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    Sunday, 30 December 2007

    Trappist Lagers And Foreign Meantime

    I've written quite a few pieces highlighting journalistic nonsense. It really annoys me when people who are paid to write stuff for national or regional publications appear to be called to their editor and given the task of writing a little piece about beer, and get it so sadly wrong.

    Sadly these people's interest in the subject doesn't amount to much and their research skills are far inferior to what one would expect from anybody who takes such a job seriously. It's not that I have any great desire to write on a grander scale myself; I know I have many shortcomings, but I'd like to think my pieces have very few factual inaccuracies (although it seems I made a mistake with the Caledonian/S&N issue).

    In addition there are days when I don't have much to say so it gets things off my chest to give you all a laugh at the incompetencies of our writing bretheren. I'll continue to do this throughout next year, although I will understand it if it you think I'm wasting my time getting my heckles up.

    Only today I've laughed (cried) at two articles I've found. The first is in one of our worst tabloid rags and talks about how strong beers are the name of the game at the moment. Two quotes are reproduced below; spot the silly errors.

    "Supermarkets are now stocking strong overseas lagers such as 11% Kasteel Blonde, 10% La Trappe Quadrupel Strong Ale and 9% Chimay Blue."

    "Other dynamite imported drinks include 8.7% Hoegaarden Grand Cru, 8% King Cobra and 7.5% Meantime India Pale Ale."

    See what I mean? The second piece is from The York Press talking about that beer mecca Antwerpen. There's very little mention of beer - I guess it's just as well they didn't visit The Kulminator - but the one bit they have written: The local, amber-coloured Bolleke is a fine winter warmer is a really odd statement. I have never heard the 5% De Koninck described as a winter warmer, certainly when you can buy any sort of really strong beers in that fair city.

    I'd love standards of journalism to get better in 2008, but I don't see it happening.


    Boak said...

    I'm more worried about the context of the Star article than the factual inaccuracies. I'm concerned that this is considered to be "news" when such beers have been around a while.

    I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but this looks dangerously like another bit of propaganda that has successfully made it into the press against strong beer. Fortunately, it's only in the Star.

    Still, it's nice that they get to use some typical tabloid phrases - note foreign beers *flooding* into Britain, for example.

    Tandleman said...

    The first is just clumsy tabloid sensationalism and can therefore be disregarded as a serious piece of journalism. It was never meant to be.

    The second has a clumsily written sentence containing two inaccuracies, in that it appears to mix up the glass and the contents and that the beer described can scarcely be called a winter warmer. In an otherwise good piece, it is a bit disappointing, but hardly much to get worked up about.

    Stonch said...

    The article in the York newspaper isn't about beer - only a passing reference is made to it. In such circumstances I think the journalist's error can be looked at a little more sympathetically.

    As for the article in The Star - no-one expects any kind of accuracy on any subject in such a paper, so I can't see the need to get so angry.

    I agree that a lot of writing about beer is sloppy, but I'm not sure the examples you choose are the best to illustrate the point.

    Johan said...

    "it appears to mix up the glass and the contents [...]"

    I don't know about that. In Antwerp, it's perfectly normal to refer not only to the glass but also to the De Koninck beer itself as Bolleke.

    Identical or similarly shaped glasses used for other beer brands are never called Bolleke as far as I know.

    Tandleman said...

    "I don't know about that. In Antwerp, it's perfectly normal to refer not only to the glass but also to the De Koninck beer itself as Bolleke."

    Context Dear Boy. Context!

    Johan said...

    "Context Dear Boy. Context!"

    Don't patronize me. I'm not your dear boy.

    Let's read the text again, shall we:
    It's a country which takes its beer seriously, down to the many styles of glasses for different brews. The local, amber-coloured Bolleke is a fine winter warmer, but whatever your taste in beer, the Belgians have got it covered.

    So where's the mix-up (apart from the fact that De Koninck a.k.a. Bolleke is not a winter warmer)?

    maeib said...

    My understanding also is that the glass is called a bolleke as well as the beer.

    The mistake I was highlighting was calling the beer a winter warmer, which it clearly isn't.

    Tandleman said...

    Well it seems my genuine comment has been taken as offensive when that was furthermost from my mind. But to the pure all things are pure! The converse is assuredly so.

    In my three visits to Antwerp I have never heard that De Konink and bolleke are the same thing. Angels are dancing on pins here. A bolleke may well be the same as the beer to all intents and purposes in that the one will be understood as the other. It doesn't make them the same. They aren't.

    Johan said...

    I've lost count of the times I've been to Antwerp. The first time was when I lived in Leuven as an exchange student almost twenty years ago, studying Dutch. I've returned to Antwerp and other Flemish cities regularly ever since, probably well over a hundred times.

    Bolleke is a local name for the ball-shaped glass in which De Koninck beer is served and, by extension, a widely used nickname for the beer itself. You order a Bolleke in Antwerp, you get a De Koninck, plain and simple. So yes, a bolleke is the same as the beer to all intents and purposes.

    Whether that "makes them the same" or not, is mere semantics. It's irrelevant to the original issue. You criticized the journalist for mixing up the glass and the contents. I rest my case: he did not. On the contrary, he got the local lingo perfectly right.

    On a side note, I quite liked the rest of the article. Extra points from me for mentioning one of the hidden gems of Antwerp, the Zuremborg district in Berchem, outside the main tourist area. The architecture over there is truly amazing.

    Tandleman said...

    If it means that much to you - fine!