….Just a quick post to highlight a couple of blogs I’ve been watching and listening to this week whilst writing. First up, Sarah Warman’s YouTube channel shows the green shoots of a talent for talking about beer in front of a camera. Sarah works for BrewDog by day, but her own videos are a breath of fresh air in the ‘lone person talking to a camera drinking beer’ format that most video reviews use. However, the ace up her sleeve is the handful of videos that she’s created for the Jamie Oliver-sponsored Drinks Tube Channel.
Benefiting from the channel’s slicker editing tighter production and pacing, these videos are exactly what I want to see from a ‘beer’ section on a mainstream TV channel; an engaging, unpatronising presenter, a good length, pitched at (and the is the most important bit, people) a level somewhere between ‘novice’ and ‘curious’, and featuring beers that are obtainable without being the norm. If there’s any producers out there looking for a new ‘talking head’ for the screen, Sarah’s your girl.
Second is Jeff Pickthall’s long-term podcast project Beerlines. Weighing in at a good half hour-long, it’s much more along the Radio 4-type of programme (which is the intention), and in many ways it’s the other side to the same coin as Sarah’s videos; packed with detail, colour and background, engaging and reverent to the subject. Although it’s only one episode in, Jeff deserves a pat on the back (or a pint, perhaps!) for bringing this all together. The hosts (who, in this episode are Jeff, Des De Moor and John Duffy) certainly read with aplomb and have picked interesting subjects to kick things off. One to watch. Or listen, perhaps.
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.