Where are the UK Beer Podcasts?
I got into Podcasts in a major way last year. I had my interested piqued by listening to a Leeds United one; and then had the Radio 4 Food Programme one recommended by Joss Ainsworth when we were in conversation for this blog post. After listening to a single episode I was hooked, and ponied up a couple of quid for the InstaCast app. Away I went, setting sail for a sonic journey across the digital ocean.
Anyway, fast forward to now: I’ve been a little bit obsessed. I listen to them in the car, whilst cooking and even whilst walking the dog. It’s like a whole new world of information. What am I listening to? Well, everything that I’m interested in. Films, Food, a little music, some sport. There’s some cracking stuff out there – TED’s Radio Hour and Freakanomics Radio are brilliant if you need a little food for thought; Marc Maron, Alec Baldwin (yes, really – fantastic radio voice) and Jeff Garlin’s interviews with comedians and actors are both hilarious and genuinely insightful. Kevin Smith’s Hollywood Babble-On deserves a TV show, let alone a podcast.
Naturally, one of the first keywords I searched for when loading up was Beer. Followed by Booze, Pubs and Brewing. Up popped a decent list of podcasts, ranging from Homebrewing to some YouTube Shows – but mostly all American. And – importantly -varying wildly in terms of quality. I refined my search; I wanted to know what the Podcasting community here were talking about in terms of Beer.
Well, it didn’t turn out well. We don’t seem to want to talk about Beer here in the UK on the ol’ radio.
With the exception of a few episodes of The BeerTalkers (ably handled and well-produced by Sam Hill and Sophie Atherton) and (again, some older) missives from BeerCast, that was about it. I did some more digging, and found All Hail The Ale and The Beer O’Clock Show. There’s a few other beer tidbits knocking about within other food and drink shows, but I’m after a monthly or weekly digest.
So, basically, 2/3 regularly updating Podcasts about beer.
The best luck I’ve had trawling for Beer stories is within archived episodes of Radio 4’s Food Programme. Sheila Dillon’s keen eye is often trained on Beer and Beery culture, with astute talking heads provided by a cast of regulars including Pete Brown and Fiona Beckett. Looking down the list of archived episodes you can see a holistic approach to food culture that is truly encompassing, and it’s heartwarming to know that, despite TV’s incapability to (at times) even acknowledge Beer’s mere existence, that someone on the ‘outside’ flying our flag. Episodes on Malt, Hops, Yeast, Duty, Low-Alcohol Beers and – yes – even Natural Wine and other drinks (although the similarities between natural wine and cask ale isn’t picked up by the experts in the show) all contain plenty of interest. The 25-minute highlight shows are edited deftly; the balance between pacing and information is by far the best out there.
Admittedly, much like blogs, there’s the quality issue. At their best, Podcasts can be transporting and give colour to stories by clever use of sound and conversation between protaganists. At worst, it can be the ramblings of a lone person in a darkened room speaking to no-one in particular. But there’s so much that could be done with this medium – interviews with publicans, scholars, brewers and drinkers. History shows; profiles of pubs, people, breweries. Insights into the industry. Magazine-style shows a la Hollywood Babble-On that round up that week or month’s news. Food and Beer shows…beer-related fiction, even.
I know what you’re saying: “Why don’t you go make one then, smarty pants?!” or words to that effect. I must admit, the thought had crossed my mind. But Here’s The Thing (to steal from my new pal Alec Baldwin); Podcasts – the good ones – take time, dedication and co-ordination to create (which, as it happens, is alluded to in the last episode of Beertalkers). Blogging and writing is time-consuming enough; Podcast creating must be much harder. And I, simply, don’t have that time…
…But I’m hoping someone reading this does. If you’re after a niche – this is it, folks. New Media and all that. Listen to what’s out there and get in at the ground floor. Don’t just sit in a room drinking beer and umming and aaahing about it – or if you want to do that, what’s your angle? I know what the beer tastes like, but where did it come from? What’s it influenced by? Go speak to people, go get some stories from the horses’ mouths. Try something different. Make me laugh. Make me nostalgic. Inform and educate me. Blogging isn’t dead – far from it, if you ask me – but this is part of the family. I’d like to hear some new voices coming from my speakers.
Posted on 03/01/2014, in Beer and tagged Beer on the Radio, Podcasts, Radio 4 Food Programme, UK Beer Podcasts. Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.
I used to love podcasts. Before smartphones and whatnot I had a great big Creative Zen MP4 player that I would upload podcasts to for the morning commute. Back then it was shows about writing and writers, all done by citizen journalists, and all of them heavy with American accents. Seem the scene hasn’t changed much since… 7 years ago, I guess. The total US viewpoint gradually disinterested me.
For the most part they were well put together. The quality wasn’t seamless but I had the sense that here was a group of intelligent people working to guidelines inside a studio. And these podcasts were free, so they were doing a good job of it.
