#EBBC13 – I’m no Beer Blogger

Beer Bloggers Conference - Edinburgh 2013 - ParticipantI am not a Beer Blogger, sure I have a blog – that much is clearly obvious. I do blog, therefore I am a blogger. However I believe there is a creature I’ll refer to as a capital-B-Blogger. I met many bloggers over the 12th and 13th of July – some whom, in my head, I’ve not honoured with a capital B, a handful of others I think may deserve a full on shout to the heavens of THOU ART BLOGGER! The lines are, as always, fuzzy – but here I loosely outline what I am on about.

I blog – I have blogged on and off since about 1999. Beer didn’t become a major theme of my haphazard writings until about 2009 and the advent of the BrewDog phenomenon and my acquisition of some of their shares. Prior to this cooking and coffee were as close as I had to a “theme” as well as being a general journal and travelogue. Your run-of-the-mill personal blog really. Beer started taking over and I created ale.gd in 2011 to re-home my torrent of alcoholic musings. It has, as ever, been an on-and-off affair – with twists and turns as inspirations come and go. I don’t pay attention to my hits or stats, and SEO is just a dirty TLA to me. I write for a very small audience of family and friends – since we’re all so far-distributed. (My family in West Australia, Kat’s in Sydney, and a small collection of friends the globe-over from the Aussie tech diaspora.)

Beautiful venue at the Ghillie Dhu!Thanks to EBBC I have developed a picture of what a real Beer Blogger is. Firstly they’re bloggers who’d actually go to a European Beer Bloggers Conference - a conference for bloggers? Just odd. (I was not intending to fit it into my schedule, though I’ve been vaguely interested since hearing great beery things about the 1st one – then craziness happened.) Other features bubbled out fairly quickly. Bloggers care about their “reach” and pay close attention to their stats and work on their SEO. They leverage social media to drive traffic to their sites. They’re basically following two hobbies – beer writing and online marketing. Please note that I say this with no derogatory note at all! These folk are important beer champions – their marketing efforts are for a great cause: spreading the beery word.

BrewDog Sarah does Social MediaOddly enough there wasn’t actually a load of content geared to this side of the Blogger personality. One facts and figures round-up from the organisers, with some coverage of leveraging social media platforms. A talk from BrewDog Sarah focused on the use of social media to build audience – it can certainly be said that BrewDog have had a lot of success at getting attention through these mediums. Susanna Forbes’s gave an interesting talk about style and audience – useful to get tips from a real writing and editorial professional. I found them all this content thought provoking – but was glad it was a pretty light touch on these technicalities. To me it was just the right amount.

Beer & Cheese/Charcuterie matching.

The rest of the conference content was really just good solid beer fun. Much of both days involved sampling beer – but at the same time the sessions were informative. On Friday Garrett Oliver’s keynote was engaging, the Pilsner Urquell dinner was theatrical (though I’m not really sure about the cask Pilsner Urquell), and the Stewart Brewery trip a perfect “piss up in a brewery”. On Saturday Sophie Atherton’s introduction to being a beer sommelier was perfect for my own area of interest – as it’d be something I’d consider trying to become (just for fun?) The round-the-world global-blogging panel was an interesting window into the Polish, US, and Irish beer scenes. The manic speed-dating/blogging/drinking thing was a bit much for me I must admit – I don’t do speed. Saturday’s dinner was particularly good… note to self: and if I have time I will try to dredge my memory and write up a few notes about the foodie elements of the weekend. (It is my modus (h)operandi after all.)

So – what about the BLOGGERS? They have business cards! They’re semi-professional writers really and some even derive some income from their writing. These folk are one small step away from being journalists – or beer marketing professionals of some sort. Some have a huge passion for beer, and others seem to have more of a passion for self-promotion at times (important if they hope to make some income from their passion for beer). I’m not sure that this great fun vibrant beer conference served these power-bloggers as well as it might have. Though I doubt they’d complain given the constant stream of beer and food.

Saturday DinnerOutside of the truly great schedule – stupendous value for the £95 ticket price – the highlight for me was putting faces (and whole bodies) to many faceless Twitter-handles I interact with regularly. Twitter is a big part of the coming-together of the UK beer scene, I may not be a Blogger but I vomit forth tweets incessantly. Not promoting, rarely trying to “drive traffic”, mainly just because it is a fun community – but also, as a beer fest organiser, a finger on the pulse of what’s up in the beer world so I can get some great beers.

