Stan Hieronymus, long-time beer writer and blogger at Appellation Beer, will deliver the keynote address at the 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference, scheduled for July 8-10 in Tampa, Florida.
Stan started his writing career with the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette but ultimately left behind a steady paycheck to write on his own account. He writes for a number of beer-related publications as well as about beer in non-beer periodicals. He is the author or co-author of seven books and his next book, Brewing Local, will be out in September.
Stan was vetted by the conference Advisory Board and was selected as their top choice for 2016. As advisory board member, founder and editor of BeerinFlorida.com, and author of “Florida Breweries” Gerard Walen says “Stan is one of those beer writers who essentially started blogging before anyone even knew what a blog was, and is an inspiration to those of us who came later.”
See below for a Q&A with Stan and please remember to register for the BBC today if you have not done so yet!
You have a long history of writing, including at newspapers and for the last 24 years as an independent writer. You seem to have been well ahead of the curve by leaving newspapers for your own independent status. Any regrets about not having an actual title and employer?
Stan: It is not like Daria, my wife, and I sensed what was going to happen to newspapers. We simply had more that we wanted to do, and it was worth paying our own health insurance to do it. One of the things I miss about working for a newspaper, particularly on the copy desk, is no longer part of the business. At 1 o’clock in the morning we were sending the news to the presses. Five hours or so later people were picking up their paper and reading that news. It’s a rush. Newspapers don’t work that way any more. I also miss the interaction with fellow workers. Even the jerks.
You have been writing about beer since 1993. What made you switch from writing about many to subjects to, now, primarily about beer?
When I was 23 the managing editor at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Illinois, lured me away from sports to become the city editor by convincing me “It’s different every day.” Beer is as diverse, and I don’t have to screw with sewer board meetings. There’s the history, the culture, the people who drink it, the people who make it, the business, the technical aspects, agriculture, and the beer itself.
In your career, you went from newspaper staff writer and editor to blogger at Appellation Beer. Many of our conference attendees are considering or dreaming about the reverse, going from blogger to paid writer at a magazine or newspaper. Do you have any advice for them?
Career paths are strange. I’ve had a lot of friends go from newspapers to PR or something on corporate communications. That was usually a matter of money. I’ve had others who went to work for politicians. That’s usually been an adrenalin thing. If this is a career it is an accidental one. We, Daria and I, have seen things we wanted to do and figured out a way to pay the bills along the way. She got a second masters and now works at the National Archives. I feel a lot less respectable still writing about beer.
The blog was sort of an afterthought. I simply knew there were things I wanted to say that weren’t going to be parts of stories I would/could sell. Maybe it helps sell books – I don’t have a way to measure that. But I learn things that make whatever I might be writing better. And it lands me in the middle of a community I would not be a part of were I simply scattering comments here and there. I can’t underestimate the importance of connections I might not know exist. You start to explain something to somebody in Poland and they tell you they’ve read it in your blog. That allows us to have a meaningful conversation.
I still haven’t answered your question, have I? Maybe that’s what I will be talking about in July. A short answer would be that if the blog is supposed to be an audition for a job figure out what the job you are auditioning for is.
In some industries there is a great divide between “bloggers” and “writers”. In others, such as in the beer industry, that differentiation seems rather unimportant. What do you think?
Maybe it is related to the fact that what is called craft beer and digital media reached the tipping point at the same time.
You mention on your blog your goal of writing about beers from a place. In the wine industry, from a place (terroir) actually means to many people that the local altitude, climate, terrain, and soil condition affects how grapes and thus wine taste. What does beer from a place mean to you?
Beer is just as much an agricultural product as wine, but it has two key aroma/flavor agents (malt and hops) where wine has one (grapes). Winemakers make a choice about showcasing terroir and brewers may as well. But there is the human element as well: the place we drink the beer, the relationships we have with the people who make the beer, where the beer fits in our community. Not every beer is going to reflect the place where it is brewed – at least to me – but I have a special appreciation for those that do.
You have a pretty amazing schedule on your blog, hoping to post three times per week including a collection of links to other blogs. That has got to take a lot of time and effort. How do you do it while also writing enough for pay?
I don’t. My output the past six months has been pretty meager while I was hunkered down working on “Brew Local” and keeping up with stories I was committed to. I’d say to make it work you start with coming up with an answer for the third question. One thing I won’t forgo is reading what else is being written about beer. I always learn something. That makes the weekly links easy.
Do you have any idea yet what you might speak to our attendees about at the 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference?
I’m pretty sure it will be related to beer and writing. Probably about balance, texture, and nuance in both. And maybe a bit about the Oxford comma.