Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ten years of serving at The Brew Lounge - Thanks for the Beers and Cheers - Parts 7-15

Should I apologize in advance? I was told no one reads anymore. Or, at least no one has time to read. Or has attention span to read or .....Nah, no apologies. So on that note, grab a beer and here we go.

September 2015 brought the 10th anniversary of my writing here at The Brew Lounge. Back in the early weeks of 2015, I began a series of postings meant to commemorate and bring some sort of retrospective to the myriad ways in which I've covered the brewing industry from Philadelphia to San Francisco and beyond. From running to beer events to homebrewing and much much more.

My Part 1 posting, even re-reading it now, I believe to be a pretty darn good encapsulation of how I've reflected upon these last ten years.

Then this little 416-page book of mine hit the streets in June. I did Part 6 of this series in July and was due to finish it all by the anniversary in September. Ha, to think!

Since June and the book release, I've done 48 book signing events and will have 51 under my belt by year's end. Truly, if I never did before (which isn't at all true), I now appreciate all the more and without a doubt the difficult work that brewery and distributor reps undertake in order to bring great beer to us all at interesting and engaging events.

With that as background, I'm going for the lightning round here to close out the content that I had planned for Parts 7-15. I truly have enjoyed the last ten years of pulling together the people, places, and beers. It's been exhausting much of the time, but I wouldn't trade it for the experiences I've had, people I've met, places I've seen and the travels to find them, and beers I've drunk.

What will 2016 bring? A return to a more well-rounded, independent, unbiased flow of information here at The Brew Lounge. I contend without wavering that I've never ceased being independent and unbiased. But, in the past couple years, this site has become less well-rounded (as my waistline has become more so). The only thing that I've continued with absolute consistency is the weekly and monthly calendar of events. That will, no doubt, persist as they continue to be well-trafficked postings. But, you can be sure to see more establishment reviews, beer reviews, and interesting insights into the industry that I'd become known for over the years.

So, let's put a bow on the last ten years by grabbing a beer and going down memory lane to remember....

Construction Updates
  To say there's been explosive growth in the last five to ten years would be an understatement. No possible way to keep up when even the Brewers Association can barely.

  But I attempted to. With a full index that you can see here at this link, Beginning in 2005, I attempted to capture each significant brewery-related endeavor in the Philadelphia region, and then some.

  The one closest to my house, McKenzie Brew House in Frazer/Malvern, was one of the first I covered and it generated quite a bit of interest and interestingly still today gathers a fair number of page views each week.

  Honestly, this is some of the grunt work that I'm most proud of.

Beer Running
  You probably, like many out there, laughed back in the days when I would write about the splendors of mixing my two passions — running and beer.

  I believed in it so much that long before there were much more than a few weirdo brewery 5-Ks in this country, I began a series of Philly Beer Week-based "beer (fun) runs".

  Cut to the chase, these became so popular that in working with Dock Street, we created a 5-K race around the home turf of the brewery. Closed streets. Police presence. Bib numbers. Official timing, real prizes, and an after party. A real bona fide race. During Philly Beer Week. The amount of scoffing would not deter me. And most giggles and sneering eventually turned to disbelief when we hit our maximum registration of 400. This was in 2012.

  Further proof of how much running and beer mean to me? I can recall instantly my finish time in all nine marathons I've run, exactly which friends and family came to cheer me on during the race and join for a post-race meal and where they stood during the race, but also my first post-race beer. Don't believe me? New York City #1 (Brooklyn Pennant); Marine Corps in DC (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale); Philly #1 (Tied House/General Lafayette Escape); Pittsburgh #1 (Church Brew Works Pious Monk Dunkel); Philly #2 (Dogfish Head 60 Minute); Pittsburgh #2 (Duvel); Harrisburg (Tröegs Sunshine Pils); Pittsburgh #3 (waited 'til Monday); New York City #2 (Brooklyn Brown).

"Social" Media
  It's more important than ever to be social. Or is it? Or how do you do that? The more time that goes by, I'm not sure if I really know. It doesn't help that in the exploding industry, the communication dynamic has become more complicated.

