Posted tagged ‘David Ackley’

Beer Bloggers’ Conference: Sunday morning

September 5, 2013

Sunday morning dawned.

Noooo, the evil day star… IT BURNS!!

Actually, I didn’t feel bad — perhaps Fred Eckhardt is right about drinking all that water at the same time as the beer.

The final morning of the conference was devoted to two seminars and a final keynote address. Attendance at 9 a.m. was a perhaps bit lower that previous seminars, but slowly improved as the morning progressed. Perhaps it had something to do with the all-night gatherings in various hotel rooms that had only broken up a couple of hours ago.


The real beer pros show us how it’s done at 9 am. Don’t try this at home, kids.

There was no beer officially being served, but that didn’t stop some people from snapping the tops off a few rare beers they had traded for at the 4 a.m. parties.

Me? After the overindulgences of the previous day, I stuck to coffee.

First up were Blogger Reports: ten attendees got five minutes each to talk about anything they wanted. Several of them were very memorable:

David Ackley aka The Local Beer Blog, the young man from Asheville, North Carolina with whom we had shared a dinner table in Portland,  gave a humourous talk about his attempts to make a profit from blogging via micro-sponsors:

  • Google AdSense averaged 90 cents per month
  • Over three years, Amazon Affiliates made David $3
  • CentUp, which splits readers’ contributions 45-45-10 between the blogger, a charity and CentUp, made David $11.21 over three months.

However, David did point out that he had been offered free press passes, and he did get to meet brewers, bloggers, and people from around the world. So perhaps some of the more valuable benefits were of a more intangible nature than mundane dollars.

Amy Penrose (The Craft Beer Girl), talked about “Creating Your Personal Brand”: Look at yourself and your blog. What is your purpose: Internet fame? Or just to hang out and drink beer? Amy urged us to create a brand: a visual identity and a unique tone of voice that shows your values, vision, and how you want to present yourself. Your brand should show why you are blogging. Get visual identity across all platforms with a logo and consistent domain name. Once you have that, be consistent in look and tone across all platforms. And she repeated the advice we heard in yesterday’s seminar with Jeff Wharton and Tamre Mullins: Go claim your “brand name” on every social media platform.

Renee DeLuca (The Brewer’s Daughter) had enjoyed craft beer all of her life. She told us the touching story of how she, an adoptee, had searched for and finally found her her birth father. Unlikely as it seems, her father turned out to be Jack McAuliffe, founder of New Albion Brewery of Sonoma, California, the first microbrewery built in the United States since Prohibition. Although New Albion closed its doors after only six years after its 1976 inauguration, it has become legendary for its part in kick-starting the craft beer revolution. Renee hopes to reopen New Albion by 2014.

Jay Ducote (Bite & Booze) is an active beer blogger from Louisiana, despite the fact that there are only seven breweries in his state. (Compare that to San Diego County, which has more than 70.) Jay suggested that if we are simply writing about beer, we need to find a better hook for our blog. Celebrate food and beer, for instance, or perhaps write about finding beer while travelling.

Lots if interesting content in this seminar, and surprisingly, none of the speakers went seriously over their five-minute deadline.

Next up was “Standing Out in a Crowd”, with John Holl (blogger of Beer Briefing and editor of All About Beer magazine) and Norman Miller (Beer Nut). There are now over a thousand beer blogs, so how do you make your blog stand head and shoulders above the crowd? John  and Norman gave us twenty essential elements:

  1. Everything is about the Content. Lots of bloggers post pictures but don’t necessarily care about the quality of their writing.
  2. Let your reader feel what you felt. Describe what you tasted, what you saw, what you heard. Was it a hot day? Was there a basket of sweet-smelling fruit on the table? Did the brewery owner tell the story of how he founded the brewery after he fell off a bike and broke his leg? Tell your reader!
  3. Keep it local. Readers will go to the huge national blogs to read about about huge national stories, not your little blog. Don’t try to compete — make the focus of your stories local. That doesn’t mean you can’t write about national brewers — but make the subject a local event such a tap takeover. Ask yourself, “What is the impact of this event on my local readers?”
  4. Do more food and beer pairing reviews. Pairings are big news with foodies.
  5. Go talk to the brewer or brewery owner. You will get fresh news, a unique insight, an exclusive perspective and create your own content not just based on a press release.
  6. When interviewing brewers, offer your services. Ask them if they would like you to do future reviews of their products and updates on their events.
  7. Don’t write a first-person account about your walk through a beer festival — it’s boring. Provide a fresh perspective of what the beers actually tasted like, where people can get it, what the packaging looked like.
  8. If you don’t like something, say why. If you think a beer sucks, don’t just say it sucks — describe the problems you had with it. Be negative in the right way — an in-depth honest negative review based on facts is often well-received.
  9. Learn how to write well. If you have little or no experience with writing, there are writing classes on-line.
  10. Get a second set of eyes. Have someone read your blog for errors and typos.
  11. Never request free beer. Buy your beer. When you get a good reputation, brewers will send you beer to review.
  12. Read a lot. Learn to recognize good writing, and why it is good.
  13. To make money from writing, go beyond your blog. Start writing for local newspapers and national beer magazines.
  14. Don’t take on too much. Own what you do, but don’t try to own everything — have a clear direction and scope for your blog.
  15. Have fun, but be professional.
  16. Don’t brag about personally knowing brewers.
  17. Familiarize yourself with new beer styles and be knowledgeable about them.
  18. Use food descriptors for beer. Don’t say “hoppy” or “malty”; try “red grapefruit”, “molasses”, etc. Note that “bitter” is a turn-off to many people.
  19. Use the contact info in a press release. Press releases aren’t meant to be published as is. They are simply an announcement with enough detail to tell you what is happening, and who to contact for more information so you can get better content.
  20. Check your facts! As the old newspaper adage goes, “If your mother says she loves you, look into it.”

