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What’s news to me might not be news to you

If you’d like to see what my head looks like on a platter, you might try to reconstruct1 the happenings on Twitter last week when I naively noted: “Sorry, but it seems strange to call an unconfirmed rumor one of the ‘Top 5 beer stories'” of the year'” along with this link.

Because this was the final post in a multi-part series, I hadn’t seen the first, which included a bit of an explanation: What follows is a list of stories that either resonated with readers or got coverage in the mainstream media. I guess I should have understood the story wasn’t just the substance of what Anthony Bourdain suggested — that “Big beer” was responsible for Discovery Channel pulling the plug on the Brew Masters program — but that he tweeted it and it got retweeted. A lot. This was made clear to me.

(In this case, my vision was clouded by the fact that Bourdain’s2 tweet was as stupid as if he had typed “Harwood invented porter”3 and considerably more irresponsible. That’s really an aside, but I did a lousy job of explaining myself in the 140-character exchanges that followed.)

I’m not oblivious to the importance of social media (even though I might appear clueless trying to balance Twitter, Facebook and Google+), nor the importance of what proceeded these virtual water coolers — water coolers themselves. I worked at newspapers back when people spent enough time with them in the morning to get their hands inky black. I sat in on a dozen meetings a week during which we debated how and where to display stories that were “important” versus those that people were talking about around the water cooler.

These days there are ways for people to talk about stuff they really care about that didn’t exist before, and ways to track/measure those conversations. Is following them pandering or simply remembering the news consuming public ultimately decides what is news? That’s a discussion for another space. As well as one about what is news? or even what is beer news?

OK, a bit more about the last one, and a quick example of what one day can bring. Saint Louis Brewery founders Tom Schlafly and Dan Kopman announced last Wednesday that a group of local investors had bought a 60 percent (thus, controlling) interest in the brewery. This was not a surprise, because they said more than a year ago they were looking for buyers, and wanted the brewery to remain locally owned. The big picture news will come when we find out if the new owners plan to build another brewery, since the current one (pictured at the top) is at capacity. The same day, Paul Harden at The Wine and Cheese Place posted a note he had received a shipment of Firestone Walker Union Jack that had been bottled only a week before. That’s fresh IPA a 20-minute walk from my house. One a short term basis, just as big.

Coincidentally, a few days before I considered what do people read? from a different perspective. Because I spent not as much time around here the second half of December, rather than dumping comments Akismet flagged as spam on a daily basis I got to them every three days or so. There’s something startling about seeing 10,000 comments from users calling themselves names like acai berry pure, ugg and stealth hid pile up in less than three days. In the course of looking to see if there was any rhyme or reason to what posts attracted such love I ended up with a semi-accurate list of 2011 most popular posts. And no clue about the spammers.

The list is not perfect, because some/many of you read these posts via a feedreader, some when they are fresh, some when they are older. I’m too lazy to sort that out. You might notice some of the best read stuff is from years past. I’m not sure how I should feel about that.

Anyway, the list:

10. What the heck is a nano brewery?
9. Book review: Tasting Beer.
8. Pierre Celis: That was one long shadow.
7. So Americans no longer drink Budweiser?
6. 10 beers that changed America.
5. Who is the world’s most influential beer writer?
4. Blue Moon: Peter, Paul & Mary or Trini Lopez?
3. Reinheitsgebot or Einheitsgebot?
2. The beer that launched 1,600 breweries.
1. Session #49 – Regular beers are part of the revolution.


1 I should probably be able to do that for you, but I blame cognitive failure, being well past 45 years old.

2 That’s not to say I don’t find Bourdain entertaining. How can you not like a guy who appreciates Louisiana as much as he does? I’d be happy to spend a drunken afternoon with him.

3 See The Oxford Companion to Beer: a dreadful disaster? and scroll down to Harwood.

23 Responses to What’s news to me might not be news to you

  1. Alan January 10, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    I think your essential point is still quite correct. That is not news let alone an important news story. It is celebritism + beer = “craft beer has finally made it!!!” Needy. It’s not even a very interesting social media story. It’s really a cable TV story – it, a cable TV celebrity used Twitter. About another cable TV show. That failed on its own lack of merit.

  2. Adam Nason January 10, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    As I said on Twitter, that story got over 28k hits & 1.4k shares in the social space.

    In the big picture, is MMMHop, Anthony Bourdain, Greg Hall pissing in a glass or Breckenridge making fun of big brewers with a commercial as newsworthy as say, the rising price of barley & potential impact on beer prices? Of course not.

    Readers shared those other stories a lot more though. It doesn’t make sense to ignore them for a number of reasons, both editorially and business-related. When you are trying to make a go of it with a blog, every new pair of eyeballs matters. It would be a different story if I was charging people a subscription fee and making $200 per post versus maybe $5 per post.

  3. Steve January 10, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    “That’s not to say I don’t find Bourdain entertaining. How can you not like a guy who appreciates Louisiana as much as he does?”

