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    Saturday, 18 August 2007

    Scooping - Why The Criticism?


    When I first got into beer in the early 1990s, I presumed that all CAMRA members tried as many different beers as they could get their hands on. I thought that everybody bought the Good Beer Guide and ticked off each beer they had tried, and seek out all those they hadn't. I soon discovered that people who did this were called tickers or scoopers and that, in actual fact, not all CAMRA members did this at all. In fact the more I became interested in scooping I realised that some people have a pretty solid hatred of scoopers, failing to see sense in the hobby and accusing them of being no different from train spotters and other obsessive collectors.

    A lot of scoopers would probably agree that their hobby is an obsession and that they are collecting beers in their books or on their hard drive, but I ask what is the harm in that? Brewers make beer; we drink them. Drinking the same beer all the time is just like going to the same destination every year on holiday; it's boring and doesn't broaden your horizons in any way.

    Beer festivals should be an ideal ground for scoopers, after all nobody goes to a festival and drinks the same beer all night do they? Most punters don't have a clue what beers they are drinking at a festival will taste like, don't really care anyway, and will probably never see them again, so festivals could fill their lists with new beers. Yet some festivals discourage scoopers. I've read articles in festival programmes deriding them. I don't doubt some scoopers are a nuisance asking for beers that are not yet ready, but it is the customer's prerogative to ask and the staff's prerogative to refuse on the grounds of a beer not yet being ready, and that should be the end of it. Criticisms are made of scoopers bottling beer to take away, but so what, they've paid for it, and it's up to them how and when they drink their beer.

    I stopped scooping per se in 2000. I no longer had the desire or ability to travel to every beer festival in the vicinity , and in a fit of madness actually threw out the records of the 3000+ beers I had. I still drank new beers if I saw them on my pub visits but didn't keep a list. However since 2004 and finding RateBeer I have started scopping again. It is though scooping with a difference - i.e. I make tasting notes of all the beers I try, actually trying to understand each beer. And this is my sole criticism of scoopers. Too many don't dissect their beers, and seemingly don't care whether they are good or bad. However it's their money and therefore their choice. One thing is true to say though, despite any problem people have with scoopers they certainly spend enough money behind pub and festival bars, and therefore should be the licensee's friend.

    There are some excellent resources for scoopers on the net: Quaffale is a directory of all British Breweries; Beermad aims to list every beer known to have been brewed in the UK since 1986; Scoopergen is the personal website of infamous scooper Gazza Prescott and has more information on the hobby and its followers than you could ever need to know; Scoopgen is a yahoo group used for the sharing of information about beerlists in pubs and festivals as well as other gen. All these websites are highly recommended.

    9 comments:

    Stonch said...

    I'd agree that having a go at devotees of this ticking or scooping hobby is mean spirited. Live and let live, and all that good stuff.

    On the other hand, it is very "geeky". You have to accept that lots of beer lovers won't necessarily understand or respect it. I certainly don't - I just drink beer because I like it and in doing so I enjoy myself, not to tick boxes on an ever-expanding list.

    So while I think I am willing to refrain from herding scoopers onto a ceremonial pyre then setting them alight, I don't really see what they do as the behaviour of a socially well-adjusted person.

    I've dabbled in homebrewing though, so who am I to talk.

    "Infamous scooper Gazza" said...

    It's a disease... we can't help it...

    I too can't work out why some people seem to have an intense hatred for scoopers; maybe they see themselves mirrored in us and hate what they see they may/have become? But that's just getting heavy. Have a beer and let's all be happy - but I'll just write it down whilst we do, OK?

    Stonch said...

    Gazza there's probably some truth in what you say.

    When the fat boys with the brewery t-shirts and the notebooks are sighted at beer festivals, my mates point and say I'll be like that one day.

    I'd like to think I'd swear off beer for ever if I came close but you never know...

    maeib said...

    I've got the belly and the notebook, but not the T-Shirts. Being geeky about beer means at least you're enjoying yourself and getting happy (pi**ed). Other hobbies can be quite solitary and mean spending lots of time in miserable bloody weather.

    GenX at 40 said...

    I have the t-shirts but no ticking list. I have no idea how many beers I have reviewed on the beer blog but it would likely be a shocking number. I buy the t-shirts if I like the brewer as they include a pretty good portion of profit for them. Ball caps, too. Plenty of the ball caps.

    Alan
    A Good Beer Blog

    Boak said...

    On a tangent - why the criticism in so many pub reviews of "suits"? As in "good beer, but the pub is full of suits". I appreciate there are some loud mouth city types around, but to put everyone in a suit in that category really p*sses me off.

    Yes i do frequently wear a suit to the pub. Am I supposed to change beforehand into overalls or perhaps a Camra T-shirt?

    Rant over.

    Stonch said...

    I have burned every photo that exists of me wearing a baseball cap ...

    I did go running in a Maisel's Weisse polo shirt I bought in Franconia for some reason (everyone else was buying stuff and I felt left out). I reasoned that I'd be moving fast enough for people not to see the logo...

    Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

    I have the beer belly, the brewery t-shirts, I tick, I wear flat caps and I am partial to the odd pint of mild (and Im only 27), I also think that train spoters are fascinating as are morris dancers ,oh England these are your National treasures!! haha. Also I collect bottles and I construct holidays around visiting breweries. I cant see how any of this is a sign of a less than socially adjusted person. Life is about passion, pity those who have none and live a grey existance not those who heaps.

    Mark Tichenor said...

    For chrissake, what on earth is wrong with appreciating the variety and diversity of beer? That's one of the best things about it!

    That's like never travelling anywhere because the place where you live is the best. It's beer Xenophobia.

    Hey CAMRA snob, pull your tweed cap down over your eyes, stuff your flowing moustache into that same pint of pale ale you've been drinking since the '70s, close off all possibility that other cultures have developed beer traditions and styles, and never you mind how I choose to enjoy the world of beer.

    (ps, I am a bit of a planespotter, but no notebook)