On #craftwriting

Since I had my first Two Hearted Ale, my introduction to craft beer has been slow and steady. I pick up the latest and greatest from Bell's, Brewery Vivant, Dark Horse, Founders, Greenbush, Short's, and others about once a month, often along with something from an out-of-state brewery or two that just started distributing in Michigan. And I keep track of what I drink in a notebook and sometimes take a picture for posterity. 

However, my introduction to writing about beer has been slower and not quite as steady. Beyond Make Mine Potato and a couple of beer-store and brewery blogs, I don't know much about beer writing. So, when I learned of Craft Writing: Beer, The Digital, and Craft Culture, I just jumped at the opportunity to go. 

The drive south on I-75 tested my patience between Dayton and Cincinnati, but I got into Lexington, checked in at my hotel, and walked over to Country Boy Brewing for the night-before get-together. I really couldn't imagine a better start to the conference. I got to meet UK people I'd only known via Twitter, sample some good food, and have some really good beer. 

The next morning, coffee and a breakfast pastry from Sunrise Bakery (recommended by a UK person) soothed what little hangover I had and energized me for the walk to the UK campus and the Craft Writing conference. And I was able to sit in the back row and joke with Twitter friends before things got started.

Conference organizer Jeff Rice began by talking about why we were all there. "You're here because you believe in the story of craft beer," he said. Of course, Rice also talked about writing, how it is integral to craft beer, sparking and sustaining our interest in craft beer, shaping our relationships with and teaching us a lot about craft beer. Variations of Rice's comments came up in each following session.

The first session had Stan Hieronymous, Julie Johnson, and Teri Fahrendorf discussing (among other things) the influence of writing related to craft beer and the rise of both, but what stood out to me was a near-seamless interweaving of personal, professional, and industrial histories. There were echoes of such interweaving in subsequent talks by Roger Baylor and Jeremy Cowan and in Garrett Oliver's keynote, during which he mentioned the brewers' commonality of the "diversion of an intended path." Oliver also implored those in attendance to ask who they thought they were going to be, what they sacrificed, and who helped them along in becoming brewers. 

The speakers prior to Oliver addressed these questions, but perhaps none more than Fahrendorf and Cowan. Both spoke with energy and humor about their craft-beer lives, Cowan detailing in frank terms about what happens when "you let an English major start a brewery" and Fahrendorf marking her development from computer programmer to brewer to founder of the Pink Boots Society and beyond. Again, these were interwoven histories, seamlessly personal and professional stories.

Now, I'm glossing here because there are already some conference recaps out online and they're better than what I could attempt to provide. The most comprehensive and arguably best I've read is by Jessica Miller of heybrewtiful.com: "Beer Nerds Unite Over Kentucky Craft Writing Symposium." Kevin Patterson of Lexington's The Beer Trappe offers a similar, pointed perspective with "The Elephant in the Craft Beer Room." Conference speaker Roger Baylor's "Not so simple a symposium"  and Hoperatives' "Writing About Beer" are alike in their more experiential notes on the conference. And Shea Anderson spins a few conclusions from an additional viewpoint: "5 Valuable Marketing Insights from Craft Beer Writing Conference." 

I direct attention to Miller and others because these writers and their pieces gave me more of what the conference did: an education. There were plenty of names mentioned and faces seen I didn't recognize but that were respected if not revered by many in attendance. Learning about what people like Michael Jackson, Stan Hieronymous, Julie Johnson, Teri Fahrendorf, Garrett Oliver, and others have done and, in many cases, continue to do for craft beer and for writing was invaluable. 

Craft beer culture is still an entity I'm coming to know. And I'm coming to know it as much through writing as through beer. Countless books and beers were mentioned throughout the conference and now I have so much more to read and to drink. I plan to start with the Baylor-recommended Tastes of Paradise, by Wolfgang Schivelbusch, and something out of my six-pack sampler from The Beer Trappe. 

