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What do beer bloggers need to know (more) about?

Where in the beer world?

As Alan reported, Elle Potter has been sending out very nice personal invitations to bloggers who have not yet signed up to attend the third Beer Bloggers Conference next month in Indianapolis.

Way back when the BBC was picking the host city for the 2012 I recall indicating that I would attend a conference in St. Louis, Austin (because I told one of the potential local hosts I’d speak, they have barbecue and we can visit relatives) or Indianapolis (only 250 miles, more relatives, who might even let me bring a sleeping bag and toss it on the floor at Sun King Brewing). But then they scheduled it at a time we already have plans, making my decision easy.

However, since Elle wrote “having your feedback what might be keeping you from joining this year helps us as we grow with the beer blogging community’s needs in mind” I took a look at the agenda. It’s obviously a great party, and that’s good enough reason to go. But I don’t see much in those content sessions that might improve the quality of the content that appears here. Call me old fashioned but that’s how I’d justify signing up for the party.

So my question for you, although I’m not sure I actually expect any answers, is what should beer bloggers learn in order to get better at blogging? Not better at making money from blogging, or at least scoring free beer. Not better at organizing beer events. Better at regularly publishing posts you want to read.

(OK, the photo has next to nothing to do with the post, but I was looking for a quick party image and this photo taken at the cafe across from the Achouffe brewery in Belgium filled the bill.)

21 Responses to What do beer bloggers need to know (more) about?

  1. bierfesten June 7, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    I thought the concept was interesting when first raised about 2 years ago. But now it appears a mixture of pros (brewers and writers) and amateur blog enthusiasts. Reading last years posts and tweets it appears a great beer party with networking. Which may improve your blog over time I suppose.
    I woyld attend one if I was in a nearby city but I wpuld go to #cbc or #gabf first

  2. Another Alan June 7, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Actual answers? Hmm . . . not sure I can help there. One thing I learned in reading through the comments to Andy Crouch’s pronouncement of the death of beer blogs is that we all had a different definition of a beer blog. The answer entirely depended upon why each person chose to blog and what purpose he or she sought to achieve.

    The same is somewhat true here. I don’t need the same sort of justification and agree that much of the specific content isn’t going to directly help me be better at publishing posts. As an example, I’m entirely curious at the comparative beer/glass tasting put on by Spiegelau, since I’m one to think different glassware doesn’t make much of a difference. Other than giving me content for a single blog post explaining my findings, that’s not going to do anything for regular posts.

    It’s the indirect knowledge that’s more likely to be useful to me (based on my experience with BBC 2011). Being able to talk to people who do this thing far better than me is a great benefit. Sure, I can (and do) send fellow bloggers an email, but I get a lot more information from a face to face conversation over a pint. As someone who has been blogging very well since 2005, I can see where that might be of limited benefit to you. For me, despite doing this since 2009, I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing. Sure is fun, though.

  3. Roger A. Baylor June 7, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    That’s a softball, so permit me to screw myself into the ground, a la Reggie Jackson in his prime, as I answer:

    Being able to write would be nice.

  4. Stan Hieronymus June 7, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    Another Alan – I predict you will declare the beer/glass tasting worth the cost of the trip. It could change future posts in many ways.

    Roger – Yes, silly me. Since there are no beer writing conferences (in contrast to wine) I’ve been thinking a blogging conference might address writing itself.

  5. Andy Crouch June 7, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    The conference’s agenda does seem pretty light on actual content. I’m not sure that learning how to stage a beer event is even something that bloggers should/are interested in doing. But as AA notes, we have to first define blog then blogger (which these days seems to be more and more defined by corporate/PR flacks) before we can figure out what this motley crew wants to do.

    And in light of my prior writings on the conference, I have to report that I may have been the only person not to receive the personalized email invite today. Finally, proof that I am indeed not a blogger.

    Cheers,

    Andy

  6. Alan June 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Do I strive to improve the quality that appears on my website, you know, the one where I log my findings upon the information superhighway? That is really the question, isn’t it? As I observe and then opine or pretend to what would observing upon observers lead to? And what is this fixation on writing anyway? Should there not be lessons on photographic beer porn as well as how to master contest hosting?

