I read something a couple of months ago that I initially assumed was a wind-up: a European beer bloggers conference in London. Apparently these are quite popular in America, and this is the first on this side of the pond. A conference has to have a raison d'être, which is fairly obvious when it's something like a trade union, the CBI, or a scientific conference; rather less so with political party conferences, which are just rallies for the faithful who pass motions like real conferences do, only to have them ignored by the top table as soon as they're in government. But a beer bloggers conference? Would it consider motions praising or condemning CAMRA's refusal to accept keg (i.e. non-real) beer? Would it discuss the faults and virtues of the pub tie system? Would it condemn the Government's taxing of beer beyond the reach of many ordinary beer drinkers? Would it express concern about the domination of brewing by multinationals? The pros and cons of minimum pricing?
No, none of these. There will be talks about history of brewing, panels where top beer bloggers discuss blogging tips, meals with accompanying beers, trips out, and all that sort of thing. It all seems very amiable and a pleasant holiday for those who like such things - nothing wrong with that at all - but calling it a conference is over-egging the pudding. Discussions and debates about weighty issues should be the stuff of conferences; in reality, this event would be better described as a convention. Does it matter what it's called? Probably not much in the great scheme of things, but shouldn't people who aspire to be writers use language more precisely? The word "conference" sounds important, whereas a "convention" is what Star Trek fans put on.
Any pretence that this "conference" is anything more than a jolly beano is completely demolished by the fact that it is sponsored by Molson Coors, manufacturers of Carling, Caffreys, Worthington, Coors, and Stones among many others. As the conference website excitedly explains: "The company [Molson Coors] generously agreed long ago to fund the actual conference center [sic] costs, a significant sum, making it possible from the beginning that this conference would be in London. If you are attending this weekend, please make sure to thank MolsonCoors when you get the chance!" This makes it crystal clear that topics such as a critical analysis of the structure of the brewing industry and how it affects ordinary drinkers will not feature on the agenda; after all, it makes no sense to bite the hand that feeds you.
If you're there, I hope you're having a good time, but don't kid yourself that this is anything more than a themed holiday.