Each year, faithful beer scribes from around the country flock to a designated craft-centric city for an intense three-day conference. They spend hours honing their craft and striving for the ever elusive objective viewpoint, pushing the limits of the palate for the sake of their interests. OK, so maybe spending a weekend drinking beer and writing about it isn’t as grueling as we just made it sound. But the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference is a nice reminder that the world of craft beer has some of the most dedicated fans around and that beer bloggers aren’t just “shouting into the void” the internet sometimes resembles. It’s an important marker that the craft beer industry has evolved to the point of being a complex and integrated culture instead of a few isolated hobbyists.
Blogging may seem like a simplified definition for sharing specific (beer-y) parts of one’s life, especially considering the multitude of beer review websites around. So it might be an easy assumption that people throwing out their opinion and passing it as fact is a form of microblogging. But a conference about the unrefined comments of the casual imbiber this is not! This year’s beer voyage took us to Asheville, North Carolina, where the weekend was spent touring breweries in the Smokey Mountains, partaking in many of the local brews and cramming as much content in as possible. One look at the agenda and it’s clear this event is geared to the most dedicated of beer diarists. From learning advanced website techniques, to how to review beer in a more objective manner and even monetizing your blog, every hour was jam packed with content designed to help beer bloggers (and their followers) bring credence to their craft. They are, after all, an important part of our industry. We can describe our beer and how much we like it ‘til the cows come home, but receiving good reviews from legitimate bloggers lends our beers increased credibility.
So, why, you ask, is Stone attending these conferences? Besides being craft fans ourselves, we engage our fans in many of the same ways that bloggers do as well. From panels on curating content and talking to followers, there is quite a bit of cross-over in our jobs. Connecting with the most vocal of our fans helps us understand their perspective and gives them the chance to connect with us (because sometimes “shouting into the void” can seem like exactly that). Being able to interact them face-to-face with voices within the craft beer universe is a rewarding experience! In the fight for craft, understanding all aspects of the industry, of which bloggers play a significant part, helps tremendously. We also get to hear about new innovations and talk with distributors and brewery owners. And we’re not the only ones who feel this is an important event to attend. Kim Jordan of New Belgium Brewing Co. delivered the keynote address, Ken Grossman lead a tour of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s new facility in Fletcher, NC and Anne Fitten Glenn revealed the newest Oskar Blues Brewery IPA.
Our weekend in Asheville was a veritable whirlwind of awesome East Coast beer and breweries that would be difficult (even for the most adept beer blogger) to sum up. But this nod to our dedicated world of beer will have to suffice for now. Cheers to those who we brew beer for, the fans, fanatics and bloggers alike. After all, enthusiastic fans beget the kind of passionate prose that helps inspire and lead new people to the phenomenal world of craft!