  7. Alan June 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

    Having an odd comment issue, Stan. Maybe that’s what we need. Lessons on comment issues. And less about the writing and more beer porn, maybe. And the best contest rule making. That would be gold.

  8. Another Alan June 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    Alan: Beer photography, or some similar title, was a session I voted for, but didn’t make the agenda. My peer Pr0n capabilities could definitely use an upgrade.

    Andy: The blog gave me enough credibility to stage a beer event which created connections I would not otherwise have made which hopefully leads to better blogging. Probably could have achieved the same results by just getting my ass out there and making connections. And left me with more money in my pocket.

    Yeah, the actual content is a little light. But when I get writer’s block, I’ll be able to get out that new set of glassware and let the witty insight flow!

  9. Zac June 7, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Drink more beer.

  10. Stan Hieronymus June 7, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    Alan – Don’t know what you did to tick off askimet, but you did. I pulled the comments out of jail and eliminated the duplicates. Indeed, perhaps there should be a session on just such things.

    And Another Alan – Perhaps there should be two tracks, so if you already live in a house where the rule is “new glass in, an old glass out” then you have another choice.

  11. Alan June 7, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    I have been defragging like a crazy man for the second half of the evening.

  12. Pivní Filosof June 7, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    I’ve read Zak’s posts after the EBBC and, other than a nice party and quite a lot of free beers and meeting some people, I don’t think I’ve missed much. All the stuff about contents, how many words should a blog post have, the thing abut getting freebies, and all that, are non-issues to me. Most people start to write blogs (any kind of blogs) for onanistic reasons. Some are able to transform that into interesting contents, others aren’t. So what?

    I’m still writing my blog because it’s fun. I’m glad I have the readership I have, but that is not what motivates me.

  13. Allan Wright June 8, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    Hi everyone,

    This coming from another Allan, albeit with two Ls, and also the organizer of the conference. A few thoughts for you:

    1. Elle is indeed sending out personal emails. There are now 1000 beer bloggers in North America. She can’t send one to everyone and certainly not on the same day, or they would not be personal emails. So please don’t be upset if you didn’t get an email!

    2. We the organizers have our opinions on what beer bloggers could use to improve their trade, based in part on what we see in other blogging niches. However, we create the content based more on what you bloggers want. This comes from both general surveys when we list possible content sessions and ratings from people who attend and give a number score to each and every session. So the content truly reflects what bloggers tell us.

    3. In 2010 at the first BBC we had the editor of Draft Mag talk about professional writing skills, a local chef talk about beer and food pairing, an SEO expert talk about search engine optimization, and four local Boulder tech companies talk about technical components of blogging. The result? Attending bloggers told us they didn’t want so much hard info and wanted to learn more about the industry, breweries, etc. So we adjusted. We would be HAPPY to set up more writing, blogging, technical, or other panels.

    If you have never been to a beer bloggers conference, then I must humbly say you have no idea whether you are missing something or not. At the European BBC last month, 92% of attendees rated the conference as “very good” or “outstanding”. So I would suggest taking the plunge and joining us.

    Allan

  14. Jeff Alworth June 8, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Stan, this is exactly the right question. To answer it, I think we need to turn the tables and imagine ourselves–this is going to be a real challenge–visiting a beer blog. What do we want to read? We want interesting content not available on every other blog, written well enough that our brains don’t ache, on topics about which we don’t already have well-established views.

    The need to feed the beast means we all put up a bit of fodder every now and again, and many of us succumb to the desire to navel-gaze. That’s fine–blogs are not professional products. But in general, bloggers should really strive to put things out there that the average beer geek doesn’t have the time to access. Advice I’d give to bloggers:

    1. Learn about the business side of things. Ask brewers what their business model is and how their beers fulfill it. Beer geeks almost universally judge a beer based on its flavors with total disregard to the fact that it’s a commercial product. Bloggers need that context to write credibly about beer.

    2. Learn about brewing. You don’t have to take a course at Siebel, but you need to understand the mechanics at a fairly fine-grained level. It really helps you unpack the flavors in a beer and understand how the processes contributed to making it taste that way.

