Often, with so many options available to us, it’s the rejection of complexity and hubris that allows what should have been obvious all along to shine through: simplicity. Be it graphic design, menu choices, fashion or, in the case of this edition of our Australian Beerstagrammers series, celebrating beer on social media.
For Sticking With Beer’s Ben Fredricksen, distilling a beer’s essence began with intentions bordering on mindfulness at its core, and has quickly become one of Australia’s most loved beerstagram accounts. It’s playful, humorous and, at times, adorably cute, but, as we’ll soon see, there’s more involved than a few quick strokes on the pen.
How did you get into beer?
I’ve always enjoyed trying different beers, although at the start I thought the beer world was limited to what my local chain bottleshop stocked. I was essentially jumping between mass produced pale ales and the occasional IPA.
The opening of The Dutch Trading Co in Perth was a real turning point as I discovered a whole world of beer that I never knew existed. It quickly turned from something I just drank into a hobby. Suddenly I enjoyed talking about beer, instead of just drinking beer while I talked.
How did you get into sharing your beer love on Instagram?
This account came from a combination of creative boredom and the desire for a "dad hobby" to do once my daughter was asleep. Craft beer seemed to be a natural choice; I was already drinking it – why not share it on social media?
I was completely unaware of the Instagram beer scene and my initial revolutionary idea was simply to post of a picture of the beer I was drinking. A few quick searches and I realised that not only was this being done en masse, but being done at really high standard. I didn’t feel I had a unique voice to add, so the idea went on the backburner.
It wasn’t until I considered filling my time with drawing that the concepts merged to become what is now Sticking With Beer. I have no background in art or photography; I just wanted a way to unwind at the end of the day.
What’s your typical setup like?
The stickmen themselves are drawn out paper with Faber-Castell PITT artist pens which I then cut out and place next to the beer. I do all my photos in a light tent and use my iPhone 8 to take the pictures.
When I first started the account, I would use a makeshift light tent made out of pipes, sheets and various lamps from around the house. Eventually I got small tent and a few LEDs which made the whole process much less laborious.
Modesty aside, can you describe your style and suggest a couple of images that best represent your account.
My pictures tend to be minimalistic with the beer and stickman on a white background.
This aesthetic started for practical reasons, it was easy to assemble and the background helped disguise the fact the stickmen were cutouts.
Since then I have experimented with composition or adding extra elements to the photo, but funnily enough the simple pictures have always performed best.
Which Instagram accounts do you follow and what makes them special?
I love thecraftdiaries for a great combinations of beer photos and illustrations.
beer_cap_doodles is another interesting take on simple beer centric art.
One of the first accounts I started following was thelupulinshift for simple beer photos, often combined with ridiculously improper glassware.
More recently I’ve been enjoying quarantinnies for entertaining beer video reviews.
What changes have you seen in the Australian beer scene since you started beerstagramming?
It was only a year ago I started my account and even in that time I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of limited release beers. Noticeably some breweries have shifted to almost all small batch releases. It makes for a very dynamic and sometimes overwhelming beer scene.
I’ve learnt to accept that I can’t have them all, no matter how much I want to.
Changes to social media platform algorithms can create headaches when it comes to engagement. How do you stay on top of this constantly shifting digital sand?
When I first begun, I was guilty of spending too much time trying to "crack" the secret formula. I would play with posting times, caption content and hashtag mix to try to improve reach and engagement.
Whenever I thought I had it figured out with some successful posts, the same formula would fail me on the very next one.
Eventually, I decided my time was better spent just making good content and not getting too caught up in the fickle algorithm.
Hashtags are synonymous with Instagram. What are some of your favourites and what’s one of the weirdest ones that you’ve seen or used?
I shake up my hashtags on each post but will always use brewery specific hashtags. These are relevant and have the benefit of having less content so often your photo can sit on top posts for some time. I also enjoy looking through to see the different interpretations of the same beer.
No weird ones come to mind though I do find hashtags shared between disparate hobbies entertaining. #garageproject is equal parts beers from the Wellington brewery and cars being worked on.
A lot of businesses see social media as time-consuming. How long do you typically spend on your posts and what could a new brewery do to stand out on Instagram?
On average I would spend just over an hour with drawing, photographing and crafting the post itself. Some have taken much longer, but as long as I’m enjoying the process, I’m happy to put in the time.
My favourite accounts by breweries are those which have managed a consistent style. People’s first interaction with a profile is often the grid view and if this is a mismatch of styles and colour schemes it can all look bit muddled. I would say I consider putting pictures in stories that might not fit with your page otherwise.
How do you choose which beers to feature?
The beer has to be in my fridge first, which narrows it down to either beers I previously enjoyed or piqued my interest. From there, the beers that inspire an illustration through the art or name are typically the beers that end up being featured. I don’t enjoy staring at a blank page trying to force ideas, so I prefer it if something jumps to mind while I’m drinking.
Instagram has the potential to engage brands beyond traditional marketing methods. What do you see as the benefits for beer businesses getting involved with beerstagrammers?
Craft beer is a niche hobby that is also unique depending where you are geographically. The craft beer scene in Perth is really only a curiosity to someone in London. As such, a beerstagrammer's followers will lean heavily to demographics the beers posted are relevant to. So, the right account, even if it has less followers than others, can really help your beer be discovered by a targeted audience.
What tips do you have for anyone keen to, as they say, crush their beerstagram game?
Craft beer on Instagram can be crowded and standing out can be a challenge. Spend some time considering what your account will be, and what will drive someone to follow it. A beer photographed on a cluttered dinner table won’t stand out. Sometimes combining craft beer with another hobby like books, hiking or gardening might give you an edge.
For new accounts, discoverability can be difficult; how does someone find your profile to start with?
Certainly, using hashtags and tagging breweries can help. However, just getting involved in the Instagram beer community is the best bet. Leave insightful comments on other people’s posts. Engage with other beerstagrammers. Eventually people will see your name popping up and check out your profile.
And any Instagram faux pas people should look to avoid?
I think a simple rule is to be genuine. If you plan on being part of the Instagram beer community for a while, you’ll end up interacting with the same people again and again. If all your interactions are just an attempt to game the system to get followers, you won’t do yourself any favours.
Don’t just copy and paste the same form comment onto other people’s posts.
Don’t follow/unfollow people continuously, in the hope of getting a follow back.
If someone is taking the time to engage with you, take the time to engage back.
In the end, if you are only posting pictures but not interacting with anyone on any genuine level; you are missing half the experience.
All photographs published in this article are the work of Ben / stickingwithbeer.
You can find other entries in this series here. If you would like to be featured – or have an account you love and would like to know more about – let Guy know. You can also check out Guy's beerstagramming at Goodtimes Craft Beer.