Lew Bryson broke the beer-writing awards.

Don Russell recently broke the story locally that the Michael Jackson Beer Writing Awards have been canceled, at least for this year.

I cannot escape the conclusion that this has something to do with Lew Bryson winning one of those awards at last year’s GABF. Not sure what, but I can come up with a feasible argue with a little time and brew or two.

An alternate theory is that the string of Philadelphia winners (Carolyn Smagalski, Marnie Old and Russell himself before Lew) in the last few years had the same effect as did Russell’s sweeping the board a couple of years straight for the old North American Guild of Beer Writers awards which preceded the Jackson ones, causing their demise (why should they pay to decorate his den?).

Those theories presume the powers-that-be decided that if one guy or one city is dominating the competition, maybe it isn’t, you know, competitive.

Okay, I jest (sorta).

Seriously, awards such as these, while they might not matter a whit to the vast craft beer audience, do help establish the bona fides of the writers and provide a standard against which we all can be judged. They also strengthen the sometimes wavering convictions of brewers that talking with us is worth their time and energy.

I never won a Jackson (do have an Guild second place trophy around here someplace)  and, make no mistake, I’d have very much liked to have done so.  At the same time, I had some concerns about those awards and their standards. Along those lines, Russell provides a link to this 2008 posting by Andy Crouch which goes into a lot of detail arguing that beer writers should not participate in such awards.  Worth a read (Andy has now added a brief, more current post here).

Much of what Andy talks about in that initial post ties in with what bothered me, but I don’t agree entirely with the broad stroke of his position. I would argue that, granting the basic ethical standard that every writer should adhere to (tell the truth, be transparent, acknowledge any possible conflicts of interest and, oh by the way, be interesting and informative), there are different considerations for different publications based upon their audiences and intent.

It’s a topic I’d really like to get to writing about when and if I ever find the time.



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