How to: Start a beer podcast

Katie Mather spells out the technical and creative steps to creating your very own beer podcast

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Beer podcasts are one of the easiest ways to hook beer knowledge straight into your brain, and with so many to choose from, there’s definitely fifteen out there that’ll suit your ears and the nerdy niche things you find interesting, bless you.

Whether you’ve got one favourite show that talks about a specific beer-related topic each week, or you have several podcasts downloaded each week to make your morning commute feel more like a trip to the pub, the chances are, you’ve thought to yourself: “Maybe I could do this?” Admit it, we all have. And while it seems like making a podcast is as easy as setting your phone to record and having a good old chat with your mates around a decent selection of beers, not to demotivate you, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

To demystify the process and help you get started, here are some of our favourite podcasters doling out some top-drawer advice to get you motivated into actually giving it a go. Because why not? Your voice is as valid as the next person’s!

So let’s start at the very beginning.

Who are you doing this for?

Emma Inch, the broadcaster and award-winning beer writer behind twice-monthly beer and brewing podcast Fermentation Radio, says the very first thing you should do as a would-be podcaster is think carefully about the people you want to reach out to with your shows.

“You need to think about who your audience are and what they’re interested in,” Emma says. “You know they’re into beer, but what else are you talking to them about?”

In a world where thousands of podcasts are uploaded to iTunes each day, it’s important to stand out. Understanding who you want to talk to and having that goal in mind will help your listeners feel engaged, and importantly will encourage them to hit that subscribe button.

Another vital thing to remember is to make sure you’re including everyone within your niche little bubble.

“It’s important to think about how you’re speaking to your listeners, and who you imagine them to be,” says Emma. “Is the language you’re using inclusive? Does it make people feel involved and welcome when they listen to your podcast?”

Find your niche

“I was told early on to “find my niche” and I think it’s great advice,” says Natalya Watson, who’s a beer sommelier, drinks industry pro and the host of Beer With Nat, a podcast celebrating the people who make the global beer industry what it is.

“Find an idea that you can claim and run with it. I love sitting down with each of my guests, getting to know them better, and giving them a platform to share their stories in their own words. Make sure you have fun, too, as that will help keep you going through a long editing session. And look outside of our industry for ideas and inspiration to see what learnings we can bring back to beer.”

Learning curves

No podcaster has always been perfect. Everyone begins at a different level and with varying skillsets.

“When we started back in 2012, I was new to podcasts,” says Steve Bentall, founding member of Beer O’Clock Show, the longest running beer podcast in the UK. “When (original member) Mark suggested that we do a podcast about beer I jumped at the chance without even really thinking about what it meant. Suddenly I was supposed to be the ‘expert’... it was down to me to decide on the beers to feature and map out the journey that we were going to take. Listening back to the first ever episode for the first time was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever done.”

Of course Steve, and co-presenter Martin Oates, now craft a bi-weekly show with dedicated subscribers who’ve been tuning in for years.

“Over time, planning show content has always been at the heart of our regular output,” Steve adds. “It’s good to have a consistent format that your listeners can engage with.”

Over at Sheffield Hopcast towers, initial teething problems came from a very different place.

We didn’t really have any problems with the technical side of things due to James’ experience of podcasting,” says Adam Nicholson, co-founder of the show, “And we certainly didn’t struggle to find material. It was actually the opposite. We really didn’t expect that 2.5 hours later we’d still be talking... So a massive learning curve was to be realistic on what we have time to include.”

“Over the months we’ve refined the number of beers we drink and the number of panelists and guests we have, and try to keep a better check on the time as we record.”

Equipment

When you’re starting out, you probably won’t have more than a phone and some headphones at your disposal. That’s okay. Plenty of award-winning, hugely-subscribed-to podcasts had humble beginnings. However, if podcasting is something you’re really interested in pursuing more seriously, some upgrades become more necessary than others.

“Get a nice pair of headphones!” says Emma Inch. “It really does make all the difference. You’re broadcasting directly into someone’s ears, so good headphones will help you to pick up on any unpleasant noises or hard-to-hear sounds in the edit.”

Emma’s first bit of specialist kit was a Zoom H1 recorder. Now she’s upgraded and transformed her study into a studio, noise cancelling wall coverings and all.

“I’m using a Zoom H6 now; it’s still portable enough to take it out and about with me, and in the study I can plug six mics into it for roundtable discussions.”

