Reflecting on the beer blogger – beer retailer connection III
My dear beer blogging friends, by now it’s likely that your brain is overwhelmed with the sheer potential of topics. But I’m not going to stop there. We beer retailers are calling you to the front lines.
I: Beer supply & demand // how to get beers you seek
…and why you can’t always get ’em locally
We first delved into “What questions do my customers ask most frequently?” and this by far, is always about “Why don’t you have (insert beer name here)?” So, your challenge: Share how the supply chain works. Interview breweries to see why certain popular beers are small-batch. Or what causes them to rotate out old recipes and in new. Or what things they consider when expanding into new distribution regions. Identify ways beer drinkers can get the beers they seek that aren’t in their region’s stores. Share your experiences! Do you choose “drink local” when you travel, taking advantage of trying new beers not available in your home city, or do you only seek beers you’re familiar with or that may be available when you return? Have you traded beers? Do you travel with beer? How do you pack it? …there are so many questions that fall under this topic. Endless blog opportunities.
II: The beer industry // how it’s made, sold, and regulated
My second challenge to you: Explore how the beer industry works. Beer can be such a part of normal everyday life that we forget it’s a controlled substance. Years ago my brother asked, “What’s it like to be a legal drug dealer?” I still smile when I think of this. It is true. I am merchant of a controlled substance, a delicious one: Beer. But do you know how it’s controlled? Why there are laws in place? What wacky laws exist in your state? Are there laws that help or hinder breweries, distributors, retailers, consumers? Do you know how much you’re paying in sin tax on your beer? Do you know who’s lobbying for or against restrictions on beer, its taxation? Who are the key players in getting your delicious beverage of choice, beer, from grain to glass?
So, what next?
Sit back, relax. Have a beer.
Tell us about your personal relationship with beer.
Feel free to speak openly.
III: The beer lifestyle // how you use beer
What’s the role of beer in your household, in your life? I’d be willing to wager that the majority of citizen bloggers focus on beer reviews. If this is you, do you only drink beer in effort to review it?
The beer reviewer
So you like to drink beer. You track it and rate it. You snap a picture and write a review. That’s great!
What’s your motive?
…is your beer review for personal tracking?
…are you writing to share with other beer drinkers?
…are you demonstrating your experience, with intent to work in the beer industry?
……or something entirely different? Why do you write about beer?
Do you review based on personal preference, or are you more style guideline focused intent on developing your palate like a Certified or Master Beer Judge or Cicerone? It’s true that everyone starts somewhere, and you don’t necessarily need papers to become a seasoned expert in a field. But, what’s your beer street cred?
If you’re writing to share the beer or demonstrate experience, who’s reading your blog?
Is your blog reaching the intended eyes?
How are you promoting your blog?
Are others sharing your blogposts?
Catch the eye of others
My pre-beer industry background: Web writing, information architecture, and technical writing. I’ve got a weird passion for exploring SEO. I love experimenting, adjusting keywords and phrases, playing with links and referrals. It’s a little weird, I’m sure. But so am I.
Lately I’ve been all about using @reply notifications in my untappd notes, which feeds to twitter. Since I don’t do beer reviews online, this is my little notebook of beer. When I @refer to breweries they see where their beer’s available and that someone is enjoying it. The results have been interesting. You’d be surprised how many breweries and @referenced drinking establishments will retweet your post to all their followers, if it catches their eye. And you’ll get some new readers as a result. If you’re not @including them, how will they know you’ve shared a travel bit or beer review about them?
So, my dear beer blogging friends, don’t be afraid to @loop in breweries and retailers in your beer conversation. If they’re active on social media and your note is believed to be of interest to their followers, it’s likely they’ll retweet or respond.
Be an ambassador of beer
On April 12, 2012 the Beer Bloggers Conference hosted a twitter chat on “Working with Local Breweries for Sponsorship.” I didn’t make it to this, but I did read the follow-up recap. What caught my eye was this:
The best value a blogger can give a brewery is to be a brand ambassador. And to be an effective brand ambassador you must believe in the product.
