There's a simple guide when it comes to working out which stories tend to attract the most eyes in this day and age. It's lists and controversy, pretty much the model for many news organisations and almost every lifestyle publication.
So, when we took a look at the stories that had proven most popular in terms of readership over the past decade, we were expecting a steady stream of awards type articles – Hottest 100s, AIBAs and Indies, our Best New Beers roundups – alongside those you might group together as controversial – the sale of popular indie brewers, missteps by businesses, for example.
Such stories do indeed feature heavily in the upper reaches, but what was reassuring was the variety of articles sprinkled among them in the top 100. Sure, it's not an exact science when you consider our audience has grown year on year over the decade, but it's been rather heartening to realise the world of engaged beer lovers isn't as base in its interests as mere lists and controversies.
Below, on day four of our Ten Years Of Crafty series, we've gathered some of those articles alongside others we've enjoyed reading or writing, plus a couple we felt somehow flew under the radar. As I've mentioned to a few people over time, there's little more frustrating for a journalist / editor / publisher than spending an age on an in-depth feature of real benefit to your audience and the industry you report on only to see it fail to catch on while a 150 word post about the latest peanut butter milkshake dessert beer goes off like a frog in a sock so hopefully you might come across something of interest that passed you by first time around.
You can check out the rest of the articles in the series as they appear by following this link. To date, we've told the story of how The Crafty Pint came to be, shared heaps of photos from the decade, and updated our Who Owns Your Beer? infographic alongside another showing a snapshot of the industry in September 2010.
And The Winner Is...
OK. Let's get "lists" out of the way. There's no denying it: people love 'em. Scattered throughout the most read articles of all time on the site are Hottest 100s, Australian International Beer Awards, Indies results, our blind tasting results articles, our Best New Beers features, well, you get the idea.
For all that, while it can't be said of all list-based articles floating in the ether, the above all have good reason to exist and are, generally, the result of bloody hard work. Knowing how long it takes us to prepare our analysis articles and infographics for each GABS Hottest 100, to coordinate the hundreds of responses and state-by-state-by-terroritory panels for our Best New Beers features, or to amass the beers required for blind tastings, then host them, then write about them, the mind boggles at what must go into coordinating those national events.
They serve a purpose too. Some dismiss the Hottest 100 as a popularity contest; even if it is it gets more people talking about craft beer than pretty much any other single event in the year else. Awards competitions allow brewers to see how they fare against their peers and (pre-COVID) catch up with the rest of the industry.
The Best New Beers features create a snapshot of a moment in time and a chance to reflect on the year just gone and I really hope our blind tastings have encouraged people to give it a go and judge beers for what they are in the glass rather than by reputation. Certainly, we can't wait to bring them back once we're able to gather in person again.
Sure, they're lists, but maybe all lists aren't born equal.
The Big Issues
When it comes to time-consuming, few series on the site require as much attention and grey matter as those under The Big Issue banner. One – Marie Claire Jarratt's on Sexism – helped the writer claim last year's AIBA Best Media title, while we've trained a beady eye or two on everything from beer quality and ABAC to the drinking within the beer industry and exploitation.
In a similar vein have been in-depth features such as Winter's Still Coming, on the challenges the industry faces, and the Secret Brewer series that's overdue a resurrection.
Hit The Road
Whether it's our Crafty Crawls showcasing suburbs, cities or regions of the country or Beer Travel features sent in from all corners of the beer world, the travel features we've run over the years not only tend to prove popular but provide some of my most enjoyable moments as an editor.
I always told contributors to write in the third person and was fastidious about it for years until I received a first story from Bert "Storyteller" Spinks in which he was central to the tale he was telling from Iceland. I enjoyed the article so much I made a special Bert Allowance, one that's now been extended to others whenever the opportunity suits.
By far the most read travel style piece is the Crafty Crawl guide to the breweries of Marrickville, but others as varied as the 86 tram, guides to Newcastle, Hobart and Cairns, and even the Frankston train line. Tales from places as disparate as Bali, Bamberg and Belgium have drawn in readers, while the one I arguably enjoyed most of all came from Our Man In NZ, Jono Galuszka, when he spent time at Craftworks on the South Island.
A Bit Of Knowledge Never Hurt
While there's a strong argument to be made for the general dumbing down of humanity, it does appear Crafty Pint readers like to buck the trend. A broad array of articles one could tag as educational appear among the most read of the past decade, from those offering industry insight to those on emerging trends or styles.
Mick Wust's double-header on Norwegian super-yeast kveik performed like a strain of Voss at 36C while the various (and very occasional) Day In The Life features on what it takes to do various roles in the industry and those on starting / running a brewery in the upper echelons suggest we should be making them a bigger part of our second decade, along with more educational style guides.
