August 30, 2011

Are Beer Blogs important? Part 1

The byline to Jeff Alworth's Beervana blog reads, "Blogs will save us". Coincidentally, Jeff writes one of the highest ranked beer blogs in one the country if you follow such things as Wikio rankings. What sort of statement is Mr Alworth trying to make about his blog, Portland and beer blogging in general?

It turns out that the byline is the result of a jab from one of his friends-- one that Jeff has turned into a code of grounding self-deprecation. He related a corrolary of the code to a hotel conference room full of writers at the Beer Bloggers Conferernce in Portland a week ago, "A Beer Blog eh," imitating his friend's skepticism with writing about beer online, "They don't give those out to just anyone." I'm a little bit late to the game to talk about beer blogger naval gazing as some of the top beer writers have already done. None of those writers is taking the position that the Wikio rankings or even that the avocation/vocation of writing about beer is truly "important". I won't either. I will instead argue that the number of regularly well written blogs (and the haphazard inconsistent ones) coming from a local area mirror the larger beer story.

Blogs will reveal us.

If you're not familiar with Portland's beer culture, here's an unbiased overview from the Chicago Tribune. Depending on how you do the math and define the metro area, you're looking at 28 or 50 breweries. Let's not look solely at the magnitude of breweries, there are certainly interesting legal, economic and infrastructural reasons for this, but that's another post. Instead, we'll look at the way that Portland works as a community that supports beer. Portland is successful because each of the breweries, bars, writers, bloggers, restaurants, musicians and other community stakeholders work together. They plan, improvise, communicate and acknowledge each other. They share a degree of dependence and mutual fortune based upon these relationships. How else could they pull off a BenFest, an all fruit beer fest or a session beer fest? How else could they support so many breweries a mere 160 miles from the 5th largest craft brewery in the country? These are endeavors that demand advanced planning, trusted relationships, interaction and communication.

Let's take a look now at the Portland beer blogging landscape. The top 3 Wikio beer rated blogs are Portland based. Two more Portland based blogs round off the top 10. Impressive, but again, let's look at the relationships behind the numbers and how the Wikio rankings work. According to Wikio, rankings are base upon:
...the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs. Our algorithm accords a greater value to links from blogs placed higher up in the ranking. 
... The weight of any link decreases over time. Also, if a blog always links to the same blog, the weight of these links is decreased.
In other words, the links are a proxy for influence and show the degree of communication between those bloggers with other bloggers through internal links. It's difficult for us to know if PDX bloggers link primarily among themselves, but that seems to be a logical connection to make. If you've read The New School, Beervana Brewpublic and others, you'd come to the conclusion as I have, that reading those Portland blogs is not unlike doing a PDX pub crawl or walking upon a food and beer paring street festival in the Pearl district.There is a level of integration of ideas that goes beyond the event.  Each blog is interesting on it's own, but each also carries a spirit or vibe that tells you that these writers talk over beers and discuss ideas. The blogs mirror the quality of the beer culture.

We'll take a look at things here in Phoenix in Part 2 but let's get something clear beforehand. I'm not asserting any causation here between blogging and beer culture. Bloggers and Wikio rankings did not create the Portland beer culture. The amazing number of breweries, beers and events certainly give bloggers there more to talk about, but we can't say, either, that it caused a high functioning blogosphere. It hints at some larger co-varying aspect of community that fosters relationships in both worlds.

Tomorrow: A look at Phoenix Beer Blogs.

5 comments:

  1. Since the end of #BBC11 I have set up an RSS feed for most of the bloggers represented. I've really enjoyed reading others perspective of our fair city (PDX). I'm also excited to see what Phoenix has to offer down the road. My family and I are no strangers to beercations. So this sheds a lot of insight on planning or next trip, where ever it might be.

    Keep up the good work! Always remember “Be beer geeks NOT beer snobs.”

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  2. I blog about music and beer. The beer blogosphere is incredibly more cooperative and supportive than the music blogosphere. The navel gazing on your average beer blog is nothing compared to what happens at Pitchfork or the like.

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  3. @mmcooljam Feb 18-25th would be a good visit time http://arizonabeerweek.com/ but give us a shout and we'll point you in the right direction.

    @pavementandbeerforpeace I wish there were more beer and ___ blogs here. I guess we're still in the growth phase.

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  4. Ironically, I changed my tagline yesterday for no reason other than, apparently, to be inadvertently difficult.

    The Wikio thing is a bit perverted by our interlinking, and I will endeavor to change that by linking more to blogs like this one. I finally got you in the blogroll, which is LONG overdue. Now that Stan linked your post, maybe we can rocket you up to the top 20 in Wikio.

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  5. Jeff, I was going to let you know I wrote this, but I think you are like me in that it's tremendously nauseating to read about oneself.

    If you read part two, you can see why I have yet to do a blogroll.

    But it needs to be done!

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