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Beer Bloggers Conference: Here’s the word

Submitted by on December 7, 2010 – 12:58 pm4 Comments

Logo courtesy of Zephyr AdventuresIt’s been a month since the inaugural Beer Bloggers Conference wrapped up in Boulder, Colorado, and I’ve since been trying to pull together the threads of what I brought back from it.

If you’re unaware of what transpired, here’s a quick synopsis:

More than 100 citizen beer bloggers and representatives from breweries, the beer industry and the tech world gathered together for three days in Boulder to attend presentations, taste beer, tour local breweries and share ideas. Sessions were about equally split between the technical and editorial aspects of blogging and educational presentations about beer and the beer industry. Bloggers came from all areas of the United States, and in one case, England.

Many bloggers attending have posted their thoughts and experiences on the conference. Just Google “Beer Bloggers Conference” and you’ll find them, or read the wrap-ups on the conference site.

THE WORD OF THE WEEKEND

In reviewing my notes, I noticed one idea, one concept, one word that kept being mentioned and seemed to bind all of it together: Community.

Beer Bloggers Conference photo by Gerard WalenI looked up the definition of “Community,” and found these:

  • A group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.
  • A group linked by a common policy.
  • A body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests.
  • A body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society.

All of these definitions apply in some way or form to the craft beer community. Many of us at the conference knew each other only through the online community, and it’s hard to describe the feeling of unification we felt meeting in person and putting faces to names (or Twitter handles, as the case may be). As the weekend unfolded, if I could wax esoteric for a bit, I could feel a growing and palpable sense of unified power as new relationships were made, existing relationships cemented, and brainstorming sessions large and small spawned ideas, plans and ways to channel this power.

HOW’S THAT WORKING?

Here are some recent personal examples to illustrate how this community works:

  • Beer Bloggers Conference photo by Gerard WalenWhile touring the Oskar Blues brewery during the conference, our guide noted that its new kegging line consisted of equipment procured from the much larger Boston Beer Co., brewer of Samuel Adams beers. I’ve seen this phenomenon over and over at brewers of all sizes – they are always ready to extend a hand to a competitor, whether it’s lending some barley malt until a shipment comes in, offering equipment or spare parts to repair machinery, or physically working on the bottling line because of an emergency in a brewer’s family.
  • During Thanksgiving week this year, I took a family road trip from my Florida home to the Midwest. Of course, as on any road trip I kept my eye out for a chance to make a quick stop at a brewery or a craft beer store to look for new taste experiences. I put out a few calls for advice on the Road Trips for Beer Twitter account,  and some of the account’s followers responded with suggestions for stores, pubs or breweries that I should check out. Along with the advice, they unfailingly offered to buy me a pint if I had time to stop (Unfortunately, I didn’t this time). One even offered to deliver some local brews to me. I should note that I had only met one of these folks in person, but it proved to me the community’s willingness to embrace the beer-seeking voyager without hesitation.
  • Finally, proving the sense of power I felt at the Beer Bloggers Conference was not a fluke, is the saga of Cigar City Brewing. This young but renowned craft brewery in Tampa, Florida, faced closure of its tasting room from the City Council. After an initial vote deadlocked (one of the council members did not vote because he was out of town), Cigar City owner Joey Redner reached out to the craft beer community for support. The community responded – big time – with blog posts, retweets, petitions, and hundreds of letter, emails and phone calls from across the country and around the world. I attended the Tampa City Council meeting, and the previously absent council member mentioned the flood of support in remarks before the vote. Did it tip his decision to vote in favor of the brewery? Perhaps not, but I could tell it certainly made his decision easier.

I could come up with plenty of other examples, but I think those three exemplify how this community works.  I would love for you to share your stories about your interactions within the community.

If you did not make it to Boulder this year, Allan Wright, owner and president of conference organizer Zephyr Adventures, announced that the 2011 Beer Bloggers Conference will be in Portland, Oregon, probably in mid- to late-summer. And the first European Beer Bloggers Conference will be London, likely in May or early June. (UPDATE: Beer Blogger Conference sets dates for 2011 in London and Oregon.)

Organizers estimated that there are more than 600 citizen beer blogs (those not affiliated with a brewery or other industry member) in North America. If you at all feel like it’s something from which you can benefit, I urge you to attend the 2011 conference. Perhaps Portland is where we will determine how to effectively channel the power of the community.

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4 Comments »

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dan "On Tap", Jake Koeneman and Gerard Walen, Beer Lover. Beer Lover said: Beer Bloggers Conference: Here’s the word: It’s been a month since the inaugural Be… http://bit.ly/eKTTLC <via @roadtrips4beer […]

  • Allan Wright says:

    Gerard, this is a fantastic post. I think you summed up the community perfectly. From my end as the organizer, I also feel this camaraderie before and after the event as I work with speakers and those involved in helping arrange the details. It is a great community to be part of!

  • […] conference, it is worth reading this summary of the recent Beer Bloggers Conference on the blog Road Trips for Beer. He provides a good overview of the sense of community these conferences help […]

  • Gerard Walen says:

    Thanks, Allan,

    I should have mentioned in the post about what an outstanding job you and your colleagues did in organizing this conference and keeping it running smoothly. I’ve been to several conferences, seminars, etc. on various topics, but this is the first one I’ve been to where events actually started and ended on time and in order. It’s especially noteworthy since many of the attendees were drinking at one point or another during the day. :-)

    Can’t wait till the next one.

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