How to: Build a hyperlocal beer community
Beer is better when it's shared
Tuesday 21 May 2019
This article is from
Maine, New England
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Being a beer fan isn’t just about drinking delicious, delicious beer. It’s mostly about that, granted, but there’s also the element of discussion that makes it so satisfying. Like a fallen tree in a clichéd forest, is a beer really any good if you don’t tell anyone about it? The excitement of chasing down new releases or the joy of a perfect pint is easily doubled if you get to boast about it with people who care as much about beer as you do.
It’s no wonder then, that beer-chatting groups have sprung up all over the shop with the sole intention to gossip about breweries, beers and each other. From Facebook communities to private Whatsapp groups, there are more ways than ever to share your new favourites, exemplary bottle shop selections or harsh reviews with people you’ve gotten to know through the wonderful medium of beer.
What’s especially grand about these hyperlocal communities is that they’ve all grown out of necessity and pure enthusiasm. Even large groups like Craft Beer Newcastle, Ladies That Beer and the long-running Twitter community Craft Beer Hour started off as ideas sparked by pub conversations between beer lovers who wanted to hang out more. Now, most areas have at least one super-small community for you to take part in, whether they’re local CAMRA groups or self-started clubs like Beer Merseyside, Glasgow Beer, Midlands Beer Blog, South Dublin Brewers, North Coast Bottle Share, Leeds Beer Bulletin or CRAP (Cumbria Real Ale Postings).
But what if your area hasn’t got a forum for discussing its local breweries yet? What if you’re into cask and you want your mates to understand your passion for sparklers? What if you have a dream, and that dream is to get everyone in your town to appreciate the great beers on their doorstep?
Well then. You’d best read on to find out exactly how to get started.
Why start a community?
Robyn McCallum, otherwise known as the Bottle Baroness, owns and runs the Bottle Baron beer shop in Edinburgh. She began “Edinbeer”, a city-and-beer-specific Facebook group to bring like-minded beer fans together in her part of the world.
“I started the group because I felt that [an existing group]...tended to have the same people posting the same things all the time, so I as a user felt there wasn’t a place for me, so I made it,” she said.
“I’ve set it up so that any beer is worthy of a post. I’m not one to sneer at supermarket beer so unlike other groups who have rules in place that it MUST BE CRAFT...nah, you can post a tin of Tennents if you want and that’s all gravy with me.”
Daisy Turnell is Anarchy Brewing’s marketing manager by day, but by night she’s the human form of Craft Beer Newcastle, one of the country’s most active local beer online communities. She explained that it was frustration that drove her to set it all up in 2016.
“Newcastle has a great beer scene and community, and it bothered me that whenever I bumped into people down south, they’d never heard of our breweries,” she said. “So Craft Beer Newcastle was born.”
How to get started
"We started an offshoot WhatsApp group specifically for beer chat and it grew from there"
Starting a beer group can feel like a bit of a mountain to climb, especially if you’re starting from scratch, but there are some ways you can get your idea steaming along fairly quick-sharp.
Rachael Smith, who runs the Sussex Bottle Share Whatsapp group, says that using Twitter and the #sussexbottleshare hashtag really helped SBS get off the ground.
“The Sussex beer community has always been strong… Twitter made it easier to connect with locals who wanted to get involved and it was a collaboration of like-minded folk right from the start.” she explained. “Build it and they will come!”
Similarly, Manchester-based group Beer More Social came about through a meeting of minds. Like many group creators, Kate Blaszczyk originally devised the community as a way for her to keep in touch with friends who enjoyed beer as much as she did. Now, the group is packed with members who meet up regularly for beer-based events across Manchester and beyond.
“When it became apparent that a few of us had an interest in beer and brewing, we started an offshoot WhatsApp group specifically for beer chat and it grew from there,” Kate said.
“We’ve had outings with over 20 people in attendance of different age groups, backgrounds, and beer preferences! It is heartening to know that any one of us can go out alone in Manchester (or many other cities) now and bump in to one of our extended family, it’s a real inclusive network.”
How to get people to join (and actively take part)
"Get in touch with local businesses to see how you can work together; that way you can encourage and support the local scene"
Once you’ve smashed the first goal – setting up your mini-community – you’ll probably want to get people to join in. Otherwise you’ll have a perfectly-crafted platform with nobody interacting on it. And that’s no fun.
Robyn kick-started Edinbeer with a short, punchy messaging campaign to get the word out.
“I messaged pretty much every brewery, shop and bar that I could think of in Edinburgh to let them know there was a new space to talk about what they were doing,” she said.
“There’s a really good mix of people in there now that share things like events, group meetups, tap takeovers and new products in shops.”
For Rachel, a combo of using social media and actively approaching local businesses worked.
“Twitter is a great tool for connecting people, so use it if you can. Get in touch with local businesses to see how you can work together; that way you can encourage and support the local scene.”
Most importantly, Rachael reminds us that friendliness is a big part of the deal. “Just be friendly and welcoming and you will see a community of like-minded people come together.”
One vital point is that people will want to know why they should join. If you’re trying to bring local beer fans together for chat and craic, that’s great. If you’re trying to make it easier for you and your extended family of pub mates to head out on brewery visits, nearby beer festivals and pub crawls, super. Just make sure your reason for existing is clear.
How to keep things running smoothly
One of the most important things you’ll need to do is put together some ground rules. You don’t need to come up with a binding constitution, but having a few main points that everyone in your group can agree on will help to avoid any future conflicts.
For example, some groups don’t allow promotional posts. Some only want their members to share photos of the beer they’re drinking, or short reviews. Some groups are only to be used for chatting about beer, and some are loosely based in pub chat and spin off into friendly banter. The key is to make sure everyone is welcome, and that any posts that insult, offend, upset or make any member feel uncomfortable can be removed quickly and fairly.
Unfortunately, sometimes members of groups want to be “that guy”. If you don’t want your group to welcome negative behaviour, you’ll need to work out a way to monitor and control it. Edinbeer has one simple rule.
“For the most part there is no stipulation for membership,” said Robyn, “other than ‘don’t be a dick.’ We’ve been lucky that all members have been legit so far. My only real rule is that you be civil to each other.”
Happily, the good folks far outweigh the bad, and Rachael from Sussex Bottle Share’s advice reflects that positivity.
“If you have Whatsapp and can get to Sussex then you’re one of us! We welcome new people to the group… there’s no judgement, we’re not elitist or snobby in any way and I hope that our friendliness is what encourages people to get involved.”
Robyn agrees that the pros outweigh the cons. “I’m really happy with how it’s gone so far. People are nice to each other, they’ve made friends through it, and that’s all I can really ask for.”
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