    3. Learn about beer history. Beer styles are the bastard child of the great brewing lineages, and if all you do is read the BJCP guidelines, you’ll miss the living lineage that make up styles–which even in my drinking lifetime have changed pretty dramatically.

    After that, blogging is all about starting a discussion and engaging people. The more you know, the richer the discussion will be and the more people will read your blog. (Up to, say, about two dozen. If my traffic’s any guide.)

  15. Alan June 8, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    Since when is professional product not naval gazing? The idea that cash purifies is one of the weirder concepts at these fringe of thought like beer writing.

    I don’t disagree with anything you wrote otherwise, Jeff, but I would add that people need to learn to write and maybe learn to think as well. This takes a lot of writing and thinking. And reading. Plus don’t accept anything in a construct as undeveloped as beer thought. It is not that it is all wrong so much as it is all largely either yet unstated or naturally compromised by this need or that. This 2003 comment – a seminal beer bloggy event as far as I am concerned – by Martyn at my other blog still is one of my favorite discussions of that latter point.

  16. Stan Hieronymus June 8, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    Jeff & Alan – Thanks for giving us a lot to think about (Jeff, that’s exactly the sort of feedback I was looking for, although it would have been cooler still from a non-blogger). I already am and will add more here after work hours.

    But one thing that strikes me immediately is that you both have operated blogs that had not a lick to do with beer.

  17. Steve June 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    As one of those non-bloggers, I’l have to agree with Jeff’s points 2 and 3 (I’m not so interested in the business side, marketing has ruined me).

    Knowing brewing processes and history have always been a big part of my passion toward beer. And history needs to encompass recent and ancient aspects equally. It still kills me to see bloggers and posters who have no concept of the beer world before the Micro Boom®.

  18. Another Alan June 8, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    In pondering this more it seems less important to define what a blog is and more important for the blogger to be able to articulate what purpose he or she wants to achieve with the blog. Only then can we decide what we SHOULD know to become a better blogger. That assumes, obviously, that we can agree that a “blogger” is a fairly loosely defined category.

    If my purpose is to be a clearing house of news for a particular area, what I should know differs significantly from someone who prefers to do beer reviews.

    Few bloggers have any hope (or realistic desire) to become “nationally/internationally” read, for lack of a better description, in the vein of Alan, Stan and Jeff. Thus, most of the rest of us are likely to do much better carving out a niche, whether that be some expertise in a style of beer or coverage for a particular area.

    Certainly, having good writing skills and the ability to think is a useful skill that transcends any type of blog. Starting discussions and engaging people – at least in my niche – is something I would very much like to increase. Can I learn that from a conference session or two?

    I can see where Jeff’s items 2 and 3 are important for someone who wants to be excellent (and credible) at reviewing beer. I’m more interested in his item 1, both from the perspective of the business of brewing, but also from the seedier side of beer distribution.

    Conveniently, there’s a session for that at BBC 12. That’s assuming they still let me participate after tossing a growler at Garret Oliver during his keynote address while yelling “Fill ‘er up!”

  19. Alan June 8, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    I prefer “international note scribbling poppinjays Alan, Stan and Jeff” but that’s because I don’t think of what I write as ultimately terribly important. Had I, I would have mentioned something else – developing perspective and humour about yourself. When you write and read and think you should get a pretty clear sense that there are others doing each one of those three things far better than you do.

    Also beer is not in itself serious but it touches on many serious topics like the economy, health and wasting one’s life away. If you drill down too niche, AA, you can miss both each our own place as every man in relation to beer and, in turn, beer’s relation to many things.

    A gathering of beer writers (I find both the word and segregation of “bloggers” silly) could well help that penny drop for those there and help balance the micro and macro even if over micros and maybe some macros.

  20. Another Alan June 8, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Well said on all accounts, Alan. I find it particularly humorous, as a beer writer, to be referenced as “AA.”

  21. Elle Potter June 11, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    We’re taking notes, guys! Thanks for starting the conversation, Stan. Looking forward to hearing your suggestions for content at future conferences.

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