Death to Beer Cocktails and Collaboration Beers: the Latest Rant…

It’s been a wild ride in the world of craft beer over the past few years. The craft beer market has experienced serious flux and now appears at a crossroads, one from which it’s difficult to forecast what will happen next. We’ve gone through the highs and lows of the twin extremes of hop bombs and alcohol monsters, the milder influences of session beer, and the pocket wrenching experience of expensive beer rarities. While things appear to be settling down for the moment, don’t expect craft brewers and the beer enthusiast community to stand idle for long.

Taking a look at the most recent beer trend of craft beer cocktails, I have to admit to some initial skepticism. It may be that the roller coaster ride of recent years has set us up for a comparatively ho-hum transition period. That would be understandable considering the incredible boost of creative energy of the extreme beer era.

In theory, a melding of the artistic sciences of distillation and fermentation might seemingly result in the best of both worlds and an incredible gastronomic adventure. In my experience, however, it’s more like members of your favorite bands getting together in a super-group jam session, only resulting in a dissonant and confusing melange of incompatible styles. And I say this as someone predisposed to liking this concept. After more than a decade as an avid beer explorer, I hit a period of beer burnout. In this time of ale fatigue, I’ve connected more with spirits and the burgeoning American cocktail renaissance.

The societal return of cocktails and spirits to American drinking culture bears a strong similarity to that of craft beer. With a focus on quality over quantity, craftsmanship, and the art of presentation, the two cultures seem destined to work together. In reality, however, beer tends to get lost and overwhelmed as an ingredient in cocktails. The mix of carbonation levels don’t play well together and the small amounts of spirit ingredients, especially those used in smaller measures, often get washed out in the process. The end result is a muddled mess of flavors, often splashing against one another for dominance instead of rowing together in a controlled and directed fashion.

I also feel the same way when it comes to collaboration beers, another trend of which I’ve not been a big fan. Beyond the eventual overkill of the subject—it seems as if a handful of breweries have collaborated with breweries from nearly every country—I can’t quite get past the confusing and disjointed resulting beers. When it comes to beer, I prefer focus, precision, and clarity of concept. I love it when a brewer sets out a defined, clear path and then executes with both style and grace, leaving the drinker with a crystalline understanding of the craftsman’s vision and an easy path to appreciating whether they achieved it.

If genius is said to be the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple, then muddling the elemental with excess adornments convolutes the beauty of the thing you first sought to appreciate. When it comes to beer, I’m more impressed with the brewer who can tease great flavor from fewer ingredients than one who requires a half-dozen hops, malts, and yeast strains to achieve a complicated mess.

I feel the same way about beer styles. Despite the growing cacophonic chorus of naysayers and critics, beer styles provide clarity and structure to an otherwise entirely subjective enterprise. While it’s easy to grab attention by painting well outside the lines, there remains much creativity to be demonstrated by working within the existing palette of beer ingredients. Sometimes the next big thing is the one obscured by its simplicity and proximity.

-Article appeared in Issue 62 of BeerAdvocate Magazine.

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Beer Blogging, Ethics, Journalists, Payola, and Maybe a Beer or Two…

A few weeks back, a handful of beer writers and bloggers kicked around the issue of writing, ethics, and coziness with the brewers we all cover in one form or another. As the discussion occurred on Twitter, it was necessarily limited to 140 characters, which, frankly, got pretty ridiculous when I added @Beervana @agoodbeerblog @BoakandBailey @stanhieronymous @evanrail @Thirsty_Pilgrim @nagbw to the discussion. Eventually we broke down to Morse Code, but I left the discussion with the idea that these issues should be raised in one of the upcoming Session events hosted by various bloggers. I’m not sure anything will ever come of it but I still think it was a good idea. The next Session, to be held on April 6, will discuss “What Drives Beer Bloggers?” Not really on point but perhaps the subject will be touched upon there.

After having harped on this subject plenty in recent years, I simply let the idea go…until I saw this post by The Potable Curmudgeon today describing the available sponsorship opportunities for brewers and other beer industry folks for the upcoming Beer Blogger’s Conference to be held in July in Indiana.

Now I can’t really tell TPC’s angle on all of this but it seems clear that something isn’t quite right. Now I’ve had plenty to say about the Beer Blogger’s Conference in the past and I’m not looking to rehash that except to note what TPC posted on the sponsorship opportunities:

2012 Sponsorship Opportunities

About the Conference

The International Beer Bloggers Conference is a unique opportunity to connect with the “new media” of beer. Beer bloggers are more than just enthusiastic about their beer experiences. They are actively socializing their experiences by publishing their thoughts on the Internet. There are almost 750 “citizen” beer bloggers in North America and approximately 130 are expected at the 2012 Beer Bloggers Conference, with hundreds more paying attention online.

Elite Sponsorship ($20,000)
Elite Sponsorship is a unique category that provides half of the sponsorship funds to bloggers as a stipend to offset the cost of their attendance. The stipend fund pays the registration fee of up to 100 attending citizen beer bloggers. Elite Sponsors win via a) promotion of the stipends by the conference itself, including
two direct emails to our worldwide list of bloggers, two blog posts, and multiple Tweets, b) connection to the attending bloggers, c) requirements for minimum posts, and d) Premier Sponsor benefits as below (with an extra registration). If you are interested in Elite Sponsorship, please ask for our separate Elite Sponsor
document.

Grand Sponsorship ($10,000)
• Opportunity to organize a special program, such as: participate on a panel or other content session, approved by conference organizers, that highlights your business; sponsorship of a Beer Blog Awards; giveaway promotion; etc
• Staff a table (and optionally pour your beers) during Meet the Sponsors on Friday
• Sponsor listing and logo on website; highlighted in pre-conference packet sent to participants; hang banner at the conference; and recognition during the event
• One blog post on the BBC site and multiple Tweet about your company or organization
• Includes two conference registrations

After Hours Party Sponsorship ($7500) – one available
• Provide beer for an After Hours party Friday from 9:00 to 11:00 PM
• Opportunity to address all participating bloggers during the party
• Sponsor listing and logo on website; highlighted in pre-conference packet sent to participants; hang banner at the conference; and recognition during the event
• One blog post on the BBC site and multiple Tweets about your company or organization
• Includes two conference registrations

Dinner Sponsorship ($5000 plus cost of dinner) Sold
• Provide beer for one of two conference dinners, either at the host hotel or elsewhere
• Sponsor is responsible for handling all dinner arrangements
• Opportunity to address all participating bloggers during the dinner
www.BeerBloggersConference.org info@BeerBloggersConference.org
• Sponsor listing and logo on website; highlighted in pre-conference email to participants; hang banner at the conference; and recognition during the event
• One blog post on the BBC site and multiple Tweet about your company or organization
• Includes two conference registrations plus multiple invitations to your dinner

Lunch Sponsorship ($5000 plus meal costs)
• Provide beer for a conference lunch, either at the host hotel or elsewhere as you choose
• Sponsor is responsible for handling all lunch arrangements
• Opportunity to address all participating bloggers during the lunch
• Sponsor listing and logo on website; highlighted in pre-conference email to participants; hang banner at the conference; and recognition during the event
• One blog post on the BBC site and multiple Tweet about your company or organization
• Includes two conference registrations plus multiple invitations to your dinner

Premier Sponsorship ($4000)
• Staff a table (and optionally pour your beers) during Meet the Sponsors on Friday
• Sponsor listing and logo on website; highlighted in pre-conference packet sent to participants; hang banner at the conference; and recognition during the event
• One blog post on the BBC site and multiple Tweets about your company or organization
• Includes one conference registration

Event Sponsorship ($1000)
• Staff a table (and optionally pour your beers) during Meet the Sponsors on Friday; this is the least expensive option to be able to pour more than one of your beers for all conference participants
• Does not include conference registrations

Live Beer Blogging Sponsorship ($400)
• Bloggers will have five minutes to taste, review, and blog or Tweet about one of your beers
• You will reach 10 tables of bloggers with about six to eight bloggers per table
• Does not include any conference registrations but you must have someone present to pour

Now some of this may seem somewhat innocuous, while some other parts may seem a touch close to payola. You can check out which breweries and organizations have already ponied up their money to hang with the beer bloggers. You may also note something unusually similar about the sponsors. All told, it looks like the conference founder, Zephyr Adventures, has finally found a way to make beer blogging pay. Just not for the bloggers…

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