happy to wag chins and swap stories. In two weeks’ time you will struggle to remember his name, but you will certainly recall that you had a very pleasant evening.
And there is my angle. Many others can tell you better than I that it has a “hoppy aroma with biscuity malt and berries detected” and its “flavor is moderate sweet and bitter with an average duration” (a couple of randomly selected comments culled from ratebeer). Whereas I can tell you that it puts me in mind of the bloke described above. My imaginary beer friend may not match your imaginary beer friend, but that is where the (cliche-free) fun can begin. Drink a beer, pick out a few characteristics and weave them into a character. It’s akin to a beery game of Guess Who. Or Guess Brew, if you will.
So all’s well that ends well. Next time I am tempted to note the floral aroma or to describe how something pours, then I will, instead, tell you what that beer would be like as an anthropomorphised ale. I am going to be cliche-free from now on. I am off down the road less travelled and – oh bugger it!