I thought this was an excellent lesson for bloggers — and a free tutorial in basic journalism given by a couple of pros.

Before the closing address, the organizers alerted us to a serious problem. As usual, the conference sponsors had brought way too much of their beer and cider, and had left behind the excess. At past beer bloggers’ conferences, this excess product had been given to the hotel staff. Well, apparently it was illegal to do so in Massachusetts. So the organizers somehow had to get rid of the left-over beer and cider, and they were turning to us for our help.

However, a lot of attendees had flown to Boston, and most already had several bottles of beer packed into their suitcases. They simply had no room for extras.

On the other hand, Elaine and I and a few others had driven to Boston.

Yes, my friends, in the name of human decency, we who had cars took it upon ourselves to aid those poor conference organizers in their time of need. Sometimes when you hear the call, you just have to step up.



Beer Bloggers’ Conference: Pre-conference dinner

August 7, 2013

If you are just joining this adventure, our two beer geek heroes, Alan & Elaine, have travelled across Ontario (several times) and New England to take part in a Beer Bloggers’ Conference. Just remember that the following tale, although awash in good beer, merely describes a “pre-conference” event — we still have some miles to go, and beers to drink, before we get to the main conference.

Back to our story: Having met everyone at the pre-conference beer & cheese mixer, it was time for dinner. A short two-block walk took us from Cabot Creamery to Sebago Brewpub, a bright modern restaurant on the ground floor of a bright, modern hotel. Our host for the evening was Sebago’s humourous and out-going “Minister of Enablement”, Kai Adams.

Elaine and I found ourselves seated at a table with two young men. One, who worked for a beer distributor, was clearly ambitious and intelligent, only 22, but I predict he is going places. Unfortunately his name has disappeared into the general haze of the evening. (More about the haze later.) The other personable young man was David Ackley of Asheville, North Carolina, author of the Local Beer Blog.

The pre-dinner aperitif was a glass of Sebago’s flagship beer, Frye’s Leap IPA. (Frye’s Leap refers to a cliff beside nearby Sebago Lake. Local daredevils apparently climb the cliff and then leap off it into the lake.)

Now, when I am menu planning, I often use a tart or sour beer such as a Belgian wit or perhaps a gueuze as an aperitif — something that has a noticeable taste but merely prepares your taste buds for what is to follow. I would hesitate to serve an IPA at the start of the evening, worried that it knock out your taste buds before dinner. However, the Frye’s Leap had an appealing nose of citrussy pink grapefruit, and a wonderful juicy bitterness — maybe protecting the taste buds is overrated.


Appetizer: Brie, apple & onion flatbread accompanied by Sebago Patersbier

A word here about portions. Despite the fact that Frye’s Leap is a 7% abv beer, this wasn’t a small sampler-sized glass, but a full 12-oz (341 mL) serving.

Now that our taste buds were warmed up, the appetizer appeared: a brie, apple and caramelized onion flatbread, accompanied by Sebago Patersbier, a modest (5.4% abv) Belgian table beer with nice light spicy aromas of stone fruit, and a dry, peppery finish. This is actually the beer I would have served as an aperitif. However, it also went well with the flatbread — the light effervescence cut through the creaminess of the cheese, and the spiciness melded well with the cooked apple.

(By the way, look at the photo: another full serving of beer.)


Hefeweizen, seafood sauce and shrimp shooter. Bottoms up!

The palate cleanser was my personal favourite: a hefeweizen, seafood sauce and shrimp shooter. Yep, they were all piled into one glass, and the idea was to drink/eat it in one go — or, as they say, “shoot it down the hole!” Well, I confess, I took three swallows to finish it. I can’t comment too much on the hefeweizen, since it was mixed with spicy seafood sauce and my mouth was also full of shrimp. However, the combination of all three was outstanding, and even better, was something I would never have thought of putting together — but just wait till our next dinner party!

Next up was a creamy sweet Maine Lobster roll with tarragon  mayo and wonderful thick house potato chips. The accompanying beer — another full glass — was a special one-off “sessionable IPA” (4.9% abv) called Citra Saaz Down, brewed up at Sebago by the three local Maine beer bloggers: Benjamin Moore (“Active Beer Geek“), Carla Companion (“The Beer Babe“) and Chad Lothian (“If My Coaster Could Talk“).

It was at this point, after three glasses and one shooter of beer, that things started to get hazy; hence the reason I have churlishly forgotten one of our companions’ names.

main course

Pork wing with a BBQ sauce stout reduction, and Bonfire Rye Ale

Finally it was time for the main (Maine?) course, a tender wing of pork covered with a barbecue glaze reduction made from Sebago’s “Lake Trout Stout”, accompanied by a chipotle cole slaw. (The chipotle slaw was HOT — hot enough that it momentarily cut through the haze.) The beer that came along for the ride was Sebago’s just released Bonfire Rye. Rye ales tend to be more malt-driven to allow the spicy dryness of the rye to come forward. Sebago’s rye ale is much more bitter than usual, but the rye seems to hold its own, and the whole thing finishes on a dry spicy note rather than with the usual long bitter finish of most IPAs. (Note in the photo that the glasses of Bonfire Rye were full pints. Oh my.)

The end of dinner arrived — but not the end of the evening. Nay,  apparently it was time to walk to The Thirsty Pig, a local craft beer bar, for a party hosted by beer distributor Patriot Craft Alliance. However, as tempting as the offerings were, the bar was already crowded when we arrived, the noise was well above 100 decibels, it had been a long day since breakfast back in Vermont, there had already been much beer consumed, and we had to drive to Boston the next morning. So reluctantly we took our leave and wearily fell into bed.

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