Dispatch From the Beer Blogger's Conference 2014
All photos by Nora McGunnigle.
This is the first of a series of articles that focus on three different beer events centering around three different populations in the craft beer world: the writers, the distributors, and the brewers. This article discusses the Beer Blogger’s Conference (BBC), held in August in San Diego.
The Beer Bloggers Conference, organized and run by Zephyr Adventures, had its fifth conference in San Diego in August. The purpose of the conference is to bring together bloggers from all over the country to celebrate craft beer, particularly in the city the event is held in. Breweries, brewpubs, and distributors sponsor the event, hoping to get the attention of bloggers and writers who will spread the word about their products on blogs, social media and other publications. Other sponsors like CraftBeer.com (the online content arm of the Brewers Association) and the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA - you’ll be hearing about them soon in more detail in the post about its conference) are involved to give bloggers and writers their perspectives, and other sponsors like WordPress, Sucuri website security, and others to show off their tools and toys.
The first BBC I attended was last year’s in Boston. I had just made the jump to writing full time and quit my day job. I met tons of very cool people - fellow bloggers, brewers, publishers, marketing professionals, distributors. I learned about Girls Pint Out there. I drank Utopias in the Samuel Adams barrel room with Jim Koch. I learned that when Ray Daniels of Cicerone.org started writing about beer in the ‘90s, he was being paid 10 cents a word - a number that has not changed much, sadly, in the 20 or so years since. I learned from John Holl, editor of All About Beer Magazine, that I needed to tell stories that no one else was telling, look at viewpoints that were often overlooked.
In Boston, and this year in San Diego, I met a lot of really fantastic women who are passionate about beer, and they inspired me more than I can even express. I urge you to seek them out: The Beer Babe, Hey Brewtiful, the Brooklyn Beer Bitch, Microbrews USA, This Girl Brews, Beer and Baking, The Northwest Beer Babe, Beer Makes Three, MetaCookbook, Nancy Brew, and more. Not to say that the men were any less friendly and inspirational, it’s just that finding women who loved beer as much as I did and wrote and thought and dreamed about it like I did, was a revelation. Also getting to hear from Julia Herz, the Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association, who kicked off both conferences I attended with her speech, was amazing. Julia is so fired up about craft beer that it’s hard to listen to her without getting fired up, too.
In San Diego, I had a little bit more of an idea of what to expect. First rule: Saturday is a long, long day of drinking, so pace yourself. The infamous Speed Blogging event, in which a brewery rep has 5 minutes to pour and explain his or her beer, while we blog about it, is fun but - and let’s be honest here - a little insane. Speed Blogging happens after a boozy lunch and a day sharing bottles while listening to speakers, and is followed by a dinner and beer extravaganza provided by a local brewer. In Boston it was Harpoon, and in San Diego it was Stone. Then a post-dinner party with brewers pouring beer, and THEN a bottle share amongst the attendees.
Not to discount Friday, which has also involved dinner, speakers, and beer - most notably Carl Cramer, founder of Karl Strauss Brewery. Saturday also features keynote speakers: Ray Daniels, founder of Cicerone.org in Boston and Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada in San Diego. It’s a pretty intense whirlwind, and you just have to hold on and enjoy the ride.
After all that, Sunday is a tough, tough morning. But worthwhile to attend, because that’s when the bloggers’ 5 minute “Blogger Reports” happen, where you get to see what the people who volunteered to present are up to. Very diverse and very, very interesting.
It’s a great time, of course. A little exhausting, but lots of fun. It’s not too overwhelming (especially compared to other events), and we’re taken care of quite nicely - bussed to our events, given lots of food and beer and ideas. (Shout out to Zephyr head honcho Allan Wright, who held the last bus for me when I got lost at Stone Brewing.) We’re made to feel important, which, aside from ego boosting, is a key realization - the knowledge that we’re all part of the industry in our own way. And there are responsibilities that come with that, like journalistic ethics and understanding who our audiences are.
The craft beer industry is growing so fast, as are social media, website, and blogging tools. The BBC is a great opportunity to get on the same page as one’s peers and get a handle on the exciting, maddening, and awesome world of beer.