December 31, 2012

The Most Influential Beer Bloggers of 2012 (Part 1)

With the new year less than a day away, I want to take a moment to recognize six beer bloggers who have influenced me and my writing over the past year. Whether you are a beer blogger, industrial professional, or casual beer drinker, these are people worth paying attention to in 2013.

Each person on the list has a uniquely interesting background, but these writers have a lot in common as well. All are self-starters and completely dedicated to sharing their passion for craft beer. And each person on the list has taken their beer blogging success to a higher level, either by writing for a major publication, working with a professional brewery, or launching their own entrepreneurial endeavor.

This list will be broken up into two parts, the second of which will be released tomorrow. Without further delay and in no order of preference, these are the Local Beer Blog's Most Influential Beer Bloggers of 2012:

1. Win Bassett - Executive Director of NC the Brewers Guild and Social Media/Education Expert for All About Beer

If you're at all plugged in to craft beer chatter on Twitter, chances are you've come across Win Bassett. He's the Executive Director for the North Carolina Brewers Guild and Social Media Expert for All About Beer Magazine. He has also contributed to Southern Brews News, Serious Eats, and SavorNC Magazine. 

But beer wasn't Win's first career choice. He earned a degree in electrical engineering before going to law school, and then practiced law in Charlotte and Raleigh. Before long, Win caught a heavy dose of the craft beer bug.

LBB: How did you get started writing about beer? At what point did you decide that it was time to take it to the next level?

Part of Win's job is to "protect and
promote" North Carolina craft beer.
WB: I started with a friend in August of 2011 and focused mainly on North Carolina beer news. I enjoyed it so much, that I started freelancing for other publications (newspapers, magazines, etc.) at night after work. I decided to take it to the next level after I realized that I could not do anything else other than write about the beer community. It consumed me.

LBB: How did you get involved with All About Beer?

WB: It was one of the publications I freelanced for while working as a DA. On the day I heard that I got the Guild job, I resigned from the DA’s Office and told All About Beer Magazine that I would camp out in their office until they started paying me to be on staff. Needless to say, I didn't have to resort to that.

LBB: What's the most unusual beer experience you've ever written about?

WB: I haven't really had any "unusual" experiences in the traditional sense of the word, but if you simply mean "out of the ordinary," judging the Samuel Adams LongShot Homebrew Contest with Jim Koch ranks up there, along with attending Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp.

LBB: What are some of your responsibilities as Director of the NC Brewers Guild?

WB: I protect and promote North Carolina's 70+ craft breweries. This entails everything from lobbying for better beer laws to promoting them on social media to attending festivals.

LBB: What advice do you have for those who want to be part of the craft beer movement?

WB: Go to every event, and meet every person. Become entrenched in the community. People will start paying attention to you.

2. Eric Steen - Founder, Focus on the Beer & Beers Made By Walking

Eric has earned the support of several
Colorado breweries, like Wynkoop, for
his Beers Made by Walking Program.

Eric Steen is the mastermind behind the Colorado-based beer blog Focus on the Beer. He also founded "Beers Made By Walking," a program in which beer enthusiasts go on a hike and identify wild ingredients for brewing, which are then made into a beer by a homebrewer and/or commercial brewery team and served at a release event. It's such a cool concept, that New Belgium got on board and helped make a lavender and plum bock for Focus on the Beer's anniversary party.

Like many in the beer business, Eric has a background outside of beer. Prior to launching his blog, he studied art, and now teaches art in Colorado. Eric's inner artist informs his perception of craft beer: 
"I see beer as a type of drinkable sculpture, it's beautiful in many ways, and it's also this social object that can bring people together."

LBB: Who's your favorite beer writer/blogger?

ES: That's a tough call! If I had to choose just one that I like reading the most I would say Jeff Alworth of Beervana. His articles are informed by history and experience, his discussions are balanced by his readings of other blogs, and they always seem so relevant and informative and pliable

LBB: What's the most exciting craft beer experience you've ever written about?

