13 February 2012

Thoughts on the Beer Bloggers Conference in Indianapolis

As you may have heard, Indianapolis was chosen to host this year's American edition of the now-annual Beer Bloggers Conference. Organized by the Montana-based adventure tourism company Zephyr Adventures, the Beer Bloggers conference - like the North American Wine Bloggers Conference before it - seeks to bring together like-minded bloggers for a series of sessions on topics ranging from identifying beer types to the three-tier system.

Hoosier Beer Geek has never been a beer blog that really talked about "blogging". Early on we read up on the subject, did our best to implement the generally agreed upon best practices, and ran with it. The rest - networking with local breweries, distributors, and retailers, consulting, events, and merchandise sales, getting a job in the beer industry, getting paid to write for traditional press, creating a series of highly successful beer events, and helping foster an ever-growing Indiana beer community - came out of a genuine love for the people behind the people behind the beer, and the products they bring to thirsty drinkers like ourselves.

The truth is, none of what we've done is hard - but it was and continues to be a lot of work. From the beginning we've done our best to get to know the folks behind the beer, meeting with/interviewing anyone who could spare the time, spending a ton of time in bars and breweries, sharing who we were and what we do, and eventually volunteering our time to help put together the first Brewers of Indiana Guild Winterfest. It was through constant effort and genuine enthusiasm that we eventually wore away at the tough brewer exterior and established our place within the community. Guided by our friendships, we do our best to highlight what's good within the community. "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say it" became the guiding principle, and promotion and defense of our brewers became paramount to who we are. None of us are perfect, but we all strive to understand each other and be better at what we do. Our accomplishments - both paid and otherwise - have happened only because of our work and reputation.

Now the nation's largest conference for people like ourselves, selling what we consider a highly emotionally (but definitely not financially) rewarding way of life, sets it sights on our home base. Winning the bidding process for the conference against the likes of Ashville, Austin, and St. Louis was certainly a coup for those involved, and for that we offer our sincere admiration. We have paid very close attention to the event, and only wish to offer a few suggestions and/or regrets.

1) While Chicago is certainly a fantastic beer city, Goose Island is a fantastic brewery, and the visit to both Goose and the second (yet to be determined) brewery are listed as per-conference events, we can't help but feel that this time could be better spent in our Indiana breweries. While I'm sure that Goose Island stepped up with both time, space, and financial support in a way that none of our breweries could, there are so many great options in Indiana that shouldn't be missed. Nevertheless, we can understand the draw that Goose Island may hold for festival attendees.

2) After the morning brewery visit on Friday, attendees take a bus ride to Indianapolis for registration, an introduction, a keynote speech, live beer blogging, dinner in a local park(?), followed by a party at the hotel.

Saturday, attendees will have morning conference content sessions, lunch on their own, more conference content, dinner at World Class Beverages/Monarch, and then another evening party.

Sunday, attendees will have morning conference content, another keynote speech, and wrap-up.

Now I know that none of these details are final, but I can't help but wonder why any beer blogger could visit a city throwing the state's largest beer festival (the Indiana Microbrewer's Festival in Opti Park) and spend the day not at that festival, but instead listening to a talk about monetizing their blog (and best of luck with that!).

This is a huge lost opportunity for everyone involved. Nearly 100% of Indiana's breweries can be guaranteed to be attending Microbrewers Festival, and yet a huge cadre of super-dedicated and outspoken drinkers will not be attending the festival.

When combined with the fact the zero Indiana brewery visits are currently advertised to take place during the event, it seems odd that the organizers of the Beer Bloggers Conference bothered visiting Indiana at all. In a city with a wealth of award-winning brewery options, and a state with the highest percentage of medals at 2011's Great American Beer Festival, (and yes, a famous inferiority complex) it seems almost insulting that at least some of the focus isn't placed on Indiana beer.

Luckily, it's not too late - there's plenty of room for changes in schedule, and not all details are final. But as a voice for beer in Indiana, and as beer bloggers ourselves, we're pleading with the event organizers - keep Indiana in mind when visiting Indianapolis. Your event will be better for it.


  1. I could only see a beer blogger attending this if a) they take themselves to seriously or b) they aim to make money.

    Personally, I could see my time and money better spent visiting breweries and drinking beer.

  2. Conferences like this sound like they are more about making money from their attendees than advancing the love of beer in any way.

  3. The Brewer's Guild of Indiana is one of the conference partners and we are working with Bob Mack at World Class there in Indy as well. There are still many details to be confirmed and finished up in regards to the Beer Bloggers Conference, but I will say the enthusiastic support we have been shown by the local Indy crew ensures that the Indiana beer experience will be shared with beer bloggers. We're looking forward to bringing bloggers from all over the country to share in and learn about both the Indiana beer scene as well as the world of beer in general.

    elle potter
    community & logistics director

  4. *too seriously, you'd think I'd learn to proof read as a beer blogger. :)

  5. As someone who attended the inaugural Beer Bloggers Conference in Boulder Co and worked to bring the 2012 Conference to Indianapolis, I can say that this conference (just like any other blogging conference) is about networking as much as it is content. The connections and friends I made in Boulder have been more beneficial than any other social networking event I've attended. Bloggers who are interested in not only hearing some really great speakers from around the craft beer community but having the opportunity to connect face to face with other bloggers and talk about what's important to them and challenges they face are the ones who will get the most out of Beer Bloggers Conference.
    The conference fee is actually quite low compared to other blogger conferences (Blissdom is $120/ticket, Blogher starts at $200) The Beer Bloggers Conference relies heavily on sponsorship to make this affordable to citizen bloggers who don't make money off their blogs.
    There are a lot of pieces to BBC12 that haven't been announced or finalized yet due to most of us being involved in a little football game a couple of weeks ago. I'm looking forward to feedback from bloggers and helping shape a great conference that will be worth while and a really great time for the beer blogger community!

    Tamre Mullins
    Girls Pint Out

  6. Being a sponsor of this event and having been very much involved in the process to get the conference to Indiana, I can assure you that the timing of the conference was meant to coincide with the Brewers Guild Micro Fest for the purposes of being at the Brewers Guild Micro Fest. The conference is planning to include having all attendees at the Micro Fest.

    Also, there is no dinner in a park scheduled. There is a plan for the Brewers Guild to host a dinner at the City Market.

  7. It's great to see that many of the concerns have already been addressed! As you can probably tell, we received our information through the Agenda section of the Beer Bloggers Conference website. Is anyone planning on updating the website with this information? I doubt that we're the only ones getting our information from there...

  8. Hi Rodney!

    Right now, the agenda on our website is the outline of what we are working on. We will be making adjustments to the Beer Bloggers Conference agenda as we confirm all the details and make sure to keep everyone posted with those details as they come about on our blog. For instance, we will be announcing our second keynote speaker in the next week. I'm always happy to answer any questions or concerns that you or anyone else have about the agenda in the meantime. (my email is elle @ zephyradventures.com)

  9. Thanks, Elle!

    One more note, the conference agenda has the drive from Chicago being 3.5 hours (which is a good estimate in a bus), but it doesn't take into account the time difference. It would leave at 11:30 Central and arrive at 4:00 Eastern.