Day 2 WordPress, Ken Grossman, and Stone Liberty Station
Provided you didn’t destroy yourself during the Lagunitas afterparty, day two started at a bright and early 9:30 AM with a hello from the WordPress creator, Automatic. Speaker, Derek Springer, AKA Dr. Dank-Sauce, provided some very helpful tips for making your wordpress site both more useful to the writer and more appealing to the reader. Special focus was given to adding rich media to make blog visuals pop as well as new features available on the Jetpack suite for WordPress.org users. One thing I found very interesting is that both RSS and Carousels are a thing of the past. I’m not a consumer of RSS feeds, but Bierkast.com has had a carousel on the top for featured blog posts for some time. Suffice it to say, it’s no longer there. Thanks for the advice Dr. Dank-Sauce.
WordPress + Rich Media = Awesomesauce
— Beer Bloggers Conf. (@beerbloggers) June 24, 2014
*Side Note: Derek is an avid home brewer, is a personal friend of mine, and his wife, JJ, is the designer of the Bierkast site! You can follow him at @DerekSpringer
— Derek Springer (@derekspringer) August 23, 2014
My favorite topic of discussion. The second break-out session I attended covered the ethics of craft beer as bloggers. Does accepting free beer for a review mean you shouldn’t be critical? Should you disclose a comped beer dinner you are writing coverage for? Should a blogger cover their own work on the professional side of beer? This session was moderated by Alan McCormick (@GrowlerFills) with special guests Brandon Hernandez (Local SD Beer Writer / Stone Marketing @sdbeernews, @offdutyfoodie @stonebrewingco), and Jay Brooks (Celebrator Writer – @brookston). The talk opened analyzing a quote from Jacob McKean, founder of hyped San Diego brewery, Modern Times Beer.
the “accessibility and casual vibe [of craft beer] leads countless uniformed observers to believe that they can authoritatively comment on craft beer. *** In an industry with an almost total absence of real journalism, the cheerleading is virtually indistinguishable from the “reporting.” – Jacob McKean
The panel went on to discuss the importance of criticism when appropriate. A flux in positive only coverage may skew and mislead readers and even breweries. It may be uncomfortable, but bloggers may need to expose the dirty side of craft especially when breweries pump out un-polished product in an effort to oversaturate the market. It was pointed out, quoting an article from Brooks, regarding the New Yellow Journalism, that over-inflating, sensationalizing, without fact checking is also damaging. When bloggers and breweries do this to manipulate and drive traffic to their own brands it can be problematic. It creates confusion, anger, and chatter, which is why marketers do it.
I would actually argue that the situation is less dire that the quote suggests as there is active conversation going on in the beer world about this topic. These conversations are happening in LA and they happened in San Diego during the conference. In addition, organizations like the North American Beer Writers Guild, and the Beer Bloggers Conference seek to promote and reward those writers who want to take their skills to the next level. There are quite a few publications contributing quality writing to craft beer, West Coaster, Beer Paper LA, Brewers Association, Zymurgy, Celebrator, Beer Paper LA, etc.. Can all of these be improved, definitely. Are we all sliding into the 7th layer of hack-writer hell, certainly not.
Let’s get real her though too, it’s okay to tweet, instagram, and blog about what you’re excited about. Craft beer is exciting! If that means cheerleading your favorite brewery, thats great. Just make sure you know why you are cheerleading and let others know as well. Writing critically or scooping the big story may not be right for everyone, which is why we each have our own blogs. Though, as a point of balance, some criticism may be necessary.
The topic of compensation is also an interesting one. Writers that create content professionally are compensated (sometimes at a low rate), but bloggers create content for free. Is it right to accept beer, gadgets, free tickets, and/or VIP treatment in exchange for coverage? As long as the coverage is honest and the exchange is disclosed, you’re probably okay. Both Hernandez and Brooks agreed that it’s wise to include a disclosure notice on your website if you’re receiving goods in exchange for coverage. As such, I’ve added one to our about page. Bierkast.com often receives books for review as well as invitations to events, but the coverage is always honest. The Beer Bloggers Conference also requires a certain number of articles to be written about it in order to get a discount on tickets. There are no rules on how to cover it though, so my opinions are my own. I consider this a fair trade as I was likely to write about it anyway.
The group headed off to the Yard House for lunch as part of the Convention agenda. First off, thank you to the Yard House staff for their hospitality, free t-shirts, gift cards, and beer. It was very generous.
That being said, I was disappointed that this was a major focus during the day. In a city that bleeds pioneering craft beer and is host to numerous fantastic brewpubs, it’s unfortunate that we were focusing on a brand that started in 1996 in Huntington Beach, which has since become a symbol of corporate beer eateries. Why not Pizza Port? Toronado? Hamilton’s? Monkey Paw? Urge? California Kabob? O’Briens? I’m undoubtedly omitting hundreds more. The saving grace was the tap list, which had a host of local beers and also one, The Bruery Oude Tarte. Yum!