It appears people enjoy a spot of crafty history, with The Story Of... features on some of Australia's iconic beers – Little Creatures Pale, Stone & Wood Pacific Ale, Feral Hop Hog, Boatrocker Ramjet and so on – consumed as eagerly as the beers themselves, likewise deep dives such as the story of Moon Dog's evolution, up there with the articles I've enjoyed writing most too.
(Admittedly our feature on the rise of hard seltzers – The Alcopopalypse Cometh – is up there among the most read too, but you can't win 'em all...)
They Did What?!?
As tabloids (and, increasingly, broadsheets) the world over know, bad news sells. And while you might argue some of the stories in this section are good news stories or more a case of controversy, they're united by the manner in which they sparked shock / horror / surprise / sadness* within the beer world.
The sales of Mountain Goat, 4 Pines, Pirate Life, Feral, Green Beacon and Balter in particular all saw the traffic needle spike as in an earthquake (but we addressed that to an degree in yesterday's feature). And the same has happened whenever there's been a significant social media or marketing misstep within the industry.
In the case of the latter type of story, there is always a silver lining. Our approach has been to look beyond the incident and the furore that's followed to work out what the real impact is, or where the root of an issue lies. It might not be as instant or dramatic as simply throwing a story online and pointing fingers, but hopefully it serves to provoke thought and discussion and help guide the industry to a better place.
On the flip side, it seems people enjoy a good laugh too. Sitting within the top hundred most read articles of all time are the Inner West Sydney brewers' crowdfunding April Fool and Bridge Road's Declaration Of Independence.
Beer For Good
Looking back to the time I was a journo at the Nottingham Evening Post, it didn't take long to realise how much local and regional press loved a campaign. It's not a path we ever set out to follow at The Crafty Pint, even if you could argue part of our entire raison d'être since launching has been to raise the profile of craft beer in Australia. Yet it's a path we' found ourselves treading more than anyone would have wanted over the past year.
Initially, we hoisted a metaphorical placard after our graphic designer Jessie Jungalwalla got in touch asking if we'd help amplify an idea she'd had to encourage the beer world to rally behind the #climatestrike marches taking place last September. This led to her No Beer On A Dead Planet banner appearing at events across Australia and popping up in various media reports online too.
We then ended last year as part of a disparate group of people around the local beer industry looking to coordinate a nationwide response to the bushfires that were devastating much of the country. What was initially sparked by an email from the team at Future Mountain ultimately became Beer For Bushfire Relief, a banner under which hundreds of events took place across Australia raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the Resilience Beer.
With the IBA and individual brewers pulling on all the resources and contacts they could muster, more than 200 brewers worldwide ended up brewing a beer to raise funds for bushfire relief, using the name Sierra Nevada had chosen for a similar project in the wake of wildfires in the US.
No sooner were the first Resilience Beers being tapped than focus was switching from a regional catastrophe to one on a global scale. Indeed, we were set to head out to bushfire-impacted regions so we could run a series of features encouraging people to visit them over the Easter holidays when the full reality of what COVID-19 was going to mean hit hard.
While conducting interviews for a story on what it could mean for the local beer and hospo industries if venues had to close, it became apparent there was a need for more than an article. Those conversations led to the launch of the #keepinglocalalive campaign on the weekend the historic nationwide shutdown was announced. It struck a chord, a simple message at a tumultuous time that was both rallying cry and something to cling onto, and soon appeared on beers and t-shirts while sparking the nationwide Beer Swag Day.
The full impact of COVID-19 upon the beer, hospitality and events industries is yet to be revealed, and with Melbourne and Victoria in various stages of lockdown and no end date in site, one can only cross fingers, toes, everything for business owners and their staff throughout the state. While figures released when the government announced Australia was in recession for the first time in 29 years show alcohol consumption jumped significantly in the June quarter, the figures for the hospitality sector are beyond ugly.
At the same time, there have been positives to come from the pandemic and we've attempted to write about as many as possible in our Postcards from the Edge series – up to No.50 and still going. It's also my belief that, in years to come, when people study this period in time, the way in which the local beer world adapted and innovated – all while demonstrating a remarkable spirit of collegiality and kindness – will be looked upon as a case study in just how to respond in the face of an existential threat.
It's a threat that's far from over, but the increasing desire to support local – both within beer and without – is a positive I hope will outlive the pandemic. And what better way to wrap up this retrospective than with hope, positivity and supporting local.
We're running a series of features looking back over the past decade of beer in Australia to mark ten years of The Crafty Pint. Tomorrow see us feature many of the people who've been part of The Crafty Pint story over the years.
We're collecting all the articles here. And if you'd like to share your favourite photos and memories from the past decade on socials, please do so with the hashtag #tenyearsofcrafty so we can check them out and maybe feature them in another article later in the series.