Beer Bloggers Conference, day 2

Following day 1 of the Beer Bloggers Conference, you might recall that I had, er, a bit of hangover so my morning started out slowly—but I was downstairs in time for the first of the sessions at 9:30. I will note upon reflection that day 1 seems (to me) to have had more of the convivial, party-type aspect to it (a shorter day punctuated by a lot of beer, people meeting for the first time, and of course the infamous “Night”) while the subsequent days had the more getting-down-to-business feel to them.

That first session of day 2 was a panel of industry bloggers: the folks who blog and/or manage social media for breweries. These were Michael Busman of New Belgium Brewing, Matt Van Wyk (incidentally also the brewer) of Oakshire Brewing, and Ryan Ross of Karl Strauss Brewing. Very interesting panel, getting the point-of-view from the “other side” so to speak—the folks that we (as the “citizen bloggers”) often interact with. Some good points from the panel:

  • New Belgium posts once or twice per week but doesn’t really blog “about beer” as Michael puts it; there are a lot of other topics they cover about the brewery and its people and so on that they like to cover as well.
  • Oakshire uses WordPress for both the site and the blog; while much of their blog posts are about beers and events, they want to publish more commentary and “thoughtful”-oriented posts.
  • Ryan at Karl Strauss focuses to a large extent on food and beer and pairings, and gave us a great quote: “everybody wants to drink beer for breakfast.”
  • Matt at Oakshire says that Facebook and Twitter are the most important tools in the social media trio (I made that “trio” part up but I consider it to be blogs, Facebook, and Twitter).
  • Not enough breweries have bloggers, though many could definitely benefit from having a blogger on hand.
  • They love the interaction with citizen bloggers, and encourage us to be more proactive even: be persistent, keep doing what we’re doing, get our foot in door, and so on.
  • Ryan at Karl Strauss: “I’m the spy… I read all of your blogs and you don’t know anything about it”
  • Reiterated: be bold, develop a relationship with brewers, request information, build the interaction

The next session was “Working with Your Local Brewery”: a panel consisting of Ashley Routson (the Beer Wench and representing Bison Brewing), Bill Manly (Communication Director for Sierra Nevada), Ben Edmunds (head brewer for Breakside Brewing), and Ben Love (head brewer for Hopworks Urban Brewery and soon to start a new brewery of his own). The focus was on exactly as the title said, and was similar to the previous panel though with more of a hyper-local focus. The two Bens were dressed up in black shirts, jackets, and pants, and Ashley was dressed up as well, prompting Bill to wryly note, “Apparently I’m underdressed” during his introduction. Key points:

  • Ashley threw herself into the industry, volunteering as much as possible, talking to breweries, making herself available to build as many relationships as possible, and ultimately got a job with Bison when an opportunity arose. She stressed that you can not make demands, if you want to work with breweries you need to bring skills and talent that could pay off later (paying it forward, essentially).
  • Bill didn’t pursue blogging, the job basically fell into his lap when Ken Grossman read an article about Sierra Nevada beer that he’d written and offered to hire him.
  • Ben Edmunds notes, “It’s the creative suggestions that bloggers can offer… to help breweries explore…”
  • Put your email address on your blog.
  • Brewers are usually happy to talk with you, but some basic etiquette should be observed (of course): don’t go in during busy times, and letting them know beforehand would be best.
  • They are receptive to negative comments, as long as it’s constructive criticism and not, as Ashley put it, “being a douchebag.” And if you have criticism about a beer, the more info you can bring the better.

After a break for lunch (everyone split up to do their own thing, and we found ourselves at Cascade Barrel House which was quite good), the Conference picked back up again with the panel titled, “Lessons from Portland as a Beer and Beer Blogging City”: essentially a round table of local bloggers Ezra Johnson-Greenough from The New School, Lisa Morrison (the Beer Goddess), and Jeff Alworth from Beervana. I thoroughly enjoyed this panel as it was getting to listen to three people I’ve been following for a long time now, though I didn’t take many notes. However:

  • Jeff immediately gave me credit for (as his theory goes) having the oldest currently active beer blog. (More on that in another post.)
  • Lisa credits Fred Eckhardt for having such a healthy beer blogging community in Portland.
  • The Portland bloggers are an incredibly proactive and community-oriented bunch, organizing festivals, doing collaboration brews, holding fundraisers, and generally do a lot to promote Portland beer (I don’t know if other beer blogging communities/cities are like this).
  • Ashley raised the topic of whether Portland beer and bloggers are “too local”—to the point of snubbing other cities/regions (I’m paraphrasing). This turned into a bit of a hot topic briefly, but basically settled into the topic of being a “niche” (local) blogger versus a national/international one—and with so much going on in Portland alone, it’s hard for local bloggers to essentially not be “niche” bloggers.
  • All three agreed that if there was any heir to the throne of Fred Eckhardt in Portland, it would be Angelo of Brewpublic.

