George Orwell wrote an essay, first published in 1946, called Why I Write. In it he suggests there are four main reasons writers write. Heavily shortened the reasons, (not the writers) are:
- Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about…
- Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or …words and their right arrangement.
- Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them for posterity
- Political purpose. …to alter other people’s ideas of the kind of society they should strive after.
Can a blog writer possibly have the same motivations? To what good?
Not so long ago, I flew from London City airport. At the bar they had a tap purporting to serve Yakima Red ale from the excellent Meantime Brewing Company, a stone’s throw from the airport. OK, a fairly hefty stone’s throw, but anyway the beer had run out. I settled for an OK, but standard international lager. Then I went for a walk.
I found a nice restaurant with an impressive wine selection but dull beer list. Again. Things are changing, these are exciting times for beer, but things are not changing fast enough. So yes, no. 4: My political purpose is to spread the word. I want bars, restaurants, pubs, people to stock the kind of beers I want to drink.
To make beer appreciated like wine might be a start, but there’s a different political agenda there. Socio-political. The great thing about beer is that it isn’t wine. The credibility of beer as a “serious” drink, is the issue, and my way forward with that is through writing about food and beer, with beer as both accompaniment and ingredient.
Whisky is another matter – in the UK, at least.
No. 3: Historical impulse? Make the ephemeral searchable. Sounds grand? See Point 1.) I at least need an alternative to beer rating apps? I don’t often do beer or whisky reviews (not with star ratings, anyway), but I do take notes. I want to remember that limited edition bottling I found, or that magical, unexpected swift half on a Tuesday evening. Sometimes these get into posts. I also take photos and caption and annotate them. You might ask why ruin the moment by documenting it? How else to remember?
No 2. The part “words in their right arrangement” In writing about something that cosmically speaking, doesn’t matter, I had better be entertaining. I want people to read and not notice; it must please. So, a heavy dose of point 2 is a big reason for me. I hope it comes across.
No. 1: Sheer Egoism? Hey, it’s a blog, not Dear Diary! I publish and market (via the web) my views, constructive rants and opinions. It might not be The Truth, but it is out there. I like to think I’m knowledgeable to a degree, but I don’t attempt to be geekier-than-thou. I write to engage people who don’t read about beer or whisky.
My day job is technical communication, and writing about beer, whisky, food and drink culture is at least a kind of specialist communication. I try and put more more jokes here, though. I “need” to write this out of “aesthetic enthusiasm” (see point 2), and I would really rather prefer you to read it.
I don’t write about beer or whisky for money (yet), but I do like to get samples and I do like to get invited to events. But that’s not the main thing. I love to share fantastic beers and whiskies with friends, colleagues, and family. An enthusiast’s blog, is the best way I know of getting those experiences across. Like I said: spreading the word.
Why beer and whisky and food? Cross-pollination. Drink beer? you might like this whisky. Like making or eating good food? Then why wouldn’t you try a beer I recommend? I write also, then, to provide a place to find what to drink and why. And really,
I want to turn you on to the stuff I like, so in some idealised future London City Airport bar, or random restaurant, not even my own version of The Moon Under Water – Orwell’s ideal pub, I might find something I actually want to drink.
Had George Orwell’s essay been written 60 years later, it might instead have been a post on his blog. He wrote 1984 on the Scottish Isle of Jura. I bet he sipped a dram and daydreamed of The Moon Under Water.