ES: Another tough one! This summer I wrote a short couple paragraphs about my experiences at a convenience store in Oregon, but I wrote it for a Colorado audience, for people who hate the idea of beer in convenience stores.

In terms of an event that I've covered, I've really enjoyed looking at photos and coming up with a recap for events like the Vail Big Beers Festival which takes place every January. The event itself is so amazing that I just can't wait to go and take notes and see what I can tell others that could be of interest.

Finally, my other writers have done some fantastic articles. Isaac Grindeland wrote a two-part article on the past, present, and future of Growlers. [Read Part 1 here.] Scott Simmons has recently started a series called Cellarmanship [IntroInterview with New Belgium] which is about cellaring beer at home. While I only serve as an editor and designer for these articles they are the ones that I'm most happy with and that I'm most proud of as the 'director of the blog.'

LBB: What advice do you have for other beer bloggers?

ES: I'd say if you're interested in starting a beer blog then just start writing, and write a lot. You'll get better and better as you go. 

Be yourself, do things how you want, say things in your own way without being gimmicky and you can be happy for your own integrity.

Invite people that think a bit differently than you to participate as writers. I've set up a few rules for them because I know how I want my blog to exist, but really they can talk about whatever they want.

Also, I have a photographer, Daniel Flanders, who is a good friend and he started taking photos for the blog. I'd say without him the blog would be at least half as interesting. Photos really make the whole thing so much more interesting and beautiful.

I've learned a lot about my statistics by using and that has helped me see what people are interested in.

LBB: What craft beer-related goals do you have for 2013?

ES: I am trying to make Beers Made By Walking a bigger and bigger part of what I do, so that's one thing I'm definitely working on. I'd like more educational posts, more educational events, more people writing and participating in the blog, while still keeping it focused mostly on the local scene. 

Perhaps the biggest thing I've been thinking about is my role as a consumer versus being a part of the industry. Through blogging and events I've begun to think that perhaps I have some way of fitting into the industry without being just a consumer. I'm not sure what this means in its entirety, but it's something that I'm thinking about a lot and maybe I'll know more about it in a year's timing.

3. Billy Broas – Founder of Billy Brew and the HomeBrew Academy has been a great resource for me in terms of homebrewing and beer trends. Billy regularly publishes tips and tricks for homebrewing, plus a good mix of videos, book reviews, and other interesting beer info. Want to learn about yeast washing, cooking with beer, or how to build a keezer? Billy's your guy. 

Not only has Billy built a successful blog, he's the founder of the HomeBrew Academy, a site for homebrewers with any level of experience. He offers a free basic plan, plus a Premium version for those who want to "Go Brewmaster." 

Coincidentally, Billy's uncle was my fourth grade teacher, but there's no nepotism here: Billy earned his spot on this list through dedication to providing highly useful and informative content to homebrewers and craft beer fans.

LBB: Can you tell me a little about what you do professionally outside of Billy Brew and the Homebrew Academy?

Billy's videos at the Homebrew Academy provide
helpful advice and innovative ideas for homebrewers.
BB: I currently work for a small consulting company in the clean energy industry. We help the public and private sectors begin projects in solar, wind, and other renewable technologies.

LBB: What's your favorite beer experience you've ever written about?

BB: I attended my first National Homebrewers Conference in 2012 and wrote about it. It was a really great experience and one I was excited to relay to my readers. I recommend the conference for any serious homebrewer.

LBB: What advice do you have for aspiring beer bloggers?

BB: My advice is to always focus on your readers. Before starting a post, ask yourself: "Will my readers really benefit from this?" If you always put yourself in their shoes then your traffic can't help but go up.

LBB: What craft beer-related goals do you have for 2013?

BB: My main goal is to pass the BJCP exam in March. Besides that, I want to continue to grow The Homebrew Academy and start doing live trainings in my area.


Cheers to Win, Eric, and Billy, and thanks for all your hard work! 

Everyone have a fun and safe NYE and check back tomorrow for Part 2!

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