Fireside with Ken Grossman
Greg Nagel’s day was made when this man signed his book and Beer Camp bottle. Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada, is a craft beer pioneer. If you’ve ever heard a brewer talk about their first exposure to craft beer, I’m guessing many of them would list Sierra Nevada Pale Ale as the beer that turned them to craft. I can clearly remember the first time I had Sierra Nevada Pale and it was before I developed a taste for something that was, at that time, the most bitter thing I had ever tasted. It’s funny how tastes change over the years. We were extremely lucky to have Ken Grossman’s time as the Key-Note speaker. He spoke on the history of Sierra Nevada, the trials and tribulations of starting a craft brewery at a time when people didn’t know craft beer. He also shared stories of his recent Beer Camp Across America adventures and one of the most notable construction projects on the east coast, Sierra Nevada – Asheville, NC. This was also the time that he announced the location of the 2015 conference, which would be held in Asheville with a stop at the new Sierra Nevada brewery.
As Mr. Grossman spoke, I felt inspired and I appreciated his humbleness. Without Sierra Nevada, craft would not be what it is today. Not only are they inovators with their Beer Camp tour, but they are also very philanthropic. Sierra Nevada is active in contributing funding to local brewery guilds (and homebrew clubs) and research programs (malt/hops) – taking hold of the flag as large macro-breweries move out of the donation space. I was also able to ask him about whole cone hops and why he prefers to use them instead of pellets.
“Whole cone hops are cleaner and less vegetal. They have better flavor and aroma.” – Ken Grossman
There you have it, whole cone hops are better for flavor, aroma, and cleaner beer. Thank you Ken Grossman for sharing your time and wisdom with us.
Live Beer Blogging
If you want some exciting stress, try live blogging at the Beer Bloggers Conference. Like a game of speed dating, bloggers are split up into 11 tables and are visited by beer industry peeps who give their spiel in 5 minutes or less. We sampled 9 beers and one beer bread in record time!
- Rogue Farms – Braggot
- Goose Island – Bourbon County
- Green Flash
- Boardwalk Food Company
- Samuel Adams – Huzzah this is my favorite Sam Adams beer ever
- Firestone Walker
- The Lost Abbey – A+ for presentation and staging. Coming prepared with the label artwork printed on campus and a beautiful glass, definitely helps.
- Rough Draft
Stone World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station
If you haven’t been to a Stone Brewing Co location yet and you live in So Cal, you really should change that. Even their Stone Company Stores are beautiful and Liberty Station is no different. Stone World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station (they get mad if you don’t say the full name each time you write it) is the largest restaurant in San Diego and it’s also one of the coolest beer locals you’ll ever visit. Sprawling indoor and outdoor seating peppered with nooks and crannies of awesome. Bacce ball, Brewhouse viewing room (the only place in SD that treats it’s brew house like a painting in an art gallery), the secret Pope balcony, and bathroom sinks with no mirror (just the woman or man across from you). Stone World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station is beer disneyland.
To add to the impressiveness of this location, the bloggers were treated to something extra, way extra. Barrel aged collaborations, special casks, W00tstout 2.0 (where you at Wil?), special Liberty Station casks, 18th Anniversary IPA, Enjoy By, and Smog City Coffee Porter! The Stone gang was in attendance as well including Mitche Steele, Dr. Bill Sysak, Tyler Graham, Brandon Hernandez, and Liberty Station Brewer Kris Ketchum, to name a few. It was a great opportunity for bloggers to interface with Stone Brewing Co as a company and on a personal level. Thanks Stone Brewing Co!
Industrial Tasting & Bottle Share
Because beer was in short supply (not really), we needed to find more. The industry tasting back at the hotel included all the breweries we experienced during the Live Blog session, but at a much slower pace. More opportunities to interface with the brewers and people behind the magic – and definitely more time to taste. My first beer was a 2014 Firestone Walker Parabola poured by David Walker. As the night went on I was actually able to share one of my home brews with him, a Saison brewed with Kumquats (a home brewed version of my Los Angeles Ale Works commercial beer, Lievre).
“That’s good Kip.” – David Walker
The industry tasting was a nice way to wind down and socialize with everyone, though my energy was waning at this point. The bottle share that followed was nothing short of epic, but only restraint would lead to survival. I’ve never been to a bottle share of this magnitude. Beer geek bloggers from all over the US and some international, bringing their geekiest beers! As with any bottle share, participants brought 5+ bombers or 750s so there was enough beer in house to pop Cthulhu. Of exceptional note was the The Bruery’s Sour in the Rye with Pineapple & Coconut, Jester King something, Yazoo Embrace the Funk, 2013 Deschutes Abyss, Pipework’s Brewing Abduction Series, and Dancing by Benjamin Weiss (@brocofly).
6 Valuable Memories from BBC14 Day 1
- WordPress – is a fantastic blogging tool and Automatic is run by both craft beer fans & bloggers
- Sensationalism – leads to the dark side & add a disclaimer to your blog if you take any sort of compensation from the people you write about.
- Ken Grossman – even despite the massive empire he has crafted, he is a humble, kind, and inspirational human being
- Live Beer Blogging – it’s incredibly stressful
- Stone – Liberty Station – Not afraid to roll out the red carpet to the Pope Room (with Brandon Hernandez, Jemma Wilson, Greg Nagel, and Allan Wright). The company has an incredibly talented cast working for it. (Some even led the world’s most successful crowd funding beer campaign – I’m looking at yourTyler!)
- David Walker – is Charming, knows how to pour Parabola correctly, and…he likes my home brew (squeee!)
— Derek Springer (@derekspringer) August 23, 2014