Sometimes ideas get momentum and become "truths".
I've already spouted about the evils of Internet anonymity and the rampant habit of posting noxious, vitriolic, and just plain useless opinion or commentary in various forums. It's easy and cowardly to slam somebody's work or opinion when you hide behind some false ID. It's easier than ever to get information out there using Web tools such as blogs and forums. Truth, is becoming more difficult to find. Truth, is being replaced by opinion and hearsay. A lot of the stuff that's out there is either being prepackaged by somebody with an interest in a particular version of a story - like news media spinning things up to sell more advertising; people who are presenting an image of themselves that is just plain false; or people who are just too busy or too lazy to check the facts. I'm guilty of this to a certain extent - the lazy/busy thing I mean. I've accepted certain statements as facts because I'd heard them more than once or from somebody that I thought was respectable. Unfortunately, sometimes even people you respect are too busy or too lazy to check the facts. Sometimes, respectable people accept stories as fact just because they too heard them from a respected source.
It ain't hard to appear to know what you are talking about. Speak confidently and be able to spout tidbits of evidence and you'll gain the support of most people.
The other side of the ease of communication and information access provided by the Internet is the fact that you can find the facts. You can find the truth. It just takes work.
So, here's where we get to the point where we find out why this duffus who only cares about fermentable stuff is rambling on about truth and the Internet.
Well, I read the blogs of a few folks in beer-land who are working their butts off researching and posting information about the history of beer and beer styles. Some of the information that these guys are posting basically pulls the carpet out on a few "facts" about the history of certain beer styles that I comfortably held as fact up until now. These are some pretty widely held beliefs in beer-land North America but the research performed by these guys either completely disproves the stories or shows them to be "Americanized" interpretations - partly true but not historically accurate.
Here's what I'm talking about:
The truth about IPA from Martyn Cornell's Zythophile - I always accepted and often retold the legend of India Pale Ale being so named due to its use to fortify sailors on the trade routes between England and India during colonial times. Martyn provides some pretty compelling facts that debunk this old brewer's tale.
Ron Pattinson ruffles feathers on his Shutup about Barclay Perkins Blog - It is widely held in North American brewing communities that the difference between an Ale and a Lager is the yeast used in fermentation and the process followed for fermentation. Both professional and hobbyist or home brewers would argue this to be fact in North America. Ron brings a cultural and historical argument to light in his post. Germans do not widely make a distinction between beer styles based upon the North American convention of yeast type and fermentation process. To a German brewer, an Ale is a style that comes from England. While I will most likely continue to use the modern, western, terminology to distinguish my brews, I can certainly see that it is a modern use of the terms Ale and Lager. Vive la différence! :)
Ron also got into it with the lovely folks on the RATbeer . com forum - Read this at your own peril; I did and ended up exhausted by the time I finished. Sometimes people can be like a dog with a bone - holding on to their views. The link above takes you to Ron's blog entry - from there you'll find a link to the RATbeer . com thread. I'm amazed how firmly people cling to their own view of the world - where's the fun in that?
Here's one that seems to come back every year - Bob Skilnik fights the common idea that prohibition in the USA ended on April 7 - Man, Bob is a trooper. He seems to post something about this topic year after year. Even the Brewer's Association bought into the April 7th thing and they started to organize country wide events to honor the end of prohibition.
By the way...I should mention that I heard about Ron Pattinson and Zythophile on Lew Bryson's blog - Seen Through a Glass
This may be ironic, but hey - don't believe everything you read on the Internet! :)