Monday, September 28, 2015

Beyond the Beercation: 3 Reasons Why BBC Is More Than Just A Good Time

The following is a guest post from Bub Gourmand's Matthew Wright. As a two-year attendee and Marketing professional, Matthew sees the value of the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference extending well beyond the beercation that some may see at first glance. Except where otherwise noted, all images courtesy Jessica Miller at


I’ve attended the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference for the last two years and have heard from several marketers in panel discussions. Most of the them offered valuable advice on how to expand an audience, but none in my opinion have addressed why those audiences are so important, or what marketers have to gain from our influence. Here are three reasons why BBC is more than just a good time.

Every blogger has his or her niche audience. One of the best things about BBC is that for a few days we all come together and form a special audience of our own. We’re meeting each other in person, talking to beer brands, all happily corralled into the same event and its deliciously trending hashtag.

For some bloggers the event isn’t any more complicated than that: a place to drink great beer and do a little networking. Everyone in the room is listed online as an official attendee, we’re getting mentioned by other bloggers and talking to the breweries we love. Exposure is great!

There’s more to it than that, though. Marketers know how much more, and that’s why they’re attending BBC. They know the people in the room are just a fraction of the big picture. The bloggers see the crowd in front of them. Marketers are excited about all the people following along at home.

I’m a beer blogger, but I’m also a marketer. I don’t like to tell people that without some context, because marketers often have the same reputation as personal injury lawyers. Most of us, fortunately, aren’t that ethically shaky. I can tell you as a marketer that BBC is a dream, a captive audience made up of some of the beer world’s most influential writers. Millions of people love beer, but only a sliver of those write about it to a waiting audience.

To a marketer, conversion is key. The audience for traditional advertising is often largely passive. If a brewery spends a few thousand dollars on an ad in a magazine with 10,000 readers, they may only convert 100 of those exposures to actual sales. More people trust the independent opinion of a beer blogger over the pushed agenda of a traditional ad. Which one is more important to you when you’re deciding what beer to buy?

The audience for a blog is engaged. It doesn’t have to be as large as a magazine’s to have a significant impact. Maybe you only have a few hundred regular readers, but they comment, retweet, share, reply, and favorite. As a blogger, when you rave about a beer, many of your readers go out and try it themselves, and perhaps more importantly, recommend it to their friends. In that way a beer blog with an audience of a few hundred can convert substantially more readers to sales than a magazine can.

Think about that in terms of a room full of bloggers writing reviews and raves and social media mentions at BBC. To beer brands, that’s priceless. I’m not complaining. As a blogger I don’t feel used and I’m proud to be a part of a grassroots movement. I think the vast majority of participating brewers are generous with their time and not just there to push their beers on us. Even the brewmaster from AB InBev was a class act.

It’s good for bloggers to realize, though, that every brewery participating at BBC is getting as much out of the event as we are. Maybe even more. The marketers working for breweries are constantly amassing statistics and data about influence. You might know how many people visited your site today, but a marketer with access to the right platform knows where each visitor came from, where they went, what they like and dislike, what they buy on Amazon--everything up to and probably including what they had for breakfast.

Sierra Nevada recognized the potential value of a blog to brands. The welcome that BBC attendees received at the new brewery outside Asheville was mind-blowing. The owners and brewmasters were waiting at the door to personally greet each one of us: they shook our hands and treated us like royalty. It was classy, it made a huge impression, and it was exactly how brands should treat beer bloggers. As the market for craft beer continues to grow, bloggers will continue to be an important factor in education and awareness, playing a key role in determining which breweries will survive in the years to come.

Most bloggers write about beer because they love it, but that doesn’t make it a public service. If in a hundred years a lousy brewery is forgotten, but that hidden local gem you’ve been writing about today is a household name, well, you’ve made the world a better place. Once your audience is established and growing, you’re more than just a fan. You’re an advocate. People are listening and making buying decisions based on what you have to say.
I’m not saying you should get paid for your opinions. An opinion that’s bought and paid for is about as credible as a beer advertisement featuring women in bikinis. That’s certainly one way to monetize your blog, though, if you decide to go that route. The bottom line is that you should be getting something out of it. The long term goals are different for everyone, but you should at least have some. One of the last panels at BBC addressed this topic head on. 

Maybe you get a book published, or land a job at a brewery, or you get to rid the world of a few horrible-looking websites. The point is that it’s more than okay to want something for yourself. Your audience and voice are valuable. If you’re writing about beer and people are reading, you’re a vital part of the craft beer movement.


Matthew Wright is half of the dining duo Bub Gourmand. He and his partner Molly live in Western Massachusetts where they write about the local food and craft beer scene. When he's not blogging, Matthew writes fiction and runs a small web and marketing cooperative. When relaxing, he and Molly can usually be found working on their own kitchen projects or doing something outdoorsy with their energetic foxhound rescue.

