Today is also beer blogger extraordinaire Alan McLeod’s 52nd birthday. Alan runs a good beer blog, called — curiously enough — A Good Beer Blog. I’m not sure what came first, the goodness or the blog. Anyway, though I’ve yet to meet Alan in person I feel as if he’s already a great, not just good, friend through our many conversations via e-mail and commenting on one another’s blogs. If you haven’t read his essay in the book Beer & Philosophy yet, rush right out and buy yourself a copy. He also published The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer, with Max Bahnson, available as a Kindle single on Amazon, and last year co-wrote both Upper Hudson Valley Beer and Ontario Beer: A Heady History of Brewing from the Great Lakes to Hudson Bay. Join me in wishing Alan the very merriest of birthdays. Cheers, mate.
Today, it’ also the 55th birthday of Knut Albert Solem from Oslo, Norway, who has one of the premiere beer blogs in Scandinavia, Knut Albert’s Beer Blog. Though I’ve never met him in person, we have corresponded a time or two through blog comments or e-mail and I certainly enjoy his perspective on beer. Join me in wishing Knut a very happy birthday.
This morning I got a press release from the P.R. Firm for a well-known men’s magazine that was so obviously link-bait, that I almost didn’t even want to read it. I won’t say who or what, mostly because I’m tired of playing into their hands, but most of you will no doubt be able to figure it out.
It’s something I’ve been guilty of time and time again. When I see something that annoys me, or strikes me as being wrong on some level, I often feel compelled to intercede. I’m seeking help.
A few years ago, I definitely would have penned an angry response, pointing out the flawed reasoning, or what have you. But I think I’m done, at least I hope so. I was bcc’d (thankfully) so I have no way of knowing just how many people the P.R. firm was trying to bait with their e-mail, but I suspect it was a lot of people. The e-mail itself used the most incendiary quotes from the piece, obviously designed to raise the hackles of the beer community and rally support against the piece, all in an effort to get thousands of people to visit the website and get their hit count going through the roof.
Essentially, this has become a strategy on the internet. Say something incendiary, and reap the rewards. Maybe some of the people actually believe what they’re writing, but I get the sense that even if that’s the case, they do it in such a way as to maximize the outrage, and thus insure a greater number of responses. Often, I think, the extreme position taken is done precisely to get a rise out of people. I think it’s become a variation of the old saw about there being no such thing as bad publicity, in this case more along the lines of as long as people are clicking on the link, it doesn’t matter what they say or whether it’s even true or not. All that matters is the hit count. Oscar Wilde was saying something similar in the 19th century. “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”
Sadly, there are all sorts of helpful websites explaining just how to accomplish this. See, for example, the SEO Guide to Creating Viral Linkbait, The Marketer’s Ultimate Guide to Link Bait, or SEO Advice: linkbait and linkbaiting. There’s even a helpful infographic and a link bait title generator. While most of them insist that not all link bait is bad, in our little part of the interwebs, that hasn’t been my experience.
I think I’ve just grown weary of hearing why the bubble is about to burst, or why you hate hops or beer with flavor, or that you drink your beer out of a plastic cup as god intended. Please, stop. Okay, I’m certain that won’t work. No plea for sanity every has. So instead I’d like to propose that we all agree to ignore them. That’s really the only way to make them stop. If we all ignore the link bait, and they don’t get the expected backlash they’re hoping for, then they’ll have no choice but to stop trying.
Having a different opinion or wanting to spark a meaningful discussion about it will remain an excellent reason to pen a thoughtful blog post or article. But taking an opinion that’s designed to provoke outrage with inflammatory language, fringe positions, or by insulting entire swaths of people has no place in the marketplace of ideas that the beer blogosphere should aspire to. Just say know.
For our 88th Session, our hosts are Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey, from Boak & Bailey, who I’m happy to say stepped up to fill in the void that was the June Session. For their topic, they’ve chosen Traditional Beer Mixes, and have suggested several options for participating in the June Session:
In his 1976 book Beer and Skittles early beer writer Richard Boston lists several:
- Lightplater – bitter and light ale.
- Mother-in-law — old and bitter.
- Granny — old and mild.
- Boilermaker — brown and mild.
- Blacksmith –stout and barley wine.
- Half-and-half – bitter and stout, or bitter and mild.
We’d like you to drink one or more from that list and write about it on Friday 6 June… and that’s it.
We’re deliberately aiming for something broad and accessible, but there is one rule — no ‘beer cocktails’! It’s been done, for starters. So, mix two beers, not four; and steer clear of syrups, spirits, flavourings and crushed ice.
If you need further inspiration…
- Try ordering them in a pub — do bar staff still know the ropes?
- Use your own sources to find a traditional mix not on Boston’s list, e.g. Ram’n’Spesh in Young’s London pubs.
- Make the same mix with several different beers — are there rules for the optimal Granny?
- Experiment — Blacksmith IPA with black IPA, anyone?
