Establish Your Writing Authority

I got an email on the Austin Zealots (http://http://www NULL.austinzealots NULL.com/)‘ Yahoo group today. (The Zealots are a local hombrewing club here in Austin, and a great bunch of people.) A member was expressing his disappointment with the contents of this article:

Austin home to a few good brewpubs (http://www NULL.austin360 NULL.com/food_drink/content/food_drink/stories/xl/2009/03/0305xlbars NULL.html)

I read the article, and went to reply on the list, but as usual I waxed verbose and was forced to move my opinions to a forum in which I (mostly) reign supreme. I did this to avoid spamming the list with my copious rants and opinions. I’m sure people everywhere are grateful I have my own website.

In short, I share the disappointment of my fellow Zealot. Allow me to elaborate.

The main problem with this article is that the author failed to establish her authority as being someone who has any business reviewing brewpubs. She failed to properly do so in the beginning of the article, and as I read the rest of it, I became more convinced that this person merely received free meals and/or beer from the establishments she reviewed. I addressed this issue once before when I lived in the benighted town of Monroe, LA, actually. How am I supposed to take the contents of a review seriously if I don’t think the reviewer has the necessary experience to offer an informed and comprehensive review?

This kind of thing stems from letting “food” writers also write about beer, wine or other potables. We shouldn’t allow it! HAH! But seriously, why should we listen to this author’s opinion of precious beer when she pretty much makes it clear that she doesn’t really know anything about beer or even what constitutes an establishment’s being called a “brewpub.”

I think this author just a freelancer who also teaches at TSU. Now, I suppose it’s true that if we only allowed established beer writers to write about beer-related issues that maybe someone like, oh, I dunno, ME, would never be able to “break in” and start writing about beer. Or food, for that matter. But this particular article kind of gives Austin a bad name.

I mean, wouldn’t your average Austinite know that one of those venues isn’t even a “brewpub”? A brewery tour and tasting is not, I repeat, not a brewpub. Even I knew that and I know very little about the Austin beer scene, as it were. Seriously, if you go to a tour and tasting expecting a brewpub, of course you will be disappointed!

I was also a little disappointed because I would like to see a brewpub review that gives me comprehensive information on the beer, food, and atmosphere of several brewpubs. Telling me “the food came out suspiciously fast,” or that a Hefeweizen is “strong and banana-y” doesn’t give me any sort of idea what I might be getting into, except that you probably ordered something frozen and/or fried, and you don’t know how to describe your beer when you taste it. Tell me, something guys, what do you think a “strong” beer flavor means? A quick Google (http://www NULL.google NULL.com) led me to a neat list of terms for beer taste (http://http://www NULL.tasteyourbeer NULL.com/researchterms NULL.php). Maybe one of these terms could serve me if I were, oh I dunno, writing an article where I had to describe beer flavor.

In any case, there were only three venues in the article, one of which was a national chain and one which wasn’t even a brewpub. So Austin is really home to one local brewpub, one national chain eatery which serves beer, and one brewery that gives tours on the first Saturday of each month?  This doesn’t really help me figure out where to spend my hard-earned and meager supply of cash, does it? Believe it or not, there are more brewpubs than those in Austin. I promise.

I know, I know, I’m on my blog again, criticzing other people’s writing. But it’s my blog, and I’m a very critical person. Also, I really do believe that it’s important to establish one’s credibility in one’s writing. As usual, the writing venue and audience will dictate to what degree one needs to establish credibility. In reviews of products, restaurants, movies, books, and yes, brewpubs, the author should really take the time to say “I’m an authority on this subject,” or “I’m not an authority on this subject, but I know what I like,” so that the audience can get a handle on where everyone stands before diving in.  And, really, try your best to get your terminology right. Calling a Jazz festival a “concert hall” or a tour and tasting a “brewpub,” doesn’t make it true.

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