You can read more about Matthew and his co-writer Molly over on their blog, Bub Gourmand.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Keep Calm & Drink A Beer?

There are some scenarios that necessitate rage.

In a world where machines--corporate or otherwise--dictate what's considered common value, sometimes rage is an appropriate response.

Speaking of appropriateness...

"Keep Calm, and Carry On" was a phrase originally used to counter the collective anxiety and mass hysteria that might otherwise have made the English (who were being threatened with bombs by Nazis) freak-the-fuck-out.

From Wikipedia:
"The poster was intended to raise the morale of the British public, threatened with widely predicted mass air attacks on major cities.[1]"

It's since been re-visioned in a variety of contexts to communicate the same essential message--attend not to your anxieties, but to the past-times, distractions, busyness of life that ease the sober tensions and discomforts you'd otherwise find difficult to ignore.

Speaking of discomfort...

What is the appropriate response when a monolithic conglomerate asks you to literally "drink the kool-aid"?

Should we should remain uncomfortable?

"[...] the issue with AB-InBev is what it has done in the past to squeeze its competitors – purchasing materials suppliers, for example, to choke off a competitor’s supply – and what it will continue to do in the future – staggeringly discounted keg prices of its purchased craft brands to regain and retain tap handle space, thus squeezing out independents."

Should we ignore past transgressions, or deny inevitable future conflicts of interest?

"Federal authorities allege that Anheuser-Busch InBev's $20.1 billion takeover of Grupo Modelo, announced in June, would 'substantially lessen competition in the market for beer in the United States as a whole' and result in consumers "paying more for beer and having fewer new products from which to choose," according to the Justice Department."

Should we attend to our stomach pains?

Should we silence or repress outrage? Or should we instead acknowledge our collective discontent as a necessary, and productive expression that moves us toward requisite change?

Speaking of change...

One might conclude (without knowing the boundaries beyond our blue planet) that we live at the center of the universe. At one time, this was commonly accepted as truth.

We now know the belly button is not actually the source of gravitational pull, and that the universe is instead expansive and unknown. That it expands in an elastic and predictable way (equal & opposite) and will eventually rebound toward the center...

And in the universe of beer, the rebound appears to be moving in a new direction.


What happens when we throw ourselves *toward* fear is a funny thing. Pain is inevitable, but we also urgently and creatively adapt to our circumstances.

When you get on a bike for the first time, gravity is both the antagonist and the agent of continued motion. The thing which pulls you toward the pavement *and* the thing that pulls you forward in graceful motion. Some of us (most of us) learn to ride that momentum toward unfamiliar destinations. To steer that moving, dynamic body of energy down roads of our choosing.

I encourage you to run toward the fear. To refrain from distractions. To see the antagonist not just as the impediment to change, but an opportunity for creative adaptation. To seize the opportunity to get up in that saddle and fly. Just fly.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A {Brewtiful} Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference--Asheville, North Carolina

More snapshots on Instagram @heybrewtiful

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference in Asheville, North Carolina along with over 150 registered beer writers, sponsors, and enthusiasts.

Four days and many tweets later, the online chatter is still ongoing with wrap-ups from writers around the country. It's worth a look if you've ever wondered what it looks like when a bunch of people with a mission for beer and beer writing descend on a city smartphones in hand (#beerslaughter).

Some highlights of the trip for me were several delicious visits to Burial and Wicked Weed, a tour and dinner celebration at Sierra Nevada lead by none other than Ken and Brian Grossman (talk about legacy), and getting to hear from keynote speaker Kim Jordan, CEO and Co-founder of New Belgium.

I also volunteered to speak on a panel (more of that to follow).

As anyone who lives in the digital age likely knows by now, the potential soul-crushing power of the internet is theoretically quantifiable by multiplying your current level of fear and anxiety (times) the number of internet connections in the hands of your audience. So by the time day two of the conference rolled around, the back-channel twittershit-talking, humorous as it may have been, had me more nervous than--the nervous person I usually pretend not to be (I'm so good with words: #howdidigetthisjob).

If I sucked, I'd certainly find out afterward while it was happening. (It's also probably going to take a while before I can stop myself from reflexively hashtagging #allthethings.)

Anyway, I took the honesty is the best policy approach and admitted I'd be using the podium as a security blanket before slipping into a dissociative state and watching myself crack jokes and admitting to weakness before this army of social-media-savvy gunslingers. And I survived!

Fortunately, we'd all started drinking well before noon (it's a beer conference in a very literal sense, people) so I also had a little liquid courage in my arsenal by the time 2pm rolled around.

Moderating the panel was Alan McCormick of Growler Fills, who lead Bryan D. Roth, Oliver Gray, and myself in a presentation entitled "Beyond the Beer Review." Last year I placed third overall in the NAGBW competition for beer blogging, and ended up being invited to speak with this very prolific, and established, group of writers. Big thanks to Alan for helping it all come together so well, and for compiling our slides into a cohesive whole.