  I took to Facebook in the '08-ish timeframe. And, even though I had a Twitter account, it took me a few more years to warm to it. Throughout, I'd post videos to YouTube, even including interviews. Never did anything real with Pinterest and only just finally got on the Instagram bandwagon in the past few months. It's all become a complex web of a mess and all important in some way shape or form, but certainly does consume a bunch of time that I still wonder how it all pays off.

  So, yeah, I continue to chip away at a social media presence. It works to a certain degree unless, in Facebook's case, you experiment with paying for ad placement and later stop. Then they disown you and drive your penetration down. But I won't concern you with that.

Beer Reviews
  I want to get back to doing some sort of beer reviews to share with you. I still believe that they are instructive exercises for both me and you. I just need to figure what the best template is for sharing.

  My reviews will continue to live here, so please don't bother asking if I'll put them on any of the rating websites or that beer-check-in service. Not my cup of tea whatsoever.

  Here's a full rundown of beers sampled and discussed at The Brew Lounge in the past. Some oldies and goodies on this list as you'll see.

Beer Events
  As I'd mentioned, one thing has stood out loud and clear to me as a fan-favorite around here: the beer events calendar. It has always been at no-cost and with no judgement. Fact is, there has not been a beer events calendar like it in the ten years I've been doing it. There is no pay-to-list and anything I become aware of from simple free tastings to expensive dinners and mega festivals will get listed.

  Not only has my aim been to arm you with information you need to know to plan your own personal calendar, it has also been to provide feedback from those events that I personally attend. Sure, my attendance is occasionally comp'ed, but when it is, that has never — repeat, never — tainted my always independent and always unbiased reaction in covering the event.

  Pictures, as well as video, are always very important in this aspect of The Brew Lounge and you'll find them scattered throughout the event highlights both here and linked typically at Picasa and/or Facebook. The Brewer's Plate has been an annual event that has never escaped my radar as one of Philly's best. For a full rundown of all beer event highlights that I've covered, check this out.

A Note of Thanks
  No matter how big little ol' craft beer gets, the underpinnings of the segment will always be rooted in a supportive environment of successful entrepreneurs happy to help out those that are deserving along the way.

  This could not have been more evident to me than throughout the last couple years of research, writing, and promoting my book. Sure, the business of beer is more cut throat at every level than it ever has been. Being naive is no longer an option on the pathway to success. On the other hand, it would be easy to turn a jaded eye on the industry and say "it's only business". But, it's not that simple in this industry that has just a little something extra special that can still be seen if you look closely for long enough.

  For me, it was finding the unwavering support (and sometimes surprising out-of-the-woodwork support) for my book efforts. I truly believe that for my professional representation of the industry over the past ten years, the people representing the establishments in my book that gave me whatever I needed throughout my research and writing and then, even more importantly, gave me what I needed to effectively promote the book (event time and space; media plugs; etc.) will be the ones that I long remember and can never thank enough. Those that didn't? Well, it won't steer me clear of them in covering them in the future, but on a personal level I now have a different perspective.

  The brewers and bar owners are way too numerous to mention by name and I collectively thank you all. On the media side, the likes of Lew Bryson, Jack Curtin, Arthur Etchells, Mat Falco, Danya Henninger, Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, Tara Nurin, Origlio Beverage/Draught Lines, Philly Beer Week, Philly Tap Finder, Profile PR, Don Russell, and Carolyn Smagalski make a well-rounded list, yet small enough that I'm sure I inadvertently and unfortunately left someone out, of folks that have had my back and supported me through the years and during my book project. And, of course, there's an obligatory tip of the glass to the consummate beer writer, Michael Jackson, for whom I was honored to give a memorial toast in 2007 at The Drafting Room in Exton, Pa.

That's it in a nutshell. I almost feel like burying a dirty little tidbit in here to either prove or disprove that any of you are still interested in reading anything of significant length. Or maybe a piece of "embargoed information" of which I seem to get many but yet never get the right to "break the news". No bother, that's never been my game anyway.

You might be thankful that this was all concluded in one massive posting. Each of the sections above was originally intended to be their own distinct and much-longer postings spaced a few weeks apart. Hopefully, at a minimum, you skimmed through this and had some interesting bits and pieces of takeaway. It's a longer form of writing, but that's what I'm most comfortable with and what I'll more/less be returning to in 2016. I'll save a spot for you at the bar.

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