Tech geek blogs and news sites (my other favourite thing to read, like WIRED, Ars Technica, Slashdot, Gizmodo and dozens of others) tend to attract readership by covering the latest and greatest of everything in the tech world: New programming languages, new gadgets, new developments from big companies. Beer blogs have no real equivalent. Keeping up on the latest beer releases isn’t exactly hot news for beer drinkers: There’s not as much social reward for being the first person to get your hands on the latest Dogfish Head as there is for being the first person on the block to own an iPhone.
So beer blogs have come up with a bunch of different ways to use the internet build community rather than report on news.
One example that I love is the Session. Once a month, a beer blogger chooses a topic, and other beer bloggers drink something related to that topic and report on the experience. It’s community, it’s beer, it’s fantastic.
Beer blogs reported widely on the events of the SF Beer Week, which was all about community and comradery. It was the same kind of thing: The reporting was online, but the event was away from keyboard. The first-hand accounts of the SF Beer Week events served to advertise the event and build excitement and community, and probably to give other folks organizing similar events some ideas, rather than to provide great reading material for folks who weren’t there (even though it did that, too). Turns out Seattle is having one too, and Philly’s is coming right up.
My local specialty beer store, Bottleworks, holds tastings about once a month. Their most recent tasting, advertised by word-of-mouth, their RSS feed, and Seattle Beer News, among other places, was their 10th Anniversary tasting, and featured two beers brewed especially for the occasion. It was an in-person event advertised mostly online (as far as I can tell, it wasn’t heavily covered in local print news). It was a pretty in-crowd: everyone seemed to know everyone else. Perhaps as I get bolder (read: drunker), I’ll work up the balls to talk to some of the folk that I don’t know. Beer folk tend to be nice guys.
It also sounds like this year’s Yule Beer Blog Photo Contest will likely be something similar: an in-person event that is organized online via the community of beer bloggers (of which I humbly count myself a part). I’ve offered my services. I’m trying to moonlight as what I’m calling a “beer journalist in training.” We’ll see how it goes.
Overall, it’s interesting to step into this world. I kind of started this out because I wanted an excuse to brew more and drink better beer, but it turns out this is a whole world of folk that are fanatical about this fantastic beverage.