With June fast approaching we’re heading closer to the annual European Beer Bloggers Conference. In 2012 it was held in Leeds, last year in Edinburgh, and this year Dublin is the venue. There’s presently a lower number of attendees signed up than the organisers would like, hence their call to arms a few days ago.
There’s a healthy number of beer bloggers in Britain alone, you only have to spend a few minutes on Twitter to find that out, so it’s interesting that only approximately 28 people are showing as having registered so far (roughly 23 when you remove sponsor reps and organisers). There were already murmurs of dissent in the beer blogging ranks, with Beermack giving his reasons for dropping out over a fortnight ago, but it was that call to arms from the organisers which disturbed the shaky structure, bringing down the cool exterior of leading professional beer writers and spilling fury over the Twitterscape.
The above concerns are mainly professional (ie not paying speakers) and don’t impact on rank and file bloggers and writers in quite the same way. The cost to individual attendees is relative once you take all factors into account, though it is certainly something to consider. The location has caused some unrest; Dublin isn’t a practical jaunt for everyone to make, though with the majority of Europe’s beer bloggers being based in Britain it’s a closer option than Prague or Munich. Truth be told I put forward a pitch for it to be held in Cardiff, a comfortable two hour train journey from London, but that’s another story.
There’s also the usual concerns about sponsorship from big brewers, namely Guinness/Diageo and Molson Coors. British beer bloggers love the underdog, we enjoy supporting one-man garage breweries and independent bars, so it can be a bit discomforting when we’re offered stipends and stipulations, and don’t get to see lots of independent Irish breweries at their best on their home turf. The lack of a live blogging session is particularly regrettable.
Whatever the cause of friction, dissent and unease, it’s not a problem EBBC hasn’t faced before. At last year’s event I spoke to someone who had done some advisory work for the organisers (Zephyr Adventures), and he intimated that Edinburgh 2013 barely came together – that event also had a low registration turnout up until the eleventh hour, when finally a late surge pushed the numbers to nearly 75.
Even during the success of 2013, it was openly stated that EBBC 2014 might never happen. So I was pleased when it was announced that it would be held in Dublin. It’s an event I’m looking forward to for several reasons, not least because each time I go could easily be the last, so I want to make the effort.
For me, living in the hinterlands of Cardiff, going to EBBC Edinburgh was a valuable means of finally putting Twitter handles to actual faces – it seems like there’s a craft beer party going down almost every day in London, so rare opportunities like EBBC are useful for, dare I say it, networking.
New drinking comrades were made and working partnerships were established. Recently I’ve collaborated on a magazine with people I met at EBBC Edinburgh – for me, that magazine (available from your local retailer soon) only came together because I went to Edinburgh.
In those three brief days I enjoyed Edinburgh’s best bars under the guidance of some its natives and residents. I ate haggis for breakfast, haggis for dinner and haggis for tea. I ate and drank up the culture. I saw Edinburgh’s beery underbelly at its finest. That’s something I hope to achieve with Dublin, a city I’ve never been to before but have heard so much about as a city of beer.
EBBC Edinburgh also introduced me to Scottish brewers that I rarely see in South Wales. Come on, think about this, how often do you see independent Irish beers in England or Wales? Whether they’re showcased at the conference or not, I will find those Irish beers in Dublin’s bars and pubs and learn their ways.
In spite of being nearly haggissed and beered to death, coming away from last year’s EBBC left me energised. All that talk of beer blogging felt like getting a power up – I wanted to write 10 blog articles a day. Sure, I didn’t manage that in the end, but there was a feel-good boost that lingered for months afterwards, and (hopefully) came through in my writing.
There are other reasons almost too many to list: meeting Garrett Oliver, drinking in the Hanging Bat, learning more about beer sommeliers, the Stewart Brewery tour, and so on. Lastly, for what it’s worth, EBBC Edinburgh 2013 was the forge where the term ‘craft wanker’ was cast. You can’t ignore that sort of legacy.
Don’t mistake this post for a call to arms. This isn’t an attempt to counter anyone’s anti-EBBC views, I accept that you have them; this isn’t an attempt to convince people to go, it’s your choice. I just want to express what I got out of last year’s event. I can honestly say I had a good time and I’d love to meet more of the beer blogging community – there are so many more Twitter handles that I’ve yet to put a face to. If you do come to Dublin EBBC then look me up as I’d love to have a drink with you.
Finally, let’s go out with a smile. Here’s a gem shown at last year’s conference: