Despite being laden with a heavy bag filled with too many bottles of beer, despite the lack of sleep and excess of everything else, and despite the prospect of a bus for the last leg of the journey home, nothing could stop the smile muscles from getting a good workout as I left the Beer Bloggers Conference on Sunday.
As weekends go it’s hard to find one better: great beer, great food, great company, great entertainment, great fun, all multiplied ten-fold because it all pulled together perfectly. As a prospect the weekend was an odd one: what the hell is a Beer Bloggers Conference?! Ignore the name, look at what we did, look at how everyone reacted to it as that’s all you need to know.
But as I was leaving, as the beer haze was lifting and being replaced by the bastard behind the eyes, it became clearer that what we’re doing – writing and reading blogs; loving good beer – is incredibly important.
There is slim space for beer appreciation in traditional media and it seems to be getting harder and harder to place articles, despite the fact that more and more people are discerning drinkers and that Britain has got a brilliant brewing past, present and future. And people want to read about it. This lack of printed word opens up the online space and opportunities which don’t exist elsewhere, and this is key (although, with newspaper readerships serially in decline, and online use ever on the up, does this lack matter to all but the ones who live off writing?)
When I want to find out something the first place I look is Google. When I wanted to learn more about beer as a thirsty 21-year-old with pint in hand, I learnt about it through Google first and books second (plus I needed to Google what books to buy). With mobile technology and the daily draw of social media making the internet ever-more pertinent in our lives, it’s natural that we spend more time online and use it in different ways; the declining print runs of newspapers is concurrent to the increasing hits on their websites, kindle books now outsell physical books two-to-one on Amazon. Things are changing.
And this change is important for beer. Anyone can now easily create their own online content and we can all choose exactly what we do and don’t read: web 2.0 gives us power as content creators. Why is this good for beer? Because it’s allowed anyone to have a voice and the more voices there are the more people know about good beer and the bigger and better it will become.
There’s also an audience of drinkers online who want to know more about beer. For every one person who writes a blog there are a handful who comment and hundreds more who just read (it’s the 90-9-1 idea). The readers are every bit as important as the writers because you are the ones who go out there and drink the beer and tell your friends.
The internet is beer’s medium and it’ll be through the internet that it is able to grow beyond the borders of the printed page. The word ‘vanguard’ was used a few times over the weekend and it’s a good choice: the internet is still young, blogs are still young, and the people who are writing about beer online, and those who are routinely reading about it, are, as Darren from BeerSweden writes, “the vanguard of modern beer media.”
If drinkers want to search for information about beer then they go online. What they tap into Google will often return links to blogs on the first page. And with bloggers based around the world there’s so much coverage and potential, way more than could be achieved offline. This also means we’re a worldwide community, an army ready to mobilise at any time and loft our pints into the air; together we’re stronger.
Beer lovers should be excited about the future because it’s only going to get better and blogs are a very important part of that – we are not just sitting in our bedrooms sipping free beer and crap tasting notes. A post-Conference blog from Bad Attitude Brewery about the importance of blogs is brilliant and everyone who is interested in beer should read it. Ultimately, we are telling a never-ending story where pints and bottles are the characters in an always twisting-and-turning tale, punctuated by the occasional low but with many great highs and where readers can take part in the story themselves by picking up that pint and drinking it.
Brewers create the words, bloggers tell the stories, drinkers bring them to life.