The Session is a monthly round-up of beer blogging opinion on a topic assigned by a rotating host. The host is generally a blogger but this month it’s a brewery, Community Beer Works of nearby Buffalo, NY, a nice change.
The topic is explained here and requests opinion whether a brewery should have a conversation with customers and consumers, in a word if they should be “friends”.
My view is emphatically yes. The only way for customers to learn about a company’s specific products, but also about beer in general, is to ask questions of the people who make it. The more you find out, the more you know. Originally this process took the form of asking questions in letters, or during a brewery tour. Later, you could send an e-mail request through a company’s website.
In recent years, Facebook and Twitter help a lot to get advertising messages across but also facilitate two-way conversation: consumers can learn about production methods, new product releases and other information.
Some breweries make themselves more available to the public than others. The beer writer Michael Jackson in his first major book in 1978 acknowledged the cooperation of most breweries yet lamented the few who were “reticent to the point of discourtesy”. So it always was and always will be.
I have found brewers (almost all) remarkably willing to share information, and want to hear whatever they have to say. All information is good, even fairly non-specific advertising content, you can learn from everything.
Most brewers, too, are interested to hear what consumers say, it’s good business but also there is a special kinship between brewers and consumers. Good drink of any kind inspires fellowship and solidarity, a drink with friends helps bring people together. Who better to form part of the conversation than the person who made what’s in your glass?
I follow a number of breweries on Twitter, I like to see the content they put across and occasionally respond to make a comment or suggestion. At a brewpub, or bar where a brewer I know is present, we always talk about brewing ingredients, recipes, what’s good, what’s next, what’s better.
Breweries certainly are friends to those interested in how beer is made, its palate, its history. For those not interested to talk to producers, it’s easy to avoid the process by not following them on Twitter or Facebook, or chatting with a brewpub owner about the weather or politics, say. That’s not me. If I met the people from Community Beer Works, I’d ask, hey guys, which hop in your single hop releases did you really like, what beer got the best consumer reaction, have you ever tried Sterling for ales, any chance to get your beer in Toronto, maybe call X whom I know in town, etc. etc.