Until I can get a more detailed rendition of my notes pulled together (and some audio to go with #staytuned) here's some slides that may or may not make sense without accompanying text/explanation. Whee!

(Session description below)

I have a series of follow-up posts scheduled for you in the coming week(s) but until then, I'm going to dive right back into real life and start running like mad to catch up to all the other beer obligations I have in my life--like working for these lovely people.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hey, Brewtiful {Sweetwater 18 Belgian-Style Tripel}

"What would you expect from a couple of boys with more of a hankering for beer than for books?"*

Not this brewtiful baby.

Uncharacteristically understated, elegant, and complex when compared to their usual lineup, Sweetwater 18, a belgian-style tripel, celebrates Sweetwater's 18th anniversary.

Like a luscious and boozy present, the beer draws you in with its heady aroma on a first pass even before it reaches your lips; there's no hiding the 10% alcohol in this beer. Fermented using Ardennes yeast (the same used in Spinnerbait, a belgian-style red ale) the beer is balanced with subtle spiciness and mildly fruity esters that calls to be paired with something equally drool-worthy, like bacon-wrapped dates or a cheese plate dripping with walnuts and honey.

Golden and promising as its gilded label, this is definitely a beer worth singing about.

Sweetwater's founders are fond of the saying, "We're not here for a long time; we're here for a good time," but eighteen profitable years is a legacy worthy of consideration. And with a sour in the works not far behind this celebratory release, Sweetwater's "good times" seem to have their sights set on a long future, one that caters to both saveur and those looking to just slam some beers.

If you haven't yet had your first taste, start searching for this pot of gold before it's gone (available in 750ml bottles and draft for a limited run).



A sample of Sweetwater 18 was provided as a courtesy to media for review. Heybrewtiful is not affiliated with Sweetwater Brewing Company and received no compensation or other undisclosed exchange for this promotion or review (a.k.a. nobody pays me to write this stuff). 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Six Better Names Than “Bomber” for a Big Bottle of Beer

With craft beer having emerged from its infancy in the United States, it’s time we reconsidered what we call those big 22-oz bottles of beer.

“Bombers.” Really? That’s the best we can do?

What’s Wrong with “Bomber”?

“Bomber” has all the wrong connotations for modern craft beer culture. First, it’s too close to an old phrase for indiscriminate drunkenness--“getting bombed”--that doesn't really fit with the quality-conscious and taste-focused message most craft brewers want to promote.

Second, when most people use the word “bomber” in general conversation, they aren't usually referencing something that builds community and spreads goodwill and cheer. It's true that when a buddy comes over with a couple of bombers, I'm not imagining military aircraft, suicidal fanatics, and Molotov cocktails. But do we really need such a thickheaded name for such a great thing?

Just for fun, let’s run through some alternatives. And before the “Leave Bombers Alone!” campaign revs up, let me point out that we already have some evocative names for other beer containers: barrel, keg, tun, firkin, and so on.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

{Blast from the Past} Suwanee Beer Fest

By the time March rolls around I'm ready to ditch my indoor drinking habits for some festival style sipping. And for me (and the rest of north-metro area) the Suwanee Beer Fest seems to be just what the drinking doctor ordered.

Get yourself some discounted festival fare for the occasion thanks to The Peach State Ale Trail who are offering up $20 for first time Uber riders! Just use code GAALETRAIL to take advantage of this offer.

In attendance two years and counting, here's five reasons you should kick off your house slippers and get sipping with it in Suwanee this March 14th:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Caren West: A Lady Who Loves Beer

Photo credit Teodora Nicolae
Naming her dad as her ideal drinking buddy, she says that although she prefers more hop-forward beers when given a beer list, she'll try just about anything (including drinking a PBR when the time calls for it). Hells yeah.

Celebrating nearly a decade of business in Atlanta handling public relations for some very beer-centric clients (including Wild Heaven, Frozen Pints, and Cypress Street Pint & Plate to name a few) this social butterfly really knows how to throw a party and is a powerhouse of positive energy and enthusiasm wherever she goes.

Meet Caren West: a lady who loves beer.

How did you end up in Atlanta, and do you think you'll stay for always?
"To make a very long story short: I graduated from Auburn University, so ended up spending a lot of time in Atlanta throughout my college career, but never thought I would make it my home. After I graduated, I spent one last glorious summer at the beach working at the Weekapaug Inn in Rhode Island, moved to South Carolina for hot minute, and then the next thing I knew I found myself in Atlanta looking for jobs.

I love our city. I am so proud to live in Atlanta and own a business here. I don't see myself leaving any time soon (or really ever) other than buying property in other cities and the beach, but I will always have a home in Atlanta. I made a very conscious decision to open a business in Atlanta and will continue to do my best to support the community and all the incredible businesses and people who make our city so great."


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