    Let alone how he was won over by Austria and his wonderful exposition on Naples. Now, if we can just get him to enjoy good beer as much as he enjoys good food.

  4. Bill January 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    Steve–I know Bourdain has said that, as a recovered addict and lover of food, if he ever took the time to truly explore good wine, he’d fear what might become of him and is sure it wouldn’t end well, so he chooses not to learn more — he’ll drink the good stuff if offered, but otherwise stays away. I’d assume he’d say the same would apply to good beer.

  5. Steve January 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Bill — interesting that he’s a recovered (recovering) addict (which I just learned myself), yet he still partakes (quite a bit) in addictive substances. Sort of contradictory all around. Nevertheless, I enjoy what he shows to enlighten the rest of us.


  6. Peter H January 10, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    Did you see the “Most overrated brewery?” thread at Beer Advocate that attracted hundreds of replies, including Sam Calagione? Is that water cooler talk? Is it newsworthy?

  7. Stan Hieronymus January 11, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    Spend a few hours away from Twitter and your rss feed and you certainly miss a lot. For those who, like me, weren’t aware, here is the link:

    Don’t discussions about overrated and underrated pop up all the time at Rate Beer and Beer Advocate? What set this one apart? Did it have a tipping point? If you could identify that then I guess you’d have a story. Or maybe it is part of a bigger one about the passion beer inspires.

  8. Steve January 11, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    “Don’t discussions about overrated and underrated pop up all the time at Rate Beer and Beer Advocate?”

    More than all the time. The redundancy rate at BA (and probably RateBeer, but I don’t play there) is epic and epidemic.

  9. Stan Hieronymus January 11, 2012 at 7:22 am #

    Steve – Any idea what made this one different?

  10. Bill January 11, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    My guess is that it wasn’t different until Sam C. commented, just like the Stone-bashing ones aren’t different until Greg Koch comments or the beer with food ones aren’t different until Garrett Oliver comments! Does Tomme Arthur ever comment on the numerous Lost Abbey threads?

  11. Steve January 11, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    What Bill said Stan, and I only found that out second-hand this morning. I try to stay away from threads with such subject lines.

  12. Stan Hieronymus January 11, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    This was published yesterday, but had I seen the link before I wrote this post I would have included. Not sure who might be reading this deep into the comments (other than spammers seeking a place to land), but Fast Company has an interview with Nicholas Kristof, who was the first blogger for the NYTimes website.

    He tackles questions like: Is this a revolutionary shift in journalism or a more natural progression?

    Not that we need to get all that serious about beer.

  13. Steve January 11, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    “Not sure who might be reading this deep into the comments…”

    C’mon Stan, give yourself, and Appellation, more credit — we always read deep into the comments, especially when you’re responding!

  14. Stan Hieronymus January 11, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    OK, Steve. Then one more link, because it amuses me to see a post of such length at Rate Beer discussing a conversation at Beer Advocate. Which I am adding on my blog after reading about it on Twitter. Thanks, Joe Stange (@Thirsty_Pilgrim).

    Dear Sam (C.)

  15. Bill January 11, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    What cracks me up about the two-part open letter on Ratebeer, is the poster’s detailed argument against high prices… then his conclusion that nevertheless, he’ll still try every beer, no matter the cost!

    My knowledge of DFH is pretty limited — I know they do lots of specialty brews, but are their prices higher than their peers? And do they do the one-day-only special releases that the poster criticizes?

  16. Alan January 11, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    I took that summation on cost to be high irony. Or was I just looking for friends? DFH has a range of more expensive bottles of challenging value – seems to be part of the expressly stated business plan.

  17. olllllo January 11, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    I’m stealing this from reddit’s reaction to the BA thread.

    Who sucks?
    This one!
    this one!
    this one!
    this one!


  18. olllllo January 11, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    Formatting… should read, thusly:

    Who sucks?
    This one!
    this one!
    this one!
    this one!
    —–> Celebrity Appears!

  19. Steve January 11, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    “…after reading about it on Twitter.”


    I wink is as good as a nod to a blind man!

    Bill — there are a few micros out there that seem to be convinced that they need to price their beers higher than the rest to make them even more exclusive. In my honest opinion, I believe they’ll soon be pricing themselves into a corner.

    Then again, there are a lot of mopes like the RateBeer guy who seem to be dazzled by the glitter.

  20. Alan January 11, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Glitter? As in “Swank Tax Beer”?

  21. Alan January 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Oops… again… ahem… STB?

    [sorry for the self-link fest.]

  22. Steve January 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    Alan — since the brews I’m alluding to above are mostly packaged in the common pry-off 12 ounce or 22 ounce bottles, I guess I’d have to call it the “Look! We’re the Hippest, Trendiest Brewery!” tax (LWHTB?).


  23. Alan January 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    PBT? Painted Bottle Tax? Except Stone, for all the giggles their weird marketing justly attract, are really good value priced beers that just happens to have the dumbest painted bottles.

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