I started the Rochester Beer Blog a little more than a year ago because I was fascinated by the rapid growth of the craft beer movement, and it seemed like Rochester was an exceptional hotbed of activity. New breweries, transformation of old brands, local bars welcoming local brews into their tap lines, and just a general enthusiasm that seemed to be quickly spreading through the region. As beer enthusiast, it’s been fun watching it all unfold practically at my doorstep.
Let’s get one thing clear: I am not an expert. When I started this blog (and its associated Facebook page), I promised myself I would not use buzz-words like “mouthfeel” and “hop-forward” in my posts. If I don’t know what something is, I’m going to look it up (and tell you). I also decided I would keep my nose out of industry gossip and stick to reporting on my first-hand experiences. There are plenty of other sites that deal with in-depth analysis and industry reporting, and I’m not trying to copy them.
Beer is supposed to be fun. I feel that people looking to explore and learn more about craft beverages are turned off by the jargon and inside expressions. What do you mean you don’t know what simcoe hops are? Are you telling me you’ve never tried a brett sour? How can it be you’ve never waited four hours on line for a new release? Did you really just drink that Coors Light unironically? Stop it. Nobody cares. Drink what you enjoy, but don’t be afraid to try new things, and more importantly, ask questions.
I wasn’t quite sure where this project would end up when I first started it. My day job is editor of a monthly magazine in a completely unrelated field. The Rochester Beer Blog was largely an exercise to see if I could generate meaningful content about a subject I enjoyed, yet would have to research to be thoughful and relevant. And by research I mean visit breweries, sample beers, and talk to brewmasters. Sounds awful doesn’t it?
One thing that was important to me was objectivity, and some degree of anonymity. If I’m visiting a place for the first time, I want to make sure I’m getting the same experience anyone else would enjoy. In the early months of the Rochester Beer Blog, I was self-conscious of posting any images of me partially because I wanted to remain unknown and partially because who wants to see my face when you’re trying to enjoy a beer? That’s me and my best friend Fro at the top of this blog post. I’m the crazy-looking dude on the left. Of course, sometimes I’ve been outed by an attentive owner who is monitoring their Facebook check-ins. I have sheepishly raised my hand a few times when asked, “Okay, which one of you is the Rochester Beer Blog?” Of course, I’m not afraid to make friends and introduce myself on a repeat visit.
We capped off the first year on May 17 with a low-key party at Swiftwater Brewing, which if you follow the blog you know is my home away from home. Old friends made a point to come and raise a pint with me, though I was pleasantly surprised to meet new people who introduced themselves to me out of the blue. The Facebook page has just under 500 “likes” at this point, so the turnout was a good one, I felt.
At the anniversary party I gave away a few tickets for Rails & Ales, a combination beer tasting and fundraiser for the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum where I volunteer in nearby Rush, N.Y. I was very nervous about how the event would go, as I was in charge of reaching out to area breweries and putting the event together. I’ll skip ahead to the end where I was introduced to Kimberly Fry (photo above) and she told me how she’s been following the Rochester Beer Blog since day one and how she uses the site as a guide to checking out new breweries and events in the region. I was overwhelmingly flattered by her compliments. I don’t do this for money or fame. My goal is not to be the biggest or even the best, but if a few people gain some enjoyment and knowledge (and a little entertainment) from this blog, then I’m happy.