James Marriot, co-founder of Sheffield Hopcast, has a different set-up, which gives an idea of how each podcast is produced uniquely.

“We use a Blue Yeti omnidirectional mic to record the group parts of the show. We’ve recently also bought a Blue Yeti Nano which is a bit easier to cart around. For interviews we use an iRig HD which can plug directly into an iPhone or Mac so gives loads of flexibility and a decent sound.”

“The most useful bit of kit we have is probably actually software – Audio Hijack is an awesome Mac app which makes audio routing and recording a doddle (and doesn’t crash half way through an episode).”

Beer O’Clock Show’s equipment is a lot simpler. Steve takes us through it:

“We use an iPad and an Apogee Mic,” he says. “The mic gives us the sort of sound quality that we strive to achieve – a slightly amateurish feel of two friends just chatting in a pub. There are better equipment set ups out there, but this removes the need for any sound boards and various cables and inputs.”

“The app that we use to capture the content could be used by a child, and we use Audacity editing software that I potentially only use about 25% of the various features of. Our listeners seems to like the final output and we’re happy with that.”

Editing (oh no!)

The part nobody truly enjoys. Editing is what turns your podcast from a moderately interesting conversation into a polished podcast shimmering with broadcasting gold. If you don’t know how to edit, that’s not a problem. Everybody’s gotta start somewhere.

Natalya learned how to edit and use all of her equipment by watching YouTube tutorials. “It’s amazing! I also looked at blogs for advice. Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income website has some great tips.”

“Editing is certainly time consuming,” she says, “but I wouldn’t say it’s that hard. I don’t do a ton of editing though, I usually just let the conversation flow, clean it up a bit, then add in my intro and outro.”

Steve agrees that editing is time-hungry. “A two hour show will take, on average, three hours to edit... but it depends on how meticulous you want to be.”

James from Sheffield Hopcast has a great tip on making the process a little easier for yourself.

“Clap near the mic if there’s an edit point – you’ll be able to clearly see the peaks in the waveform on-screen when you come to the editing.” 

Promo

Now you’ve got your first episode, you’ll want to upload that hot new file to a hosting site and start telling the world all about it.

Like most things in the podcasting world, this takes a little work. Getting people to listen to your podcast means asking them to commit, so don’t be disheartened if it takes a while to see your numbers gather some steam.

“Building an audience can be demoralising, but carry on!” says Emma. “Having a website as a central point will really help listeners locate your shows, and I’ve found word of mouth promotion has worked really well for me.”

“We’re all quite vocal people in our general lives which definitely helps!” says Laura Rangeley, who’s Head of Marketing for Abbeydale Brewery and a regular panellist on Sheffield Hopcast. Her hostmate Adam agrees:

“As well as using social media we also got a lot of beer mats printed and some business cards and we regularly distribute them locally. We are all quite active around Sheffield and getting to know people in the industry, including them in episodes really gets your name out there fast.”

Keep at it

One of the hardest things about being a podcaster is maintaining motivation. Sometimes you might be pressed for time, but your listeners will be waiting for you, so don’t let them down!

“Think about how much commitment you can give it,” advises Emma Inch. “Podcasts are regular, so really consider how much time you can realistically work on your podcast each month.”

Martin from Beer O’Clock Show agrees. “Be realistic when you start out; remember you want to enjoy your hobby, it should never feel like a chore. If it does, then the listeners will probably pick up on that.”

So how do podcasters stay jazzed about podcasting?

For Natalya Watson, it’s the people she meets. “My amazing guests keep me so inspired. I’ve only shared ten episodes so far, but there are so many incredible women in beer that I can’t wait to speak to. While most beer podcasts focus on the industry, I like to say that mine focuses on the individual.”

Ferment Radio has been on air for three years, and in that time what’s become her muse is beer itself. “There’s always something new. It feels exciting, styles change and you can see things come full circle. The taste of beer is one thing but I love the stories – the people, the history, the making of it.”

“I think for us, it’s about continuing our journey and seeing how beer continues to evolve,” says Beer O’Clock Show’s Steve. “We’ve met some great folk along the way, a lot of whom we now consider to be our friends. We’re always learning and I think if you ever get to a point where you stop learning it’s possibly time to re-evaluate your motivations.

“It’s fun,” says co-host Martin. “It’s a hobby that’s taken me to places I hadn’t thought of visiting, and I’ve met lots of people… but, ultimately, I like chatting to Steve every other week about beer and beery related topics.”

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