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For anyone interested, here are my unedited conference notes (sorry I left so much out!): SESSION 1 JR: "You're here because you believe in the story of craft beer." Writing is integral to craft beer, sparks and sustains interest in craft beer, shapes our relationships with craft beer, teaches us a lot about craft beer. Stan Hieronymous: "There's nothing like this anywhere else." Michael Jackson's Beerhunter series, realbeer.com, SH's pride in newspaper/journalism background, emphasis on beer writing in journalistic context infographics and listicles: "the world reduced to nothing" "Craft beer gave us something to write about." comparative ToCs from magazines; technical, flavor, lifestyle history and present of craft writing parallels between technology and craft beer interest/development brewers own the same (online) space as writers Good Beer Hunting - great photography discussion about influence of writing related to craft beer and the rise of both. beer "widely perceived as a lower form of drink" beer and travel, lifestyle (different lifestyle than what Budweiser and MillerCoors offer) narrative, style, questions of audience and purpose how to do it, where to find it, what to drink "let's write what we want to read" Julie Johnson: dramatic changes in beer and writing about beer print news as only contact with brewery 1979: 50 breweries, 2013: 2400 breweries changes in complexity, not so much in volume (writing enabled this change) "easier to find good writing about beer" 35 years of All About Beer Maltose Falcons Beer Mate of the Month, historical baggage consumers to connoisseurs, homebrewers, collectors tasting vs. chugging articles stockbrokers rate the Japanese beers beer style introductions, reader-tailored willingness to support new breweries numerous examples, threads drawn between craft beer and writing (first mention of "micro-brewery" and "brewpub") and development of both Michael Jackson's sensible writing about beer handing the vocabulary to the consumer. power of story, potency Teri Fahrendorf: personal and professional and industrial histories "I don't brew brands; I brew styles" attending to the needs of craft beer over personal needs; that was Michael Jackson technical proficiency - be a beer champion, be gracious Through all three morning talks, near-seamless interwoven personal, professional, and industrial histories. email, listserv, virtual communities TH's more specific history related to identifying women brewers informing new craft brewers of past knowledge, the "mash hoe" example origins of Pink Boots Society brewer and gender representation: pink boots digital and online first, print and face-to-face later plenty of pivotal moments So far, an interesting glimpse into a culture I'm still coming to know. SESSION 2 Introduction by Daniel Harrison of Country Boy Brewing: "iconic moments in my life" and beer Roger Baylor, The Potable Curmudgeon amends Frank Zappa quote about rock journalism writing because "couldn't speak" writing as central to being, compulsive act, to inspire thought some disgust with what passes for dicourse now craft as just merchandising -localism doctrine - our place, our community, shift spending - Goose Island - phantom goose, money goes to Belgium - ideas matter - primacy of ideas, place - carbon footprint - lonely semis passing in the night - sacred cows - Sierra Nevada, about California, Ruthless Rye - egalitarianism - no VIP entry at festivals - Tastes of Paradise - Wolfgang Schivelbusch - social history of intoxicants, spice as status symbol. beer selfies It matters where it comes from. what gets us away from the craft beer revolution different demands from different markets Jeremy Cowan, this thing we call our job "how not to do what I have done" anxiety-inducing, horrifying, rewarding, soul-fulfilling what happens when you let an English major start a brewery dirty word: contract brewer BOP: brew on premise "I know who butters my bread" = beer writers tracking He'Brew the side of a beer label "i encourage you to learn math" contract brewer - contract writer all the help Jeremy has had, family effort what lives on brewing, writing, publishing "miracle of modern American finance" "no success without writers" Q&A objectification/hoarding of beer RB: root of what's interesting, Busch Copper Lager - flavor w/o pretension, distraction from making good beer numerous parallels, numerous approaches and similarities great writing, not consistent classic good writing brand vs. style - "steam" & "Bavaria" when words fall out of use style preservation, brand preservation JJ: "Don't share crappy stuff" TF: "Keep the conversation going." SH: "Read the best science writing of every year." RB: "I'd like to know what's going on where you are." JC: "There should be room for a breadth of craft beer writing…There should be a SIDEWAYS for beer." educational feedback loop between brewers and writers more palate uniqueness out there - TF inviting to the beer table JJ: "Craft beer has done a better job talking to and with women than Budweiser." flavor vs. sex (lifestyle), dialogue phyto-estrogens in hops regular vs. extreme beer what's new, what's rare quiet joining how far ahead brewers have to be, reacting to an ever-demanding CB culture what's good right here vs. what's new elsewhere driven by novelty vs. localism advocacy vs. journalism KEYNOTE Garrett Oliver reading William Tizzard(SP?), brewer and writer no discussion of localism if we didn't already have what we do "Your first pint should be from that brewery." importance/value of journalistic background if/when writing about beer discussion of writing process range of writing, recipes to sales sheets technical/workplace communication IBUs and the way we speak, Wine experts "aren't stupid enough to talk about these things." how we communicate beer "Perhaps you should look delicious." forgotten about sounding delicious writing about beer how we write about sports "Flavor is an action in time." "Would you go out of your way for this pint?" - GABF vs. British Beer Festival judging questions hang on to nomenclature, but not everything anecdotes - that's beer oral culture to print culture regarding dry-hopping, bottle-conditioning turn beer into what I know it is: people "A stuck mash is a personal affront." Berliner Weisse diaspora "You don't know and you can't know." (quality sums up the day - gary spedding) "Find in your heart humility." going out there and digging commonality of "diversion of an intended path" "We love this more than anybody else does." fall in love, become poor "Who did you think you were going to be?" "What did you sacrifice?" "Who helped you?" Young's kettles as gods Q&A nomenclature is cultural power. French cuisine. hollandaise, champagne. codification of a thing. names are important. a matter of intent - "craft" timorous! "writers can be leaders in ways brewers can't. writers can drive the culture." "Sophistication is an open mind." what gets the hits. I could listen to Garrett Oliver talk for hours. BEER Country Boy - Shotgun Wedding, Rx Strength, Cougar Bait, Danger Cherry Stout Beer Trappe - Stone aged in white wine barrels, Brooklyn German Pilsener West Sixth - Sister Sue Nitro, Snakes in a Barrel, Simcoe Blue Stallion - Smoked Lager