This month’s Session* topic is hosted by Adrian Dingle at Ding’s Beer Blog. Adrian reflects a bit on how his role in the beer scene has evolved over time and asks the following questions:
So, where do you see yourself? Are you simply a cog in the commercial machine if you work for a brewery, store or distributor? Are you nothing more than an interested consumer? Are you JUST a consumer? Are you a beer evangelist? Are you a wannabe, beer ‘professional’? Are you a beer writer? All of the above? Some of the above? None of the above? Where do you fit, and how do you see your own role in the beer landscape?
The invitation to do some navel gazing is always a curious one. It’s the very nature of blogging to relate personal experiences and opinions in the context of whatever subject one chooses to embrace. Yet, I’m not at all certain we’re capable of accurately gauging how we fit in the broader community. Like understanding one’s place in history, it’s a task better left to others.
Every blogger who has stuck it out past the initial excitement of publishing a few posts has spent time wondering what he or she wants his or her space to be. For most of us, it’s an evolution. Trial and error. What generates interest. What doesn’t.
More importantly, what is it we enjoy doing? If I don’t enjoy writing it, you’re surely not going to enjoy reading it.
Where do I see myself? To address Adrian’s specific questions, I’ll start by telling you what I’m not: I’m not a cog in the commercial machine. I don’t work for a brewery, store or distributor. I’m not a beer evangelist. I lover beer, but I’m not a passive cheerleader afraid to address difficult questions.
I am not a wannabe beer professional. I am not “just a consumer” nor am I “nothing more than an interested consumer.”
I am me.
“Finding your voice” may sound like a cliche, but every successful blogger has done it (with “success” defined as personal satisfaction, not page loads.) It’s accomplished by applying your strengths to the work you put into it.
I did not start Growler Fills to have a role in the beer landscape. Yet, I appreciate that it has taken one on, even if I can’t quite capture what it is.
Storytelling is one, with a commitment to originality. Taking national issues and explaining how they’re relevant in Montana. Finding tidbits of information and turning them into stories no one else is telling.
Critical thinking is another. (Not to be confused with lazy criticism. Anyone can rant and rave, spouting personal opinions about any subject of interest. It’s boring and lazy.) I am not interested in blindly accepting the information I’m fed.
Representing the consumer is a reluctantly accepted position not taken lightly. For example, there is a “coalition” of beer industry members working on proposed changes to Montana’s alcohol laws. Every segment of the industry and it’s related partners has a seat at the table except one: the consumer.
Whether I like it or not, by applying my background, experience, industry contacts, and clarity of writing, Growler Fills is in a position to keep consumers informed in a way not offered by any other person or media.
Ooofff. How did I get myself into this?
Unfortunately, I have more ideas than time. Peer behind the face of this website and you’ll see a long list of partially completed posts. Some are waiting on time to complete research tasks. Others get displaced by more immediate news. Still others are waiting on that dose of inspiration necessary to pull it all together. All of it gets produced only when spare time allows.
You want to do this? Cool. First, get out your checkbook. It costs money to create the content on Growler Fills.
Next, get ready to meet some really great people. All tiers of the industry have them.
Get ready to meet some assholes, too. It’s not all kittens and rainbows.
Get ready to work for information. Some brewers/breweries will promptly respond to virtually every info request. Some will never respond to any and all. At least one will feed you patronizing bullshit even after you’ve caught them offering misleading information three times in a row. (I do my homework.)
Get ready to change your relationship with beer, too. No longer will you be able to try a beer, walk into a brewery, attend a festival, or do anything else in the industry without consciously and subconsciously collecting information for later use.
Now, package it in a way that tells a story, makes a point, or takes an informed stand and do it in a way that engages your readers and respects your subjects.
Do it all in your spare time without being paid.** Don’t expect glittering showers of thanks, all the free beer you can drink, and thousands of daily pages loads. None of it is on the way. (Nor should that ever be the reason you choose to do this.)
I must be crazy, but after more than five years writing Growler Fills, I feel like I’m just getting started.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.
*The Session, held the first Friday of each month, is a collective effort of beer bloggers around the world to write on a common topic once each month.
** In my other spare time, I do get paid as the Montana columnist for the Rocky Mountain Brewing News. It doesn’t cover the cost of producing Growler Fills, but the money isn’t the point. Getting Montana stories to a broader audience is.