Some thoughts on beer blogging + an update

On January 6th, I made an announcement on our FB page that I will be stepping down from the Beerologique project. The decision was a very difficult one, but at the same, time, it was something I had been contemplating for the past couple of years. The reasons behind it were varied. One one hand, I had to think about my health, my finances, my time, and above all, my mental well-being. But there was also more behind that decision.

Writing about beer is no easy task – in Romania, or anywhere else in the world. It relies heavily on your own understanding of beer as a product, it requires an in depth knowledge of the process and its history, and, most crucially, it hinges on your relationship with the people making it and what they are willing to disclose. It’s very easy to assume that beer blogging is a vanity project that people jump on board with for the sake of everlasting fame and peer approval, as well as some freebies thrown in the mix. True, this works for some folk, but the ones who endure the test of time are the ones who display at least some degree of wholesomeness and integrity.

One of my main gripes with writing about beer came from the lack of communication from the brewers themselves. I’m not sure what caused it, but it was probably a mix of the industry being too young and inexperienced when it comes to content writing, a reticence to provide information and a lack of transparency that is quintessential to the Romanian ethos, as well as the fact that, well, nobody understood what Beerologique did (to this day, there is no equivalent for our website in any other country, irrespective of how old its brewing tradition is). As a result, communication faltered, or was met with a skepticism that resulted in either lackluster replies laced with Corporatese, or worse, no replies at all.

This was massively demoralizing for me, especially given the fact that I was doing everything pro bono, and mostly out of my own pocket. I began doubting the worth of the content I was writing. It seemed that nobody was interested in reading never-ending articles on obscure topics, and worse, it seemed to me that the brewers themselves saw no worth in having someone who keeps track of not just their daily antics, but also does this with the know-how that lends articles credibility.

So I pulled the plug on the whole thing, drank my obscenely large collection of basement-aged Imperial Stouts without deigning to review them, and pretended that the local craft beer scene had ceased to exist. Things were good for a few weeks. Until…

Several days ago, while I was reading Jeff Alworth’s Beer Bible, I had a bit of a panic attack as I realized that nobody really knows what happened on the Romanian craft beer scene in 2020. True, people knew various bits and bobs, but nobody had the full picture. Most of the people I had spoken with were convinced that 2020 was all about Covid and bars either being shut, or being opened under strict regulations, and that the industry just flatlined fairly early on. Which wasn’t the case at all – 2020 has been a very exciting year in terms of beer trends and industry developments. And it dawned on me that nobody knew this, because nobody wrote an in-depth review of last year’s happenings.

Prior to this, on October 31st 2019, Facebook rolled out that massive update which brought about several significant changes to the website’s layout, policies and whatnot. Among those changes was the fact that Facebook Notes disappeared – the section itself, not the content. Luckily, we had migrated the vast majority of our Notes content to the website by then, but the blow was significant. Suddenly, hundreds of thousands of Notes were no longer easily accessible to the public. This may not seem like a great loss, but among the Notes that were lost were the highly informative ones written by Bereta a few years ago, which contained everything from beer recipes, to how to get into commercial brewing. The only way people would now find them was if they scrolled down through years worth of news feed on their page – which, let’s be honest, nobody has the inclination for, even if they knew what to look for.

Even before that, going back to 2018, I had noticed that brewers and beer savvy folk were starting to withdraw from social media platforms and no longer posting content on one of the country’s most prominent social media groups, Bere România. Suddenly, we stopped seeing informative content and beer reviews from people like (back then homebrewer) Horia from Addictive Brewing, or engagement from the people who had laid the foundation for the craft beer scene in this country. Hop Hooligans also stopped posting beer blogs on their website in 2018, and it looked like the chances of getting them back on board were slim to none.

The nail in the coffin was January 21st, when Răzvan from Universitatea de Bere announced that he will also stop writing blog posts. This was a massive blow for me, because I always looked up to Răzvan as a blogging peer and colleague, and that he would stop writing about beer was unfathomable. He had been doing it since 2014 and was around at a time when craft beer in Romania was just a glimmer in the brewer’s eye. And then, within less than a month, the local beer scene had lost its two most prominent beer bloggers. I’m still not sure that people understand the full implications of this, but personally, I am convinced that a country that has no craft beer writers doesn’t have a proper beer culture.

I’ll be honest with you folks: I am a Dataist. Data is literally my religion, and I believe that it should be declassified and allowed to flow freely. This is why Beerologique content is provided in the international language of the internet, without the hindrance of paywalls or ads or pop-ups. I gather information on anything beer related from any source, hoarding it like a magpie with an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and I relish drawing conclusions and laying down the facts indiscriminately, for all to see.

When I realized that Romania had realistically nobody left to document the evolution (for better or worse) of the local craft beer scene, I was livid with panic. Of course, it’s very easy to assume that whatever happened in the past 5 – 10 years can be glossed over, and that craft beer in the past decade will be just a footnote in the grand scheme of Romanian brewing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Information never becomes outdated – it just becomes relevant in a historic context. Many things only become apparent in retrospect, so if you have nothing to work with, it’s very easy to assume that nothing important happened, or worse, draw the wrong conclusions from an incomplete or biased data set.

What this meant was that I had to seriously consider getting back into writing about beer. In a way, WordPress made the decision for me, by auto-renewing our yearly membership (not cool, btw). So while I will continue to write about whatever the brewers are up to and my own observations regarding the industry (and most likely spill a lot of beans in the process), some things are going to change.

For starters, the database will no longer be kept up to date. We have reached a point where it is unfeasible for a single person to keep track of all the new beers and breweries popping up on the market. I had struggled with this in 2020, and there’s a big chance that I will not cope with doing it on my own in 2021. I have considered collaborating with other beer aficionados and asking them to help out, but honestly, I have my doubts it will work. Apologies to all the breweries that won’t make it on to our database (I know some of you, and you’re some thoroughly decent folk, but for me it’s all or nothing).

I will also stop sharing (with very few exceptions) the articles I write on FB. The reason for this is that I’m bloody tired of dealing with stupid comments from people who realistically have nothing to say, but feel the need to say something because hearing their own voice is instantly gratifying. Blocking people and deleting stupid comments is tiring and excruciatingly demoralizing. Same as dealing with passive-aggressive attitudes. You folk know who you are – please seek validation elsewhere. Ta.

Last but not least, I will no longer write on-demand articles about your shop, your bar, your beers, your whatchamacallit. I never enjoyed it, and I always felt like a sell-out doing it. Also, some of the stuff I wrote caused a dent in my relationship with brewers and other industry peers. So stop asking.

2021 is going to be an awesome year. Forget about Covid – the year marks a decade since the first self-proclaimed artisanal brewery opened in Romania. So expect some retrospective pieces, as well as articles that will aim to foreshadow wherever it is that this industry is headed.

That’s pretty much all from me. I was thinking about asking you to subscribe to our content via email, but WP is being a fickle bitch and isn’t sending out emails anymore for some convoluted reason. Just check this website every now and then and we’ll see where it takes us. Cheers!

Teo
– diligently writing stuff about Romanian craft beer since 2017-ish

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