The Penultimate Session, #141: The Future of Beer Blogging

Ugh, blogging about blogging… But, then again, we’ve not indulged for a while, and the news that the Session is expiring seems like a good moment.

The Session started a month before we commenced our (calendar check) 11 year, 7 month beer blogging adventure, and has been a reassuring constant.

There have been times when, slightly lost and disengaged from blogging, the Session pulled us back – part creative writing prompt, part warm hug.

When it nearly died a few years ago we were forlorn, but then everyone seemed to rally and it was saved. Kind of.

Like one of those TV shows that comes back for a weird final season on some streaming platform or other, it never quite felt the same.

As Jay Brooks says in his call to arms for this month’s Session, fewer and fewer people took part, and hosts seemed hard to find.

So, as Jay and Stan sail off to the west in one of those elf boats, here we are for the second to last time, doing our duty: Jay wants to know what we think about the future of beer blogging, and we’re going to tell him.

First, we refuse to be gloomy. Every Saturday morning we find plenty of great posts that we think are worth sharing, and those pieces seems more adventurous, stylish, erudite and varied than much of what was around a decade ago.

More often these days, though, great blogs arrive, blossom, and then wither when their authors abandon them to go professional. Yes, it might feel as if all the magazines are closing but we reckon there are more paying outlets for beer writing in the UK now than a decade ago. That’s good for writers, but bad news if you’ve a preference for driven, ambitious blogging.

In general, we’d say the feeling of global community has diminished, but that’s not a whinge. It’s been replaced (probably for the best) by many active, more locally-focused sub-communities: the pub crawlers, the historians, the tasting note gang, the podcasters, the social issues crew, the jostling pros and semi-pros, the pisstakers, and so on.

That can be mildly disconcerting if you don’t want to pick a tribe, we suppose.

And broader community activity does continue, just not often in the form of laboriously interlinked blog posts. Instead, it centres around social media hashtags, sometimes gently commercially driven: check out #BeerBods, #CraftBeerHour and #LetsBeerPositive for a few examples.

These are light in tone, easy to engage with, and don’t require anybody to set aside an hour under the anglepoise with a jug of coffee and a thesaurus. You can respond from the sofa, in front of the telly with a can of pastry stout, or while you’re at the pub.

So, on balance, we see the future of blogging as being much like its past – sometimes supportive, sometimes bad-tempered, over-emotional, churning like primordial soup as blogs are born in fits of tipsy enthusiasm and die of ennui – but also more fractured, more varied, and less cosy.

And less about blogs.

QUICK ONE: New Beer Bloggers — Say Hello!

"Hello" overlaid on a pint glass of beer.

If you’ve started a beer blog in the last year or so and would like to let other beer bloggers know about it please Tweet using the hashtag .

Here — like this:

We’ve been corresponding with someone who has just started a beer blog and isn’t sure how to go about making connections with others in the same boat, and we reckon this might be one solution.

To some extent blogs stand or fall based on links in and out, comments and mutual boosting, and we hope this might help people find their Class of ’18, just as we had our Class of ’07.

This will hopefully also be useful for us in recharging our RSS feeds with active beer blogs that we might otherwise have missed, with this kind of thing in mind.

If you’re not on Twitter… Well, if you want to promote a blog, you probably should be. But if you’re not, for reasons, then if you like you can comment below with something along the lines of Katie’s blurb above and we’ll Tweet on your behalf.

Further Reading: How to Beer Blog, by us, 2015

2017’s Best Words on Beer and Pubs, Sez Us

These are the posts and articles from 2017 that have stuck with us throughout the year.

They cover everything from pubs to the business of beer and what links them, if anything, is that they all make a point, or tell us something we didn’t know.

A baby in the pub.

1. Children in Pubs

By The Bearded Housewife (@Cuichulain)

TBH, AKA Rob G, is a pub-loving home-brewer with two young daughters. In this epic post from January he applied much thought to the question of children in pubs:

Overall, the debate never seems to go anywhere because most people worth listening to state their position as something adjacent to “I don’t have any problem with children in pubs, if they’re well-behaved”. This position is so unarguably reasonable that it’s never really questioned, and everyone leaves with their own vastly divergent, and unchallenged, mental picture of what ‘well-behaved’ actually constitutes. I shall address this in greater depth further down, but first I’d like to pick out and exclude certain arguments that don’t have merit.


Cuneiform tablet.

2. Babylonian Cuneiform

By Alan McLeod (@agoodbeerblog)

Back in February Alan at A Good Beer Blog did what all beer nerds do when a new online archive becomes available: he searched it for the word BEER. What he found was a time tunnel connecting us, now, with them, then:

How is it that I can read a Mesopotamian clay tablet and pretty much immediately understand what is going on? If it was about religion, governance or astronomy I wouldn’t have a clue. But beer and brewing are not strange. They are, in a very meaningful way, constant. You can see that if we go back to column 2 where you see words for 1:1 beer, 2:1 beer, 3:1 beer and even triple beer. The ratio is the relationship of grain input to beer output. If you scroll down to page 238 of the 2005 Spar and Lambert text you see there are footnotes and in the footnotes an explanation of Mesopotamian methodology.

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Ten Years

Ringo Starr's Sentimental Journey album.

Well, there you go: we made it to ten years.

To mark the occasion we’ve relaunched the page where we list some highlights from the blog — just twelve posts this time, all things of which we’re particularly proud, or at least fond. Do have a look, especially if you’re a new follower-reader.

Newsletter subscribers will know a bit more about the ups and downs that have got us here so we won’t go over that again but thanks to everyone for reading, commenting, encouraging and sharing over the years.

Second decade, here we come.

The Best Beer Reading of 2016, Sez Us

This is a purely subjective list of the most illuminating, amusing or interesting beer- and pub-related blog posts and articles from the last 12 months, all of which we shared in our weekly news round-ups.

Before we get to the links, though, here’s a bit of state-of-the-nation reflection.

First, it’s hard for us to agree that beer writing is dead, past its best, or otherwise in trouble. (As per Alan McLeod, here.) Seriously, if you think 2008 was a golden age for beer blogging, go and read some beer blog posts from 2008 (not ours, please, we beg you) and clear your head. (Alan is right, though — there was more chat back then.)

Today, there are lots of beer blogs, many of them turning out pieces that, with barely an edit, could happily appear in print alongside the work of professional journalists.

Bloggers are challenging themselves, seeking out first hand information, interviewing brewers, raiding libraries and archives, and taking some lovely photographs as they go about it.

Continue reading “The Best Beer Reading of 2016, Sez Us”

That’s Not A Story Pt 2: Doom vs. Triumph

Stories about beer, especially in the mainstream press, often seem to follow one of two templates: collapse and defeat, or resurgence and triumph. But the truth is often somewhere in between.

We were going to say ‘Boringly, the truth is often somewhere in between’ but then we thought, hold on — it’s not as boring as the default positions of Oh Woe! or Yay, Awesome! trotted out time after time, seemingly on auto-pilot.

In the article we’ve just written about mild for All About Beer we touch upon this tendency because mild has been the subject of many overly-optimistic MILD IS BACK! articles over the years. They’re expressions of wishful thinking, or propaganda, or a bit of both. Our argument is essentially that mild is in the process of becoming, like Gose or Berliner Weisse, a local curiosity — not extinct, just rare, a base for experimentation, and of more interest to we nerds than to drinkers in the real world.

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The Best of B&B in 2015

These end-of-year round-up posts are a combination of therapy, house-keeping and ‘ICYMI’ trumpet blowing.

ICYMI, as you probably know, stands for ‘in case you missed it’ and we’ve previously suggested is synonymous with BIDGEAFT — Because It Didn’t Get Enough Attention First Time.

Trumpet instructions.

The Best, Sez Us…

These are the posts from 2015 of which we’re proudest, whether anyone read them or not.

→ Proper Job IPA: Cornwall via Oregon — How St Austell’s Roger Ryman was inspired by an American beer to brew one of the UK’s earliest strong, citrusy IPAs. (15 January.)

→ Williams Bros: Craft Before It Was a Thing — A story omitted from Brew Britannia given the standalone treatment for a round of #BeeryLongreads. (28 February.)

