Saturday, January 25, 2014

I’ll Put My Skirt on for Beer

It has been exactly two years to the day since I launched Montana Beer Finder. My original intention remains much intact, to share the what, when, where, and who of the Montana beer world. But a lot has happened in that time. My friend over at Growler Fills and I kicked off the annual Missoula Craft Beer Week; my book, Montana Beer, was released, then sold out, then got reprinted. And now Montana is on the verge of hitting the 50-brewery mark by the end of 2014.

Those are some of the big things, which are important. But it’s the little stuff that this blog, and other beer writers out there, thrives on. It’s the new corner bottle shop that opened. It’s that one keg that came and went in a flash at that one-bar-we-all-love. It’s the record sell-out brewfest that everyone attended but the real story was being able to meet with the brewers who brewed the beer. That’s what keeps at least this blog going.

Author (right) with Marcus Duffey at Great Northern Brewing Co.

Blogging/writing about beer is a labor of love, and with over 800 active Citizen Beer Bloggers in North America, that’s a lot of love going around. I dare say that the majority of these bloggers are not getting paid for what they do, and aside from a free pint or an “atta boy/girl” every once in a while, the perks are the self-satisfaction that you may have educated people about beer in some new way and that the craft brewing industry as a whole gets a slightly larger piece of the pie because you’ve inspired someone to give craft beer a try. And that’s plenty for most of us.

What the beer blogger understands, and benefits from, is his/her in medias res, being “in the midst of things.” Being neither brewery owner, sales rep, distributor, restaurateur, or retailer (i.e. a “citizen” beer blogger), we work to be in the know about everything worth knowing and worth sharing on the craft beer front. One of the main reasons this is useful to all the above-mentioned entities is that they are busy building the craft beer industry and running a business and each faction doesn’t always have the time to sit down and write about it, think about it, and share it with the public in an entertaining way.

Missoula Craft Beer Week stickers. Photo by Alan McCormick.

Furthermore, at the rate craft breweries are opening, the beer blogger serves as a distiller-of-facts for his/her audience. Sure, a craft beer fan/advocate can follow a brewery’s tweets and status updates to keep in the know, but multiply that action by all the breweries that are distributed in the area and that becomes pretty time consuming. Leave it to a beer blogger to share the important news, events, tap takeovers, and new beer releases in one easy to find location.

In short, beer bloggers are the cheerleaders of the craft brewing industry and all its working parts. And because of that, I’m more than ready to put on my cheer-leading skirt and raise a pom-pom in one hand and a beer in the other. Who’s with me?

*Note that this article also serves as an entry for the “Best Beer Writing Contest,” hosted by the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) and the Beer Bloggers Conference. 


  1. Cheers to us! You are such a good writer, Ryan, well done!

  2. Congrats to 2 years!

    But now I'm calling hogswallow on the cheerleading bit. I believe the best function citizen bloggers bring to the table is not cheerleading, but measured perspective. That's precisely because of the main point you make - that citizen beer bloggers are not owners, sales reps, distributors, etc. Being "in the midst of things" allows the citizen blogger to gather viewpoints and take observations with a certain objectivity and distill them down to a measured perspective that differs from that of the paid cheerleader (the owners, sales reps, distributors, etc.)

    As the industry continues to mature, citizen bloggers will be needed more and more to call BS where appropriate. (The older guard of bloggers would say that's always been their purpose). For example, the Brewers Association's definition of "craft brewer" has some serious holes in it. Some craft brewers utilize the same shifty distribution and placement strategies as "big beer." And, not all craft beer is good (say-it-ain't so!) and we shouldn't pretend that it is merely to support the industry.

    So yes, citizen bloggers should cheerlead where appropriate, but if they all exist merely to cheerlead, we'll be missing out on the greatest value they bring to the table.

    (Dang. Should have turned this into a blog post.)

    1. Thanks!

      You do raise a good point, Alan, and it's why we work well together. You remind me of that saying, "Everything in moderation, including moderation." I totally agree that veils should be pulled back when and where appropriate, but all work and no play makes for a dull day. As we both know, we don't redistribute EVERY piece of news we get. We make decisions, be it based on time, interest, suitability, etc. But we do have to always be mindful of our audience, and I think the audience likes to see *mostly* the positive side of craft beer in order to understand the BS when it shows itself.

      Thanks for the blog post here! ;-)

    2. Indeed! And I would not have even raised the point except for your use of the all inclusive phrase "beer bloggers."

      It is probably true that the vast majority of beer blogs stick to a particular slice of the beer world, like sites devoted to beer reviews, or ones which pass on press releases of area events. A few are devoted to historical research. One I follow is firmly entrenched as the curmudgeon of the beer world - choosing to take issue with everything and praising nothing. It gets old, but serves a useful purpose when most praise everything and question nothing. Mine? Pieces and parts of all of these I suppose.

      I enjoy all types! I just wasn't going to let you get away with that all inclusive cheerleading bit. ;)

  3. Talking and blogging about craft beers is great for the drinking public as a whole and those that aren't in it financially can give more honest opinions. Whether it comes from a tiny nano like Bonsai or AB-InBev, the beer needs to be judged on its own merits. While I love the small batch one-off's from my local breweries in Great Falls, I still like the stuff from the macro's that are in the craft industry. Their stuff is usually a blander version of what ever style they are trying to imitate. For the seasoned craft beer drinker this isn't anything but it allows those that drink nothing but macros a taste of what could be. Getting them to drink a Sam Adams (come on when are we going to admit they are a big boy?) instead of a Miller Lite could lead to them drinking something from The Front Brewing or Bowser Brewing. The more people drinking craft type beer the more support for our local breweries in the long run. Having just got back from Las Vegas and the Strip casinos, it is good to have a good selection of craft brews, only one casino had craft beer (Santa Fe Brewing Happy Camper) the rest having macros or imports and not many imports. Forget the name game and just drink good beer.


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