Beer is Back
Beer has been a cornerstone of civilization since the first batches were brewed thousands of years ago. Today, beers of all varieties, origins, and flavors are filling glasses in local communities across the nation at a mind-boggling rate. The days when an offer to sample a friend’s home-brew was met with a shutter and a gag are long gone, and the time of beer is now.
Similarly, there has been a large increase in the amount of beer and beer-related content available to audiences across the nation, beer blogging in particular.
Metrics from the CisionPoint database show that in the last year alone there was a 25 percent increase of beer blog addition, making it one of the most popular blogging trends tracked.
But why has beer blogging seen its greatest increase in popularity and surge of content in recent times?
In order to understand the nuances of this community, we talked to two beer journalists: Lew Bryson is managing editor of Whiskey Advocate and keeper of the old guard of journalism. He doesn’t mince words about the life of a beer and whiskey journalist, and is a man who likes to talk the same way he likes his whiskey: straight.
We also spoke with Lee Heidel, editor of Brew/Drink/Run, who represents a new breed of beer enthusiasts brewing their ironically dissimilar interests: home brewing, beer and running to the forefront of the beer blogging community.
When asked how content stays relevant in what to the novice seems like a very narrow topic to cover, they are quick to comment on their respective dedicated readership, whose interest in beer runs much, much deeper than the label on the bottle. They reiterate one other saying there is no such thing as “the best beer” or “the best tasting beer,” which leaves content open to valid, albeit different, opinions and assessments from multiple sources.
A recent article in Business Insider titled “Why Everyone Is Going Crazy For Craft Beer” noted that in the last year craft beer sales have skyrocketed to new record highs jumping 15 percent nationally. Craft breweries are defined as “small, independent, and traditional.”
The wide variety of brewers in the marketplace right now yields a great opportunity for passionate beer communities to take to their computers and blog about their own local favorites and flavors.
“Behind every new brewery launch, beer accessory, book, or event is a person with their own amazing story,” Heidel said. “It’s easy to write a story about passion.”
Bryson, a 20-year veteran of beer and spirit journalism started beer blogging in the mid-1990’s, and has seen the recent growth of beer popularity across all fronts.
“Beer is a growing, international industry,” he said. “It has a history thousands of years old. It’s currently exploding in popularity and has more respect than it has in years in the United States.”
Bryson is quick to point out the need-to-know information about beer blogging. “There’s not much money in it, and if you’re doing it for the free samples, you should stop,” he said. “You should be doing it because you love the stuff, and because you want to share the knowledge, news, and help shape where it’s headed.”
He goes on to say he doesn’t see a problem keeping content fresh. Beer is a living growing industry, and for him, “it’s a matter of running to keep up with the changes.”
Lee Heidel, on the other hand, uses his blog to combine his great passions: brewing, running, and beer. The running community is not unlike the craft beer community in that they are both dedicated, and rally around each other for support and knowledge. Each exercise requires extensive training, a keen attention to detail, and constant presence of mind in order to deliver positive results.
“Writing forces you to break down the big picture into specific details and evaluate the small pieces that make your hobby or interest important to you,” Heidel said. “Often that can be very difficult when dealing with endeavors that have aesthetic payoffs, Heidel says
Heidel is sure to always convey his own excitement about a beer to ensure the reader gets excited too.
“I always try to convey a sense of excitement in my reviews. If I’m reviewing a bottle shop in Cincinnati or a gastropub in Jackonville, I want the reader to know why they should be excited and support that business, too.”
So what do you need to become big in the beer blogosphere? Bryson answers this question with one powerful word: perspective. He also cites the late beer and whiskey writer Michael Jackson as having given the best advice he uses in his writing: “Don’t write about it if you haven’t been there.”
Bryson travels across the nation and sometimes internationally to cover stories and beers all with the ever-present knowledge that even he, after 20 years, still has a lot to learn. He offers a few pearls of wisdom for the beer bloggers and journalists of all backgrounds:
“Be honest about what you think, but consider what you think before you write it. Look at trends, and think about why they’re being supported by other writers. Write because you want to.”
Heidel added, “It’s knowing the difference between knowing that you like something, and knowing why you like something.” This is the basis of beer blogging.
“You have to know the topic and find and appropriate niche,” he continued. “If you’re not presenting the factual information with a point of view, then you’re never going to cut through the clutter of thousands of beer review web sites.” And it’s likely that the savvy audience members will notice the disservice.
Making the Pitch
Accessing this tightly knit community can be daunting for just about anyone in the marketing industry. So what is the best way to make a pitch? Bryson and Heidel give different answers but echo the same sentiment: the need to understand the level of commitment involved in beer blogging goes beyond the written word. It delves into the local experiences shared at local microbreweries, rallying around a sense of community with one another in support of authentic products.
Both men recognize that the rise of social media’s prevalence across all mediums greatly increases the ability for beer bloggers to connect with an audience at a level that larger, broader publications cannot match.
Heidel, who actually got the idea for Brew/Drink/Run from a friend who was sharing beer reviews on Facebook, concedes that, “’Like’ it or not, social media marketing is the new normal.” Subscribing to a writer on Facebook or Twitter brings the content to the doorstep, or newsfeed, of the audience, which is a change from the classic model of pulling in readers versus the new normal of pushing out content.
Bryson admits, somewhat begrudgingly, that while social media has made beer blogging look easy and also encourages shoddy research in the rush to be “FIRST!”, it has undeniably expanded his clout and reach in the online sphere.
The wave of beer has a full head of steam and it shows no signs of slowing down. With a dedicated, passionate community at its back, this tradition is likely to continue growth online, in blogs, and at local watering holes in a town close by.
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