In your reviews, how are you representing the brand? If you’re balancing the good and the bad, is the bad truly bad or just not to your liking? This is a question I often ponder. We who work in this industry drink a lot of beer. And we who sell beer hear a lot of really valuable feedback about beers from our customers. There are lots of good beers out there. While I don’t drink beers that “knock my socks off” on a daily basis, that doesn’t mean most beer is average or poor. Most beer is totally delicious, IMO. Some may say I’m overly forgiving or generous in my beer drinking notes; beers that are three-cappers, fellow drinkers give just two. But was that perceived “flaw” you picked up intended by the brewer? I sip my beer and wonder about things like, “Should a brewer or beer be publicly slammed for intended diacetyl?” I don’t know the answer to that. But I would say, if you’re a blogger looking for sponsorship or advertising from local breweries don’t be approaching those you’ve given low ratings.
The beer connection
Do you connect with the beer you drink? I believe you may be thinking, “WTH is Tiffany talking about here?!” I’m talking about a personal connection. How you connect with the beer you drink, its packaging, its producer, its surroundings, its aromas, its flavor. Does it build and trigger memories?
As a merchant of beer, every week dozens of people ask me if I have a certain beer. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it’s just not legally available to my store. Why are they asking for the beer? Sometimes it’s on referral, they read about it. (Yes, people are reading your blogs! And if you have a list of beers, they bring it in as a shopping list.) Sometimes times it’s to reconnect.
Yes, they once had a connection with a beer. And they want to re-live that connection.
Maybe it was on a trip to an exotic locale. A tropical island. A honeymoon or family vacation. They sat on the beach, frolicked in the water, and the refreshment: A tall bottle of delicious, thirst-quenching sexy blonde lager. They want that lager. They want that feeling again.
Or, he was stationed in Germany years ago and developed a taste for the local beer. Memories of beer halls, of crated beer delivered to the front doorstep. Can you imagine? A box of beer waiting for you on your doorstep? How wonderful.
There are oodles of stories I could repeat, of people’s personal connections with beer.
I sell beer: I am a merchant of memories. It’s kind of cool.
(By and large I won’t have the exotic beer they seek because it’s hyper-local to the area they visited, but sometimes it was a larger-scale brand with export and distribution capability, so we may carry that beer. You never know. You see, this goes back to topic #1: supply & demand.)
What memories are you creating; how is beer accompanying you on your journeys?
Tell us about your beer lifestyle
How does beer fit into your lifestyle? What beer do you choose after mowing the lawn? What beer do you drink while watching TV? Are you a sneaky one, with beer in your pocket, at the movie theatre? Which beer did you choose and why? Do you drink the same beer you’re using to marinade that pork roast? How are you using that beer? When are you enjoying it? Is it taking the edge off after a long work day and a wicked commute?
Do you include beer with holiday meals or when entertaining friends? What do you serve? How do you serve it? Tell us about the beers. Share recipes of what accompanied your beer. Include fellow drinker’s comments or actions that may inspire a chuckle from your readers. I once brought an assortment of beer to a family Thanksgiving dinner only to have two bottles immediately confiscated by my uncle. He liked the monkeys on the labels, so immediately pulled them to save for my cousin, who worked with monkeys, but couldn’t be there. While that was cool with me, I do sometimes bring beers to share (that I want to try). Whenever I do this, I head straight for the kitchen and I crack ’em open when I first arrive, making sure everyone knows they’re available for sampling/drinking. What’s the proper etiquette in a situation like this? Oh, another blog topic! LOL
How do you use beer? Do you cook with it? Clean with it? Use it for pest control? What do you do with beer other than drink it?
Are you hosting beer tasting parties — how do you do them? Are they blinded (without labels, to avoid artificial persuasions)? Do you pair beer with food? What tips and tricks do you have up your sleeve?
Do you visit local breweries? Tell us about them. Snap a picture or two while you’re there and include it in your post. Did you meet a regular with a quirky little story? Tell us! Let your readers live vicariously through your beer travels.
Step outside the boundaries of beer reviews.
It’s not just about the beer; it’s about the whole beer experience!