It was an excellent weekend – intense – and I could go on forever about it. The beers! (Toccalmatto! Wow!) People! Beer Stars! EDINBURGH! I fell in love with the city when I first visited a few years ago and with the weekend’s weather and beers it is now etched into my mind as paradise. Edinburgh’s craft beer and pub scene! I put it to you that it is a better craft beer capital than London – by a clear margin. I’m sure I can fit in a few more exclamation marks here… How about: The Hanging Bat! Chris Mair is one of my personal UK beer heroes – not in a creepy, stalky way I swear.

#EBBC14? I’ll give it serious consideration – and whether you are a mere blogger like me, or a serious Beer Blogger, I’d highly recommend you give it a chance as well. Especially for the amazing range of beer available and the brilliant people you will meet. I really hope the return on investment for the sponsors is good enough to keep this ball rolling. (Some of them had a tougher time than others… *ahem* clear glass *ahem*.)

Don’t take my vague word for it though. This was a conference full of bloggers of all varieties and it has been blogged to death. Check out the #EBBC13 hashtag on Twitter for a lot more.

Meanwhile – maybe if I pull the old finger out and write more, start playing with social media as promotional “platforms”, ogling my stats, and whatnot… perhaps I can graduate to being a Beer Blogger. I suspect I’ll have trouble taking it all seriously enough though. :)

Stewart Brewing


Let There Be Beer?

Frank Press Release

I have a disclaimer to post: a shadowy organisation gave me £500 to be at the European Beer Bloggers Conference. I am their shill! But, who are they? What are they up to? Do I now preach to the church of craft Bud Light?

They are “@LetThereBeBeer” to the public – so far just a Twitter account (that says “Must be 18+ to follow. Please only share with those of legal drinking age“), and a Facebook page I can’t see because I have no Facebook account. (US marketing/alcohol laws supposedly.) Under the hood they’re Frank. A PR firm – hired by the biggest brands in the beer world, they’re mercenary marketeers cashed up by the multi-nationals to sell an IDEA. And that idea is beer. How the idea will be formed exactly, how it will come across, it still to be found out. Who they are is summed up in the press release sitting in front of me:

“Who is behind Let There Be Beer? The whole of the global brewing industry, but to get a bit more specific Let There Be Beer has been borne from some of the world’s biggest brewers, UK brewers and pub businesses, retailer and organisations such as the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

- Britain Invited To “Let There Be Beer” – Press Release
(Full PR only seems to be online at heineken.co.uk.)

The claimed mission is “instilling a passion for beer in the nation’s hearts” to remind them “why beer is the nations best-loved drink” because for many “beer simply means pints of warm, flat lager“. The BBPA is involved (mixed feelings about them), apparently CAMRA “support” them (haven’t yet seen what that entails) as do SIBA. They’re bankrolled by (at least) AB InBev, Heineken, Molson Coors, Miller Coors – all of whom have CEOs “available for comment.” The press release is effusive in the support of beer, exclaims its importance, and throws some stats at us – I’m not qualified to dissect it, I suggest you read the press release for yourself (the paper copy I have has a little more detail, and less errors - but I’m not about to transcribe it - turns out AbInBev have a much better version of the PR online). I’ll keep an eye out for opinions from some of the UK’s proper beer folk, which I don’t really expect to see much of until the curtains are opened on the campaign for real. Dave of Hardknott brewery is the only proper beer type to have said anything about it as far as I have seen.[1] He is uncertain about the thing since the message isn’t yet clear – and leaning to cynical (unsurprisingly), his post is cheekily tagged “Silly PR campaigns”. As per a comment from Tandleman a lot of this seems to be very last minute, much like the crazy day-before-the-event EBBC scholarship competition I managed to win.

Why are they even involved in a conference for beer bloggers? I’m no marketer – but my guess is they need to find ideas, they need to mine the people who love beer for the edges they can explore to build the beer market. It is early days yet. The young woman from Frank who I met at EBBC seemed very earnest about the project and was pleasant to speak to and seemed receptive about thoughts on beer and its place alongside food. (Terribly, her name slips my mind, as usual.) Still at the beer discovery phase herself, learning: yes, this beer stuff isn’t actually too bad, is it? (So I gathered.) Beer can be outstanding – so long as you know what to look for – and what to do with it when you’ve found it. I suppose that’ll be the hurdle they need to leap: how to get these ideas across to the public? “There is more to beer, and it deserves a place in your life.”

