I hear you
There are a raft of podcasts, live streams and online tasting classes now available to keep us all informed about beer. Jessica Mason takes a closer look at how audio updates are manifesting in the beer community and why they are important.
Monday 28 December 2020
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The tacit natural trinity of beer, pub and a friend has been somewhat disrupted of late.
Real life engagement has diminished. Some of us have felt more than a little adrift. But one thing that this enforced estrangement has taught us is that when the going gets tough, it is in our nature to become resourceful. Seek out new means of celebrating what we love with those we are in communication with and in and amongst that, if good beer is still being brewed, find it we shall. And, as such, the realm of digital beer drinking is upon us.
“A true food and drink experience that engages your senses is worth its weight in gold for the participant,” says Brett Ellis, co-founder and brewer at Wild Beer Co, who recently began hosting live tastings online so that people could enjoy his newly-brewed beers - at distance - while hearing about how they came to be created.
Ellis uses both Instagram and Facebook and this has helped forge a community of like-minded and engaged beer fans. There is storytelling at the heart of each session and people leave feeling that they learned something new.
Similarly, Beer with Nat, a careers podcast produced and hosted by beer sommelier and advanced cicerone Natalya Watson - where she shares a beer and a chat with people who work in the beer industry - is also hinged on a storytelling narrative. Each time, lyrically imparting each interviewee’s own autobiographical beer journey.
“I felt that a podcast would be the perfect medium for the stories I was hoping to share”, says Watson, who admits that she loves “the personality and passion that audio conveys. There’s really nothing quite like hearing people tell their story in their own words.”
There’s really nothing quite like hearing people tell their story in their own words
It is this kind of personality in audio that people are clearly seeking. Hearing about the lives of others is like a form of meditative therapy for some. For others, a way to learn or network amidst the myriad responsibilities life continues to hurl on a daily basis.
Writer and photographer Matt Curtis, who produces and hosts The Pellicle Podcast which includes “lots of long-form interviews with people in and around the industry, as well as quite a few panel talks recorded at events” explained that “in one recent episode I narrated an article of mine from the site, but also recorded a soundtrack to add a more emotive feel.” That’s the power of audio. That ever so seamless articulate layer of sound that helps convey a human element. A reminder that real people are sharing something of themselves. And, right now, during the darker days of 2020, we need as many touchpoints to closeness as possible. In fact, we yearn for them as a way to replace the recent prohibition of human contact.
Emma Inch, producer and presenter of Fermentation Beer & Brewing Radio - a ‘magazine-style’ podcast that involves short interviews and features about brewers, breweries and other aspects of the beer industry, explains how podcasts in particular can reflect society in all of its diversity, but also remain a very personal experience too. “Podcasting has the potential to be a more democratic medium, meaning diverse voices can be heard in ways that perhaps they can’t on mainstream radio or TV,” says Inch, pointing out that, additionally, it serves well to remember that “most people listen to podcasts on their own, many on earbuds” and “this makes podcasting a uniquely intimate medium that has the power to communicate with people in a very distinct way.”
There are, however, other ways you can take your beer audience on a journey. Chiefly, through the medium of video. By, quite literally, showing people the places they are yet to visit themselves. This method, naturally, encourages the presenter and watcher to feel like an alliance has been formed. All of this helping build further loyalty.
As such, the Craft Beer Channel, which predominantly uses YouTube as its platform, makes mini documentaries about beer, food and travel. “We learn along with the viewer as we explore the world’s best breweries and bars, as well as the cultures around them,” says its co-founder and presenter Jonny Garrett.
“As a journalist I’ve always understood the power of written words to tell a story, but video adds so many extra elements vital to talking about beer – the processes, the looks, the reactions, the scenery, the camaraderie.” In many ways, this is what brings it to life.
Most notably, there is a void now present. What people are craving is the taste of what they miss. Some breweries are beginning to realise they can help bring some good cheer through interaction directly to people in their own homes. Namely, the candid pub conversations that used to take place over a beer.
Andy Nowlan, marketing manager at Siren Craft Brew explains how the brewery is now “doing some really short ‘beer with’ chats on Instagram which are designed to last the length of a pint,” describing how “that format is ideal as it keeps the ‘pub conversation’ vibe.” But the relationship doesn’t end there; Nowlan emphasises this is only the beginning, because each conversation is an opportunity to connect with people and reaffirm what the beer and brewery are all about. “There is only so much you can say on a can, even less so on a keg badge. Perhaps the big thing is the opportunity sweet spot with a customer where it comes to life for them, personally,” he reminds.
Jaega Wise, TV and radio presenter and brewer at Wild Card Brewery agrees with the sentiment, revealing that, for Wild Card, there was an opportunity to become part of the conversation. “Online tastings give people a reason to talk about us. We went from hyper-local through to reaching customers all over,” explained Wise, who is also no stranger to the fact that, armed with a smartphone, we are much more connected than we have ever been before. “I did a piece for TV recently where we interviewed people at the top of their craft on a global scale, which isn’t always possible face-to-face, but we also managed to record it all pretty much via phone,” she adds. It’s revelatory that this kind of thing is possible. Pointing out that, “our reachability is so good now.”
Such grassroots approaches are known to have many benefits. But key to the style is a sense of authenticity which, in turn, breeds interest and kindness from others, but could, so easily bring scrutiny, but instead, right now amidst so much bad news elsewhere online, actually encourages people to reach out and recognise the good. It’s these kinds of human responses that remind us all that we can connect to praise and not just critique.
“I am the kind of person that easily shares the emotion and effort that went into these beers through stories and feelings. Doing that to a camera without an actual person or crowd to read the body language of is not only difficult, but the feeling of exposure is exhilarating,” says Ellis.
If we give a bit of ourselves, we often find that people are drawn to the warmth
And he’s right, if we give a bit of ourselves, we often find that people are drawn to the warmth, the humanity and the part of our brains and hearts that gain something from being around others, from hearing their views and from recognising their industrious activity. After all, we have a lot in common, Ellis reminds, we are stronger together. “We are all drawn together around a table of food and drink. Everyone and every culture. Around flavour and nutrients is where life happens and, in this year, the digital, audio and visual table is where life is. These mediums and digital spaces that are created are ripe soil for growing a community of like-minded people.”
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