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How to Beer Blog

We’ve been blogging since 2007 and this post summarises what we’ve learned in that time.

We got the nerve to write it after asking subscribers to our email newsletter if they thought it was a good idea, and after our online communication award from the British Guild of Beer Writers in 2014.

If you’re thinking of starting a beer blog, reviving an old one, or are struggling to keep one going, we hope you’ll find it useful.

Leaving the Shire.

Starting Out

This is how we’d go about starting a beer blog from scratch today.

  1. Lay solid foundations. Write 5-10 good posts on a range of subjects in your area of interest of 200-800 words each, posting at least once a week. Hardly anyone will be reading them but it doesn’t matter – you’ll be finding a voice, getting into the groove, learning your blogging software, and preparing for the next stage. (And if you can’t manage five posts, then maybe blogging isn’t for you.) Don’t make your first post ‘So, I’ve decided to start a blog! Let’s hope this goes well!’ Just plunge in with proper content.
  1. Get a Twitter account and/or Facebook page. Include the term ‘beer blogger’ and a link to your blog (lots of people, oddly, don’t do this) in your bio. Then follow/like other beer bloggers. Hopefully, they’ll do what we do and check out your link, where they’ll find a month or two’s worth of decent content which suggests you’re worth keeping an eye on. By all means follow the big ones like Pete Brown – he’s always interesting – but you might get a more immediate response from others who are at a similar stage in the process to you. Don’t mither people: ‘I’ve just started a blog – please take a look and Retweet!’

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Blogging About Blogging: Speak Your Brains!

Pipe, hat and pint.

Bad news: this is a blog post about blog posting. There’ll be a post that’s actually about beer later today. If you choose to read on, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

We’ve been reflecting lately on our tendency to self-censor. We used to shelve posts quite frequently, finished and illustrated, because, at the last minute, we found ourselves anticipating a bad-tempered response and couldn’t be bothered to face it.

Click to enter the navel…

News, Nuggets & Longreads 14/06/2014

Welcome to the Inn, 1952.

That question has reared it’s head again: “Is beer blogging dead?” Here’s our response in the form of a special all Blogoshire version of our Saturday morning round-up.

→ Jeff at Beervana has been pondering (not for the first time) the meaning of ‘beer styles’: I drank a bottle of Crux’s Better Off Red, a “barrel-aged Flanders-style red ale.”  What exactly was Larry Sidor thinking when he used those terms?  What should I be thinking when I read them?”

→ Adrian Tierney-Jones isn’t a blogger, but he does write a blog, and he’s been expansive and feisty of late. His piece on how fed up he is of ‘beervangelism’ and the ‘sacred duty’ of the beer writer is a great read.

→ Lars Marius Garshol has a profile of an accountant who became a brewer after a stroke left him out of work and depressed: He travelled around the US for a while, fairly aimlessly by the sound of it, until he hit upon an abandoned brewery in Montana. This, he decided, was what he was going to do.”

→ It’s not something we’d be comfortable doing, but Tandleman recently took a thermometer to some London pubs and came up with numbers to support his feeling that cask ale in the capital is generally too warm: one pint came in at 17.2°c!

→ Connor Murphy’s survey of UK supermarket beer continued with a trip to ASDA, where he managed to find decent beers across a range of styles for a tenner.

→ Paul Bailey (no relation) has been posting a series of longish pieces on the family breweries of Britain, based largely on his personal experience as a drinker from the 1970s to the present. This one on Ruddles is a good place to start.

Beers Manchester has been undertaking a survey of the city’s historic pubs. Part one appeared some time ago, but parts two and three are new.

Some final thoughts: there are more blogs than ever and we think the standard of writing and research has improved across the board since we started in 2007.

As with breweries, though, the more there are, the harder it is to make an impression, and thus harder to get a conversation going.

Let’s put it bluntly: there is no demand for another blog reviewing readily available beers!

That’s not to say you shouldn’t do it if you enjoy it, but don’t expect anyone else to whoop with excitement.

If we were starting a new blog tomorrow, we would want to make sure it either (a) had a distinct and dazzling prose style or (b) covered something no-one was writing about. Preferably both.