What should we all think of this? Us “beer bloggers“… are we a rich seam, a natural resource ripe for exploiting? A mine of information? In a way, I hope so. If, with big marketing money, they can have some success at opening up new views on beer that would hopefully work for us all. Grow the beer market out into new areas, most will probably go dull-macro, but they’re new beer drinkers – there’s now more of a hope they can “upgrade” to better, more local, and more my kind of beer. Could this not be a good thing for ALL beer lovers, and the industry as a whole from the big boys down to the start-ups?

I really don’t know enough to make that call. I’m not a natural optimist, I’m a cynical bastard at the best of times. I don’t trust corporates – anyone with “shareholders” is automatically suspect. This campaign, however it pans out, will be all about building the market for the multinationals – who’re seeing a decline in beer sales while the “craft” side of the industry is growing. We can just hope it works in our favour as well – that good beer is a focus and becomes a bigger slice of the pie that we all can enjoy. Drinkers like myself as well as the many good breweries, brewers, and other beer trade people out there. Just don’t be fooled into thinking the CEOs and investors of the given companies actually give a stuff, at the end of the day this is all about just one thing: dollars in their pockets.

No Colin, Garret Oliver is not for eating!As for the conference itself, my thoughts on that belong in a separate post which I shall try to find the time to create. I wasn’t originally going to the conference as I don’t consider myself a “beer blogger”, I’m just a chap who happens to blog about beer. That makes sense in my head at least. I’ll try to get around to explaining what I mean. I did have a great time, and it was a good event, and UTTERLY amazing value for £95 – I hope it is a worthwhile exercise for the good breweries & folk who put their time and money into it. I have Let There Be Beer to thank for being able to go… and I do & did thank them. But I won’t fawn, promote, or even be optimistic – I’ve never been comfortable about this sort of campaign in any industry. The tech scene is full of it, and this is why you’ll find most of us tech folk will be cynical and won’t trust you. (I used to be in InfoSec, can you tell?)

In the meantime, certainly “let there be beer” – really good beer, and plenty of it. Cheers!


[1] Dave’s post somehow passed me by – I’ve been busy – I found it just now as one of just two hits for the quoted intro from the press release’s final “about” section: “Who is behind Let There Be Beer”. I see there is a video. I haven’t seen it, I don’t have the right plugin installed.


European Beer Bloggers Conference

Wow, OK, I’m going to be at this tomorrow — barring train shenanigans. I’m sitting on the 20:45 Cambridge to King’s Cross, to rendezvous with the 23:50 Caledonian Sleeper to Edinburgh. (Should give time to pop into Euston Tap, sneaky sneaky.) Hotel is booked. EBBC registration is in. This all happened within the last 4 hours.

I didn’t go to the EBBC in London last year. I do this blogging thing for a bit of a lark, what need do I have for some sort of conference about it? Then the tweets rolled in about the cool & crazy stuff going on there. And I envied. But oh well…

The chance for EBBC13 came along, but I looked at my rather full beer schedule and thought to myself: “Edinburgh, I love the place and want to go again, for for 2013 it is just one beery thing too far.” These things cost time & money. So with a sigh I passed it by.

Then yesterday this came along. Ohhh… £500 quid stipend to go to EBBC. So last minute. Just my style. Oh, what the heck… I commented.

This morning I had it on my mind. Packed some extra clothes & contacts, etc, in my work bag. Feeling foolish.

Queue about 3:30pm. An email arrives. Would I like to go to EBBC.

Wow… OK. Speechless, grinning like a nutter. (My colleagues are used to this sort of thing.) Booked tickets, hotel, got sorted for last minute day of leave (I’m pretty lucky here.)

On Skype Kat types to me: Where’s Colin? Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit! Queue a fast 9 mile pedal home, just for Colin. Taxi back to town, beer with friends, on a train.


Wow. I’m on the way to Edinburgh. Just wow. *grins* Mental.

This is all thanks to @LetThereBeBeer, I’m not really sure who or what they are. Haven’t had time to investigate, although I have heard some murmurings. Corporate body I hear, which would gel with their login-only Facebook page (so I can’t see it). And crazy “verify your age to follow us” twitter account. (So I’m not, stuff that!) But big business isn’t necessarily bad. So we shall see! I am highly thankful no matter what! (Until I get strapped into some corporate brainwash machine Total Recall style.)

See you there? :-D We have trainbeer to drink!

[First time I have ever blogged from a train, first time I have ever blogged with the Android app. It is a faff! Excuse typos.]