It's been an amazing trip and I've learned quite a bit from my colleagues here at #BBC11. Re-connecting faces with their Twitter handles has been a joy. I've met some new folks for the first time as well and all in all, I'd say that everyone has been great company for a slightly hazy, hop-scented weekend. Believe me, I'll be posting some roundups of the events and some detailed insights but right now I'm really beat up. It's been a long weekend of eating, drinking beer, panel discussions, blogging, drinking some more beer, more panel discussions, tweeting, facebooking, traveling, texting, snapping pictures, hunting for Bigfoot...
One theme that kept popping up at the Conference was finding one's own voice in the blogoshphere. Maintaining your originality is tough enough, let alone dealing with the cacophony of shouting that sometimes distracts you from your own work. I have been inspired by many of the friends and colleagues I've met over the past two BBCs. They have ignited my creativity as well as my awareness of several issues that flame beer-themed debates across the country. I have legal issues to write about, community events to organize, publicity to stoke up. However, time and energy could be an issue. In the pursuit of more investigative endeavors, several bloggers have seriously reduced their beer reviewing efforts.
Wait, what? I don't think I can do that. I mean yes, I have already formulated several articles in my head that I would like to write. And yes, I have several collaborative projects that I would like to propose. But truth be told, why exactly did I begin writing this blog in the first place? Because when the craft beer scene began to explode in my region (hehehe) I could only find beer reviews on the big two... Okay, I'll say the names: Ratebeer and Beer Advocate. These reviews sounded informative but I'd never know because they were uber-technical and used such ridiculously flowery language that the reader would get lost trying to figure out what exactly a resinous finish might be. And yeah, lacing on the glass is neat, but I don't need to read a paragraph on it. I wanted to know how it tasted, how it smelled, and if it could be compared to anything I might actually drink. So that's what I decided to do.
Now who was my audience? Beer geeks who loved craft beer, who loved hearing about the hard-to find stuff, but who were too lazy to write about it themselves. Basically, my friends (sorry, guys, but you know it's true). Maybe more beer geeks would be intrigued by descriptive beer reviews with good pictures and they would feel a sense of community, a "national" unity in which they could participate. These citizens could submit their own reviews and pictures so their voice could be heard, though the unifying voice of the site would be my own. That's why they read Ferment Nation in the first place, right?
People do read my blog, but not so many that I can begin to feel super important. I've been figuring that I need more creativity, more self-confidence, more usable features for my readers. Social media is important to spread the word and develop relationships in the industry, but some real thoughtful analyses of bigger situations or a fine-tuning of a more specific niche could really help me along. And that all makes sense, but...
If the present finds more and more excellent bloggers with sophisticated palates dropping off from the review business, what will I be left with when I want to read some reviews for myself? Back to square one. So guess what: I am not going to stop reviewing beers. I am going to become more involved in my local craft beer community. I am going to become more valuable to my current readers. I am going to jumpstart my blog by kicking my own creativity in the arse. I am going to start brewing. I am going to reach out to other bloggers whose good work needs to be spread and who may be able to use some of my work as well. But I am not going to stop reviewing beers. It's what I do. That is my voice. That is my value. Oh, the Ferment Naton blog will get better and better, and there may be some alter-egos that emerge from the din. Stay tuned, dear citizens, and spread the word to your friends. Keep sending your reviews to us at email@example.com.
To my fellow bloggers: if you happen to be curating some content for a post and need a review, check mine out. You like it, you want to use it, it's yours. There are full-on reviews with really nice pictures and there are lots of first impression "Presidential Brief" reviews that squeeze a description into a quick text-message sized post. Ferment Nation has some slideshow-style video reviews and some brewery coverage as well, so if you think it's useful, just send me an email. I will be reaching out to you, if you don't mind. Naturally, full credit and some links are a no-brainer.
So what is the point of this little rant of mine? I can rediscover my blog's voice without having to reinvent it. That's the point. I sincerely hope you enjoy the Ferment Nation. Any knucklehead who says that they would like to have fewer followers or make less money is a liar and needs a purple nurple for his or her crime. Of course I would love to reach a larger audience, but I won't change what I do to achieve my goals as a blogger, I will simply do it better. Thanks, #BBC11. All hail #craftbeer!