So start mixing things up. On Friday, June 6, D-Day will also be Mix-Day. Let them know when your post is up either by commenting on their announcement page, emailing them at email@example.com, or tweeting your post.
For our 87th Session, our host is Reuben Gray, from The Tale of the Ale. For his topic, he’s chosen a local theme, all about Local Brewery History. He’s asking you to “give your readers a history lesson about a local brewery,” and here’s the details:
In Session 87, I want you to give your readers a history lesson about a local brewery. That’s a physical brewery and not brewing company by the way. The brewery doesn’t need to still exist today, perhaps you had a local brewery that closed down before you were even born. Or you could pick one that has been producing beer on the same site for centuries.
The only thing I ask is that the brewery existed for at least 20 years so don’t pick the local craft brewery that opened two or three years ago. This will exclude most small craft breweries but not all. The reason? There’s not much history in a brewery that has only existed for a few years.
Also, when I say local, I mean within about 8 hours’ drive from where you live. That should cover most bases for the average blogger and in many, allow you to pick one further away if you don’t want to talk about a closer one. For instance, I live in west Dublin and the closest brewery to me is The Porterhouse, but they only opened in the late 90’s. The most obvious brewery of course is Guinness, but enough people get told the history of Guinness by a very clever marketing team so I can’t bring myself the re-hash the same old tales about the 9000 year old lease and all that. So I will be picking something else on the day.
Some of you may already know a lot about the history of a local brewery and others might have to do a little research. If you do pick a dead brewery, see if there are any connections today! Perhaps the brewery is dead but the brand was bought by another brewery and lives on today.
The most important goal is to have fun with your research.
So put on your historian’s hat and let’s tell some histories to make Maureen Ogle proud. On Friday, May 2, blow the cobwebs off of your local, possibly now defunct, brewery’s story and give us your best chronicle.
Also, as Reuben generously pointed out, we have a number of open slots for upcoming Sessions. If you’re a contributor, but haven’t yet been a host, please consider signing up for one. We need a host for June, along with August and beyond.
For our 79th Session, our host is Adrian Dingle, better known online simply as Ding through his Dings Beer Blog. Not surprisingly, he’s decided to shake things up with a provocative topic, the USA versus Old World Beer Culture.
Anyone with any inkling of my online, in-person and blogging presence in the American beer world since 2000, will know that the whole of my beer experience in that time has been colored by, sits against the backdrop of, and forms the awkward juxtaposition to, my English beer heritage and what has been happening the USA in the last few years. Everyone knows that I have been very vocal about this for a very long time, so when it came to thinking about what would be a great “Session” topic, outside of session beer, it seemed like that there could be only one topic; “What the hell has America done to beer?,” a.k.a., “USA versus Old World Beer Culture.”
This probably won’t be pretty, and you’re probably not gonna like it much, but hey, what’s new?
So on Friday, September 6, let the battle begin. What do you think America has done to beer? And in comparison, what about England? Are we at war? Are we having a beer war? Or is the “special relationship” intact? Grab your musket, a pewter tankard of some session beer (however you define it!) along with your laptop, and let slip the dogs of beer war.
If you write about beer in print or online or broadcast, please consider joining over 100 of your colleagues in the newly reformed North American Guild of Beer Writers. Even if I can’t persuade you to join, if you’ve written something you’re proud of between July of last year and June 30 of this year, you should enter it in our NAGBW Writing Contest, which is open to non-members as well as guild members. Our goal is to raise the level of beer writing by rewarding the best efforts of our colleagues. “NAGBW’s awards honor the best beer and brewing industry coverage in seven categories. Journalism, feature writing, freelance authors, blogs and broadcast or published in print or online are eligible.” Don’t delay, because the deadline is coming up fast; it’s August 26.
The seven categories are for Best Book, Magazine Writing, Newspaper (Paid Circulation) Writing, Brewspaper/Free Zine Writing, Beer Blog, Beer and Food Writing, and Broadcast/Podcast. The cost to compete is $30 per entry (but only $15 for members — see, you should join).
Submit your entry or entries online through our partner Submittable by next Monday, August 26. Again, that’s for work published or broadcast between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013. Online submissions are accepted at submittable.com, and print books may be mailed to: Lucy Saunders, Attn: NAGBW Awards, 4230 N. Oakland Ave. #178, Shorewood, WI 53211.
If you have any questions, contact www.nagbw.org via our website, drop me a line, or simply comment here. Award winners will be announced during GABF, date and time to be announced shortly. Perhaps I’ll see you there?
For our 78th Session, our host is James Davidson, who writes beer bar band, where he writes about his many passions, and also writes about beer for the Australian Brews News. His topic asks everyone to make their “elevator pitch” to be as “persuasive and passionate about beer can you be in the short[est] space possible?” Here’s a fuller explanation of how to make Your Elevator Pitch for Beer:
“Elevator pitch” is a term used by marketers, sales people, film/tv makers and the like. It’s the delivery of a short but powerful summary that will sell their idea or concept to the listener in one swift hit.
