INDIANAPOLIS • I had my first taste of this fine city last weekend as a presenter at the third annual Beer Bloggers Conference. About 115 beer correspondents from all over the country gathered for three days of rubbing elbows and bending elbows with industry professionals.
The snapshot I took away from the conference is not only that beer chatter abounds on the web — event organizer Zephyr Adventures counts more than 1,000 independent beer blogs in North America — but that people are listening. And not just other beer drinkers.
Big and small breweries, brewer guilds, wholesalers, public-relations agencies, even snack-food companies (Heluva Good! was a sponsor) know who's driving online talk about beer.
Some of those groups are happy just to be part of the conversation, while others are willing to do more to get into bloggers' good graces. (One conference participant boasted about getting breweries to pony up his airfare, hotel charges and registration fee.)
A piece of advice I gave to attendees was to maintain a consistent voice and brand throughout all platforms: blogs, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, reddit, Pinterest, etc. I think that goes a long way in showing dedicated readers and potential followers that you know what you're doing and you take it seriously.
And that's important, because you never know who's watching.
BEER BLOGGERS CONFERENCE NOTEBOOK
Beer buddies • Troika Brodsky and Michael Bussmann grew up in the same part of Clayton in the 1980s and graduated from Clayton High in 1996. They stayed tight through college, although Bussmann headed west to Colorado and Brodsky stayed close to home at Webster University.
Today, besides being best friends, they're also peers: Both men are the social-media voices of American craft breweries. Brodsky is communications director at St. Louis' Schlafly Beer, and Bussmann is "Social Networking Nerd" (on his business card) at Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Co.
They talk to each other frequently, online and off, "generally (about) a whole lot of beer and social media," Bussmann says.
Events like the Beer Bloggers Conference allow the pals to hang out, albeit while on the clock.
"I love thinking about what the high school versions of ourselves would say if we could go back in time and tell them we'd both be working cool jobs at awesome breweries," Brodsky says. "We'd probably ask us to go buy us some beer."
It was fun to see the two of them buzzing around a hotel meeting room on Saturday night. Armed with tiny New Belgium-branded Flip video cameras, they were interviewing bloggers about the conference. Brodsky says they're going to edit the footage into a montage of clips to post online.
Indy impressions • Indianapolis bested St. Louis; Asheville, N.C.; and Austin, Texas, as host city for this year's conference. Personal biases aside, I questioned that decision at the time. But my stay was pleasant , and now I can appreciate Indy's enthusiastic beer scene (Indiana is home to a ton of breweries), its clean and broad downtown streets, and at least one of its local restaurants.
Bluebeard, a new spot recommended to me by Indy beer blogger Mike Atwood of hoosierbeergeek.com, serves unfussy, market-fresh food such as crunchy, tart fried green tomatoes with a dollop of creamy quark cheese. The restaurant shares space with a bakery, so the grilled bread with anchovy butter and whipped lardo is not to be missed. The beer list features several selections from local favorite Sun King.
Top tastes • 5 Lizard Latin-Style Witbier (5 Rabbit Brewery, Chicago); Blackberry Window Pane aged in pinot noir barrels (Mother Earth Brewing, Kinston, N.C.); 3 Hoppy Black Lager (Sun King Brewing, Indianapolis); Total Domination IPA (Ninkasi Brewing, Eugene, Ore.); Fat Alberta Chocolate Peanut Butter Imperial Stout (Throwback Brewery, North Hampton, N.H.)
EVAN'S PICK: STILLWATER BEER TABLE TABLE BEER
Lowdown • Beer Table restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y., commissioned Baltimore-based "gypsy" brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales to craft a beer that he'd be happy drinking every day for the rest of his life. What he came up with is Table Beer, a 4.7 percent alcohol-by-volume Belgian-style pale ale that balances pungent and piney hops with a dry finish punctuated by Brettanomyces yeast.
Price • About $10 for a 22-ounce bottle
Where to find it • The Wine and Cheese Place, 7435 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton