Guest post: Spinning social media into road trips for beer
Few things go together as well as social media and beer. After all, beer might have been the original social medium. Pints and friends have gone together as long as there have been bars to enjoy them at. Social media has, for me, brought home the concept of a local watering hole. Through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, I have been able to meet and commune with my fellow beer geeks. Many evenings, I have sat at home discussing the merits of our favorite malted beverage in one hundred and forty characters or fewer while consuming something from the contents of my refrigerator.
After several months of this, and meeting a few local beer enthusiasts, my desire to move further afield increased. Sure, “Cheers at Home” was great. I mean, everybody knew my Twitter handle and we had some enjoyable discussions about beer, life and all the rest. But I really started to want to put faces and voices with usernames and avatars.
It’s amazing the communities that have formed on Twitter (many of which now have Facebook pages as well). The three I am most familiar with use the hashtags #FlaBrew, #BrewYork and #PhillyBeer .
In May 2010, the #FlaBrew group planned a tweetup at the Cajun Cafe on the Bayou Spring Craft Beer Festival in Pinellas Park, Florida. We all drove a bit of a distance, made a Road Trip for Beer if you will, meeting at a fairly central location. The beer festival was excellent, and the company even better. I felt like I already knew these people through social media. It was easy to connect face-to-face after so many months of reading each other’s tweets. After the beer festival, I was invited south to Delray Beach to help celebrate the birthday of one of those friends, @TheCervezaChica. I didn’t need to worry about a place to stay; the friends I’d made through social media were more than happy to put me up.
A few weekends later, I drove the four hours south, where I got to put more faces with Twitter handles. I’ve since made another trip there. The South Florida #FlaBrew contingent is an epic group to drink beer with. The super cool thing about having friends in a different beer-distribution group than I’m in is that I’m able to pick up beer in North Florida that they can’t get in South Florida and vice versa, and we’re able to trade and help each other out.
These trips were only the beginning of traveling for beer. The beauty of social media is that it connects a user with people all over the country and the world. I’ve made friends as far away as Philadelphia, Vermont, California, Washington state, and even Australia! Two particularly lovely ladies and I quickly bonded and became what I was calling “Twitter Soulmates.” Heather (@Heather_Horton), Sarah (@Sarah_Maria) and I clicked on a level that started with a love of beer and an affinity for all things artistic and continued into a more personal friendship. After several months of Twitter camaraderie and email correspondence, Heather and I agreed to meet in Sarah’s hometown of Philadelphia. Talk about an epic road trip. Rather than drive, I opted to fly, and Heather planned to drive to meet us both. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make it, but my ticket had been purchased. So, to Philly I went to meet Sarah and the rest of #PhillyBeer.
Philly is a magical city for craft beer lovers. It’s a city that loves its beer but isn’t quite as ostentatious about it as other beer cities I’ve been to. Sarah was the perfect tour guide. The #PhillyBeer crew is so much fun! We met at Victory for a fabulous tweetup where much hilarity was had and much laughter was shared. I also got to meet Stevie (@BasicallyRed) and Lee (@Hoptopia) from #BrewYork.
A year ago, I was one of those people who “pooh-poohed” Twitter and used Facebook sparingly. Little did I know what I was missing. Twitter brings people together, both in a metaphorical sense and a physical one. Were it not for social media, I would never have hopped a plane to Philadelphia, and I would never have met the incredible people there.
I recently got back from the Great American Beer Festival. Not only did I get to try some epically awesome beer, meet the brewery reps, and commune with my fellow beer-lovers, I also got to meet dozens more of my “internet friends.” At each event I went to, I either met or ran into familiar faces and names. A highlight of the trip was the Ladies of Craft Beer Beer4Boobs brunch. This would not have happened without social media. The women involved in planning and executing the brunch came together from all over the country and seamlessly put on a successful event that raised more than $2,000 for breast cancer research.
So, if you want to go somewhere, get online. Get on Twitter and find some of these awesome beer people. The more you reach out, the more people will reach out to you, and the more likely you will be to find yourself with a personal tour guide in a city you’ve never been to.
Take it from the “Official Ambassador” of #FlaBrew, making friends on Twitter is one of the best ways to enjoy your trips that much more. Whether you’re taking a road trip across the state, or flying across the country, having a friend at the other end of your journey makes it so much better.