It’s the morning of Manchester’s biggest Beer Festival. For this writer personally it’s been a stalwart staple in the diary since 2006. For some it will have been much longer. It is no longer officially the National Winter Ales Festival but everything feels like a continuation from the days that it was.
The past three years I’ve reviewed the festival on here. 2013 was mostly negative. 2014 was just an accurate description of what actually happened. 2015 was mostly positive, with the inclusion of minor criticisms being no different from reviews of any other festival. (I'm not linking.)
Preparing anything for public consumption and approval can be daunting. Essentially, you are putting your own creations into the ether that can be loved or hated. Nothing is going to be perfect or to everybody’s taste so you have to prepare yourself for negativity. Producing beer or food that is going to be critiqued and reviewed must be incredibly daunting. Writing prose, whether in book, article or blog form, comes with the knowledge that content, style and general enjoyment are all being judged.
When you put yourself in the firing line of potential criticism, you have to be prepared to take it. Nobody made an LP without at least some negative reaction. Nobody directed a film that was completely immune from critics. Nobody wrote a book that was universally loved. Nobody brewed the “perfect” beer that hasn’t divided opinion.
If you are the soul creating the reviews and giving the feedback it obviously pays to be objective and constructive. Occassionally an experience will leave you disappointed or hurt and a little opinionated anger will come out. Again, this is regular, though you want to avoid it becoming a regular occurrence.
However, as I prepare myself for MBCF2016, I remember the story of Richard Brittain.
Richard Brittain is an author and former Countdown winner who, in October 2014, disagreed with a fairly standard negative review of some of his writing from an innocent 18-year-old. Brittain became obsessed with tracking down the reviewer and travelled 500 miles to assault her by smashing a bottle of wine over her head whilst she worked in ASDA. She could easily have died (though thankfully was okay) all because she didn't enjoy the work of somebody else that had been left for review.
The case of Richard Brittain is a stark reminder of how not to respond to criticism. Yes, this is an extreme case and I would like to think that people who aren't happy with reviews of their beers or festivals are incapable of such acts. But it would be wise for all creators, organisers and inventors to remind themselves how criticism should be dealt with. It isn't losing one's personal head on a company's Twitter account. It isn't leaving disparaging remarks on other's posts. It isn't writing fanatical bullying pieces as a method of coping. (It definitely isn't assaulting people at their place of work either but you probably got that.)
I look forward to several beer events in the next couple of months. I may even lend a few words about some of them. Others definitely will. They might not always be positive. They sometimes might pick up on some of the irritants and flaws. But it would be well to remember that at least they were honest.