And that’s what it comes down to. A dedicated Beer podcast would need someone’s near-full time attention or a team (probably the latter). There’s creative ideas, sourcing interviews, recording and editing. As always, that would be the hardest part, but unlike the writer’s ability to chuck out and change a word, sound editing is more complex.
With perhaps a technically-minded guy at the centre of things and supportive contributor content from the wider beer community this concept could be a really good thing though.
As a side note, this touches on conversations Chris and I have had about the format we’d choose if we were ever mad enough to do YouTube style filmed beer reviews. The preferred way would be to have an informal seating arrangement, everyone sat down, say 3 to 4 people including a chairperson of sorts, and then everyone talking through the beers with each other, as opposed to at the camera. The difficulty was getting us all in the same place on a regular basis, but you could arguably Skype it for something like a podcast?
Very difficult to co-ordinate; which is kind of what I mean when I say I dont have time. You’d need to go places, see people, etc….Creative Zen. Not heard that in years!
Aye, it was in Creative’s heydey. They inexplicably became shit about four years ago. They were never perfect but they always had potential… anyway. Beer podcasts. Whosoever shall pull the sword from the stone shall become king of beerdom.
I used to love doing our podcasts, back in the day – Craig, the round-table format you describe is exactly the way we used to do it. Four of us, four beers, 45 (or so) minutes. We recorded 72 podcasts between 2007 and 2012, uploading them to iTunes (they may still be available here > https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-beercast-beercasts/id258318748). I just think we did them too ‘early’, before the new-fangled interest in beer here took off. Back then, we knew nothing about beer, and it probably showed (or, heard, I guess).
We stopped because it got harder and harder to get everyone round to record them. I guess we could go down the Skype route, but I’m not a fan of the clipped style it gives, with people tending to talk over each other. Still, it’s far easier than getting people together if they don’t live in the same city. We still talk about re-starting the BeerCasts at some point, and I think we really should – if nothing else, it would mean people might realise why my blog is so-called!
The only podcasts I’ve ever really enjoyed have been edited from proper professional radio shows. Otherwise, as you say, the poor production values, hesitant presentation and lack of really solid content usually has me switching off after two minutes.
Pete Brown could do a good one, though — he was excellent talking about cider on Radio 4 the other week, like a proper broadcaster.
Yes; and perhaps people don’t realise that it’s not as easy as sitting in front of a mic (or camera) and talking. You have to be ‘savvy’; which is why some chefs I love would be terrible at thier own shows – they just don’t come across well! Yet chefs who are probably a little talented, but are great TV….well, get a show. I’m rambling now, but you get my point. Pete’s great at that stuff now and prod values are hugely important.
Why don’t we do one? I’m game if you are.
Finally put my Broadcast Journalism degree to proper use!
Neil – In the post I state I don’t have time! Broadcast Journo, eh? Get on it!
To be fair, I probably am too. It’s january, makes us all feel invincable!
Hope you’re well mate
Thanks for the mention Leigh,
The Beertalkers came about because of inspiration from the US podcasts (including the excellent wine podcast The Crush) and the Radio four food program. We also felt there wasn’t much from the UK. The Beercast was on hiatus at the time.
We have plans for a slight change in format in 2014 and an increase in frequency.
I’m working on a podcast. I’ve given it a lot of thought and research in the last few months. Announcement sometime later this month.
Thanks Jeff-will keep an ear out!
Leigh, I suppose it may actually be a Video Blog or Vlog or whatever the fancy new fangled tech term is, but, I have quite enjoyed the first couple of efforts from HopOnTheBike. First with Quantum and then Ringway breweries. They are just starting off on their “journey”, but will only improve.
Wish I could do a podcast, but I have a face for radio, a voice to help the sleepless and a full-time job!
haha, yeah I know what you mean! As for my thoughts on Vlogs, that’s a whole new posrt in itself! I’ll check them out.
Thanks for the positive comments about The Beertalkers, Leigh. We are hoping to do more with the show in 2014 – but as you point out it takes a LOT of time, especially if to do it well. Our aim had been to do a monthly show but we soon found that we just couldn’t manage it. We still have ambitions though! One of the biggest challenges/questions for us though is who is our audience? It seems fellow beer writers and brewers listen in (thank you all!) but should we be pitching it solely at those in the know, or aiming to reach those new to beer?
Sophie, thanks for dropping by. I think that, if you take the template of the Radio 4 Food programme, you’re looking at a mix of both; the difference being perhaps that with one episode a week, you have that luxury. Once a month may mean that you have to be really creative with your hour; perhaps , for example, an exploration of a style that begins with a contemporary starting point but some history and ‘basics’ come in whilst telling that story – know what I mean?
There are not enough beer podcasts in the UK. I do present and produce Pubcask. But we are all now in remote locations so our regular podcasts have now dried up. The blog is still doing well though. I have been working on an idea of a regular beer podcast based in London (because that is where I am based). I just need to work out the logistics and any help would be really appreciated.
Thanks Jon, I’m sure if any readers can help, they will.
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