Next up was the session on Blogging About (and Changing) Beer Laws, and this was on of my favorite sessions, particularly the presentation on Mississippi beer laws by Craig Hendry of Raise Your Pints. Michelle Minton from The Competitive Enterprise Institute presented first with an overview of the crazy beer laws in various states around the country—particularly in Virginia, oh my!—and then Craig talked about Mississippi and the work he’s doing to try and get the laws changed.

  • One thing bloggers can do: write about the beer laws, raise awareness of them.
  • Virginia law doesn’t allow games of any kind inside of bars and restaurants.
  • Check out the CARE Act HR 1161
  • Prohibition in Mississippi ran from 1907 until 1966—longer than any other state in the country.
  • Homebrewing is currently illegal in Mississippi (as well as Alabama).
  • Alcohol in beer is capped at 5% by weight (6.25% by volume) in Mississippi.
  • There is currently only 1 brewery (production) and 1 brewpub in all of Mississippi.
  • Craig helped organize Mississippi Craft Beer Week, as well as Raise Your Pints, whose current goals are to get the alcohol content of beer raised (I forget to what limit, it might have been 8% by weight) and to legalize homebrewing.

The final session of the day before the live blogging session (which I blogged about here) was by Karl Ockert, formerly of BridgePort Brewing and now with the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, talking about the Beer Steward Program and their goals of coming up with a common “beer vocabulary” and their goals of (re)organizing beers and their flavors into four categories: malt-centric, hop-centric, fermentation-centric, and added-flavor-centric. It was interesting but ultimately I didn’t take many notes or come away with any real takeaways as it’s not something that’s really on my radar (for now).

After the live blogging, which was fantastic and akin to “speed dating” with breweries presenting their beer—including a highlight of Jamie Floyd presenting Ninkasi in Darth Vader costume and talking about their winter seasonal four-pack which will include an Imperial Stout named “Imperiale“—we caught buses over to enjoy a dinner generously provided by BridgePort Brewery.

BridgePort really stepped up and provided brewery tours and the dinner was excellent, along with their beer and a short talk by brewmaster Jeff Edgerton. I was particularly pleased to find Old Knucklehead Barleywine available, as well as their Porter (which according to Bill Night they aren’t bottling anymore).

Following dinner we trucked over to the McMenamins Bagdad Theater for the excellent showing of “The Love of Beer” about women in the craft beer world. Of course this was particularly good for me because it largely features Bend Brewing brewmaster Tonya Cornett (as well as Deschutes brewery Veronica Vega) so it was extremely local and awesome to see Bend highlighted.

I should mention that on our trip over to the Bagdad from BridgePort, a few of us were fortunate to have caught the (relatively new) Brewvana tour bus, which has to be a fairly unique Portland beer culture phenomenon. It holds 14 passengers and the inside ceiling is painted in a mural and strung with rope-style Christmas lights. I think riding this around on a Portland beer tour would be great fun, and it’s something I’ll have to investigate someday.

Thus ends the second day of the conference; a lot of good stuff was going on and I think everyone in attendance came away fired up for getting even more involved in the beer industry through blogging, social media, or whatever venue we represented.

Day 3 consisted of eight blogger presentations and the final keynote by Jay Wilson, and I’ll be writing about that next.

4 Responses to Beer Bloggers Conference, day 2

  1. John Fremont says:

    Jon-

    Your comment on beer laws is timely. I was spoiled traveling though WA, MT and WY, and hit a wall in SD. It seems that in SD and MN, breweries can only fill growlers that they have sold. No outside containers.

    I am now in WI and the laws seem to be a lot more relaxed. I visited a cidery, sampled something from the tap and asked if I could fill my HydroFlask. The response I got was, “uhhh, we have never been asked that. Sure, why not.”

    I was corresponding with GrowlerFills and BeerMN about this very issue.

  2. Sanjay says:

    Awesome summary Jon! I missed the morning session of Day 2. Now I’m caught up. Thanks. It was great meeting you as well. Cheers!

  3. Great post about the conference, thanks for the notes! How many people attended the conference this year? I remember finding your blog a long time ago, but now have added it to my list of links on our site. Thanks for all the good beer info, next time I am up in Oregon we should try to plan to meet up for a brew.
    -Maria

  4. Jeff Alworth says:

    You’ve apparently successfully downgraded yourself. Now you’re only The Oldest Active American Beer Blog (TM). Which is, as my colorful father would say, better than a poke in the ass with a broken beer bottle.