Here’s the scenario:
You walk into an elevator and hit the button for your destination level. Already in the elevator is someone holding a beer…and it’s a beer that annoys you because, in your view, it represents all that is bad with the current state of beer.
You can’t help but say something, so you confront your lift passenger with the reason why their beer choice is bad.
30 seconds is all you have to sell your pitch for better beer, before the lift reaches the destination floor. There’s no time, space or words to waste. You must capture and persuade the person’s attention as quickly as possible. When that person walks out of the elevator, you want them to be convinced that you have the right angle on how to make a better beer world.
Here’s the rules:
- In less than 250 words or 30 seconds of multimedia content, write/record/create your elevator pitch for beer in which you argue you case, hoping to covert the listener to your beer cause.
- Blog/publish it online on Friday 2nd August, 2013.
- When your contribution has been posted, leave a comment here with a link to your post. Alternatively, email, tweet or facebook me with a link to your post.
The topic is essentially open. It is whatever you feel passionately about when it comes to the misgivings of beer in today’s market and/or culture.
What is the argument/topic that you believe will best advance a better beer world? You may just want to argue for craft beer over mass-produced bland lagers. Maybe you actually want to end the need to define “craft beer”. Maybe it’s that the way gender is used or represented when it comes to beer, such as attempts to push “girly styles”. Maybe you believe brands like Carling, Samuel Adams or James Squire should be in everyone’s beer fridge. You may be an purist for the cause of CAMRA, or you may want to argue against CAMRA. Maybe you think the outrageous ingredients and hybrid styles of extreme brewing are hurting beer today, or maybe there needs to be more delicious high alcohol triple barrel aged palate wreckers…?
Maybe the person in the elevator with you isn’t even holding beer, but instead they have some sugary pre-mix lolly-like alcoholic drink, and you want to convince them that drinking beer is a much better option. Even worse…maybe that person is holding a “low-carb” beer!
Maybe you think everything about beer is actually just fine. So argue your case for that.
And that’s the other reason why I have set this challenge is to help refocus my own argument for beer. The more I have learned about brewing, the beer industry and business, and the history of beer, the harder I have found it to define a strong argument for my own (Australian-centric) beer position statement of: drink “craft” beer instead of soulless mass produced adjunct lagers.
This is an exercise in words. I hope that this can be the easiest and hardest contribution that you have ever made to the beer conversation.
The easiest, because it’s a mere 250 words or 30 seconds. The hardest, because it requires every word to be important, meaningful, useful and powerful. There’s no room for footnotes, caveats or rebuttal.
So on Thursday, August 1, make your pitch. As I suffer from an acute case of verbosity, the hardest part will be keeping it to the length of an elevator ride. Going down?
For the last few years, I’ve been pestering some of my colleagues that we needed to revive the long dormant Beer Writers Guild that folded a decade or so ago. Happily, people less lazy than me then took up the cause and led the charge, especially Lucy Saunders, who did much of the heavy lifting. Little by little, we’ve gotten the band back together, and have been quietly rebuilding a trade group for those of us trying to make a living writing about beer. Just by word of mouth, we’ve rounded up forty members and are hoping to increase that. Dues for the new North American Guild of Beer Writers are $45 a year for a full membership, $25 for an associate membership and we also have $100 industry memberships for “those employed by breweries, allied industries or agencies, interested in supporting the Guild and outreach to beer writers.” Full details on membership can be found on the “Join Us” page. Here’s the basic information:
We are beer writers.
Sometimes we act as evangelists, advocates and celebrators. Other times we are antagonists, agitators and truth-seekers. We are authors, writers, publicists, bloggers and columnists. We tirelessly cover the brewing industry — and those who appreciate beer — across North America.
Many of us are self-employed or do this as a side “gig” in addition to our “real jobs.” Some of us are employed by breweries, beer distributors, beer stores and restaurants. Still others are publishers and event organizers, while some work for newspapers, websites, magazines and other media outlets.
We are an all-volunteer group dedicated to elevating the level of our craft as we cover the art of brewing.
We are beer writers. We strive to promote better beer.
Won’t you please join us in bringing better beer writing to North America?
We are inspired by learning from shared experiences, and believe that an annual writers’ competition will foster awareness and appreciation of beer and brewing in North America.
If you’re trying to make a living writing about beer, or even doing it as a side gig, please consider joining us at the NAGBW. Things are just getting started, but plans are afoot to have regional get-togethers, meetings at prominent national events, like GABF and the Craft Brewers Conference, and a competition for excellence in beer writing.
Join us to share in beer education, travel, guided tastings, conferences and more. We organize an annual writers contest to encourage public appreciation of beer and brewing. In addition, we organize events to increase members’ knowledge of beer and brewing, and to sharpen their writing, reporting, design and broadcast skills. The group also supports professional standards among its members and other members of the media.
We’re looking for people who take the craft of writing seriously, and who specialize in beer, and want to learn how to be a better writer, how to get more work and also have some fun with colleagues. I’m pretty sure our get-togethers will have better beer than the average trade guild.