Thursday, 31 July 2014

EBBC 2014 - The sessions


Conference Agenda

So a month on and what was the EBBC all about? That’s probably a difficult question to answer in a few lines, as the truth is the conference was a myriad of many different things. Leaving the important business side of the event to one side for a moment, probably the biggest single thing to come out of the weekend was the discovery (for me at least, and I’m certain many others as well) of the strength of the emerging Irish Craft Beer Movement.

Whether this was by accident or design, or a combination of both, the overwhelming message that came across was that good, and quite often great, beer is alive and kicking in the island of Ireland. We were treated to four separate samplings of Irish Beer; five if you include Friday evening’s visit to the Guinness Brewery at St James’ Gate. Basically we encompassed the entire spectrum of beer in Ireland, from the huge multi-national that dominates the domestic beer market, right down to breweries which were just starting up. One doesn’t even yet have a permanent home, but is turning out some superb beers by “cuckoo brewing” using other people’s brewing plant.

The state of the Irish Craft Beer market is worthy of a post of its own, and hopefully I’ll get round to writing about it whilst it’s still relatively fresh in my head, but for now I’d like to return to describing what the business side of the conference was all about.

A number of different and quite varied topics were discussed, and there were several presentations. Some I found a lot more interesting than others, but one thing they all had in common, and the once common thread running through all of them, was that of beer. Following registration on Friday lunchtime, the conference kicked off with an introduction to Irish Craft Beer, before moving into the adjacent room set aside for the conference proceedings.

Vanguard Beer Collective
Historian, Declan Moore kicked off with his presentation entitled The History of Beer in Ireland. I must confess that despite spending time with Declan later that evening, and finding him positively charming, I found the whole subject of  Stone Age Brewing somewhat of a turn-off. So much so that, quite shamefully, I nodded off! There was just too much speculation and conjecture for my liking, and anyway the whole thing was so far removed from brewing as we know it, as to be of virtually no interest to me. (Sorry, Declan!)



Declan’s presentation was followed by the inter-linked topics of Keg versus Cask and Bottle versus Can. James Winans of the Vanguard Beer Collective and Brian Short from the Brown Paper Bag Project presented the pros and cons of these four packaging methods. I have already covered the Bottle versus Can debate, and whilst some interesting points were raised in the other half of the debate, I don’t intend to cover them here, as they are worthy of a separate post.

I said that there was a common “Beer Theme” running through the various topics, but that wasn’t quite true, as the two presentations on Saturday afternoon were about “How to Enhance Your Blog”, and “Supercharging Your Blogging With WordPress.com”. Both presentations were of much interest to me, and from a practical point of view, were by far the most useful of all the topics covered.

Cindy Molchany, from conference organisers, Zephyr Adventures, kicked off the first presentation with some really useful tips and advice about how to get one’s blog across to a wider audience. She also emphasised the importance of a strategy and covered how to add to its appeal, thereby attracting more interest, and more followers. I won’t go into detail here, but suffice to say I came away with lots of useful ideas and suggestions of how to improve both my blog and my online presence. So thanks, Cindy.

We were then treated to a real cool Californian dude representing Auttomatic – the company behind WordPress.com. My own blog is hosted by BloggerGoogle’s own free blogging software. Now I know quite a few Bloggers who have switched from Blogger to WordPress, so I was keen to discover the pros and cons of both systems.

Derek  Springer (with the hat) from WordPress.com
Derek Springer, an accomplished home brewer, beer expert and programmer from Auttomatic, was very much in his element, and gave an excellent talk about how WordPress operates, explaining how the software has become the programme of choice for many Bloggers. He explored in some depth the ways in which bloggers can maximise the impact and reach of their posts, and like Cindy earlier, presented us with lots of useful tips and ideas.

Probably the most bizarre session was the first one on the Saturday morning. Billed as “The State of the Brewing Industry in Ireland”, Dean McGuinness, Managing Director of Premier International Beers, kicked off the day’s session with an insider’s look into the Irish Craft Beer Industry.  Dean used examples from abroad, (primarily the UK, but also, Germany – strangely enough), to illustrate his talk and demonstrate how “craft brewing” had taken off overseas, and was now beginning to establish a foothold in Ireland.
Chocolate Bock from Maisels

Using the examples of  Thwaites, Crafty Dan, and Black Sheep from Britain, plus Maisel & Friends from Bayreuth, Bavaria, samples of beers from these breweries were passed around to further make the point. If I told you this took place shortly after 10am when I was still recovering from the excesses of the night before, you will understand why I gave all these interesting beers a miss. The fact that that they were all strong beers, with the Black Sheep Progress weighing in at 10.0%, and the Maisels at 7.5%, you’ll understand my reluctance to start imbibing even more!

In some ways this was a pity, as the Black Sheep Progress was a limited edition beer brewed to celebrate 20 years of brewing, whilst the Maisels was a Chocolate Bock, (not sure if that’s strictly Reinheitsgebot?). Maisels have also revived some classic German lager styles, under the Aktion banner. I did, however, get to taste the Chocolate Bock later in the day.

The final presentation of the afternoon was all about "Video on Your Beer Blog". We heard from two experts on how to incorporate videos into your blog and how to promote those videos better.  Tomasz Kopyra is a Polish beer blogger who has successfully incorporated video into his blog and has 29,000 YouTube subscribers, whilst Mhairi MacLeod is director at Lux, Scotland’s only creative agency dedicated to food and drink, who carved her career from beer blogging. This was all new to me, but was a subject which left me with a lot of food for thought.

There in a nutshell, is a very brief synopsis of what exactly went on at the conference. Leaving aside the socialising, the beer sampling and brewery visit for one moment, these presentation were invaluable lessons and insight for anyone who wishes to improve, enhance and ultimately expand his or her blog. These sessions alone made the EBBC 2014 well worth attending.

2 comments:

RedNev said...

It's great that you enjoyed the EBBC 2014, but for my part I've never felt drawn to attend. But each to their own.

From your report, Wordpress had quite a presence. As one of the Premier Sponsors, they could be seen as having a vested interest. For myself, I think I'll stick with the freebie, Blogger!

Paul Bailey said...

Nev, WordPress.com is a free package; just like Blogger. There is however, a more sophisticated version called WordPress.org. This is a pay to use service, which is probably more suited to businesses, than to "hobby bloggers" like you and I.

With regard to sponsorship; the event would almost certainly have not gone ahead without the contributions from the various sponsors. I don't think their presence compromised anyone's independence or integrity in any way though.