JS 84: Craft Beers in America with Julia Herz Publisher of CraftBeer.com & Program Director for the Brewers Association

November 18th, 2014 by Jason | Comments Off on JS 84: Craft Beers in America with Julia Herz Publisher of CraftBeer.com & Program Director for the Brewers Association

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Julia Herz is the Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association as well as a home-brewer and a certified Cicerone. She is the publisher for CraftBeer.com, a website that showcases the different craft beers across the US. CraftBeer.com highlights not only the independent producers, but also breaks down the process and gives a behind-the-scenes look at how each beer is made. Julia explains to Jason the neat things you can find on the website that will make any beer enthusiast’s heart soar. 

 

Key Takeaways:

2:25 – CraftBeer.com is 4 years old and helps put more independent craft brewers on the map.

3:50 – Craft beer versus micro brew? Julia explains the difference.

7:35 – Craftbeer.com is meant for the beer beginner learning the ropes. It also helps you find new and cool places to check out.

10:30 – Colorado has a big craft brewery community, but so does the rest of the US like New York, California, and Chicago.

13:02 – The Great American Beer Festival hosted by the American Homebrewers Association has 49,000 attendees a year.

15:08 – Julia’s marketing tip is to tap into the enthusiast, get them behind your event, and give them rewards for doing so.

17:10 – Beer works very well with grilled, roasted, and smoke meats. Citruses also can make a great pairing with beer.

 

 

Tweetables:

“The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery.” Tweet this!

“Any event that you put on, tap into the enthusiast behind that topic, get them behind on your event and give them rewards for doing so.” Tweet this! 

“Whenever you have breweries, you have people traveling from right down the street to outside the region to visit those breweries.” Tweet this!

 

Mentioned In This Episode:

http://www.craftbeer.com

http://www.brewersassociation.org/

 

 

Transcript

Jason Hartman:

It’s my pleasure to welcome Julia Herz to the show. She’s the publisher of CraftBeer.com and program director at the Brewers Associations. Julia, welcome, how are you?

 

Julia Herz:

Hi Jason, I’m doing good. Very good.

 

Jason:

Good, good. Maybe I should say cheers actually. *Laughter*.

 

Julia:

We say that a lot in my business.

 

Jason:

I bet you do. Where are you located?

 

Julia:

I’m talking to you today from Boulder, Colorado, which is where the National Association offices are.

 

Jason:

Fantastic. Well, you’re there in the rocky mountains so it sounds like a Kors commercial almost, huh?

 

Julia:

Yeah, we are at the foothills of the rockys, Colorado range, beer booming, more than 230 breweries in Colorado and the list goes on and on. We can talk about any state and how the beer culture is advancing quickly.

 

Jason:

Wow, 230 in Colorado. That’s amazing. I wanna get some numbers for you on that. So, we’ll talk a little bit about beer and have a little fun with this interview, but maybe we’ll start off a little bit serious as we drink our beer. *Laughter*. Talk about your content strategy. You’re a publisher. Tell us some of your strategies you have for running and marketing CraftBeer.com

 

Julia:

Sure and the website is CraftBeer.com. It’s 4 years old, essentially. It’s an interesting approach we take and when you have a website you get something out of nothing. Meaning, where there was no information, no content flow, no furthering of the conversation because of that content, then you advance to doing just that and in 4 years time we evolved quickly. We reach over a million people a year, unique, and it’s kind of just been exciting to see our foot in the ring of furthering the conversation of what’s going on of smaller and independent craft brewers in the US just by putting CraftBeer.com on the map.

 

Jason:

So, how old is the website then?

 

Julia:

About 4 years old.

 

Jason:

So, it is 4 years old only. Wow, that’s pretty new in internet terms. So, explain exactly what craft beer is and is there a distinction between craft beer and micro brew?

 

Julia:

Sure, great question it comes up a lot. We at the Brewers Association who publishes CraftBeer.com and also puts on The Great America Beer Festival, we do not define what craft beer is. It’s basically something the beer drinkers going to concern, like defining local or defining organic, we all have different views of those brewers and what they mean to us, but we do define what a craft brewer is.

 

A craft brewer is smaller producing, less than 6 million barrels of beer a year and they’re independently owned, meaning no more than 25% ownership by a non-craft brewing entity. So those are the smaller indy brewers of today and frankly, we have 2,700 breweries in the US and 98% of those 2,700 breweries are small independent and traditionally producing breweries, so it’s quite an inclusive definition that, you know, that helps differentiates between the smaller indy guys and the larger global brewing companies or other breweries who have different approach to market.

 

Jason:

Yeah, what defines small or large, you know? What’s the difference between Anheuser-Busch and a craft brewery. I know, it’s different, is there a certain cut off point?

 

Julia:

Sure, in production of barrels, one barrel is 31 US gallons of beer, that would be anything over 6 million barriers of beer a year, we would consider large.

 

Jason:

So, everything over 6 million barrels per year is large.

 

Julia:

Yeah, you have them…Anheuser-Busch in US is producing 100 some odd million barrels of beer a year, where somebody like Samuel Adamas Boston Lager produces make a little over 2 million barrels of beer a year, so quite a difference there.

 

Jason:

Back to the strategy question, I got off on a little tangent there, I apologize, but 4 year old website, craft beer is a big and growing phenomenon, talk to us a little bit about your marketing?

 

Julia:

Sure, so CraftBeer.com, you know, any website, there really isn’t a road map, it’s like building a house. You can have different architecture that’s going to highlight different features of the home and it’s going to really be up to you of what you want to highlight and where you want people to navigate to that home or website in that analogy. So, CraftBeer.com, we can them buckets of information and what come very important to us discern what those buckets should be.

 

We’re in a phase 2 of the website in that we are in the back-end WordPress, where we were originally in Redpress, so WordPress, which is very common today, in the back-end architecture of CraftBeer.com. The buckets of information that are housed in there include general information on the beverage, a big section on styles, beer styles, there’s 50+ beer styles on CraftBeer.com documented in the Style Finder; focus on breweries is a big bucket of information and that’s absolutely a good thing for us to be doing, and then a bucket on food and beer pairing with craft beer on the scene is very important. I’d like to say craft beer reclaim its place at the dinner table and that’s a topic close to my heart and pairing is something really complex, perceptions, personal pairing, so we’ve got a lot of great resources on that.

 

We have an education section, it’s all the blogs, I mean CraftBeerMuses, which is my blog, we really do have cutting edge content from myself or beer-minded writers that include craft brewers as well that try to further the conversation on craft beer and other little areas that kind of cover news and the like.

 

Jason:

So, you know, I gotta say, and pardon me if I sound, well, kind of like a party pooper here, a little skeptical..

 

Julia:

*Laughter*. Lay it on me, let’s hear it.

 

Jason:

Julia, look, I mean I drink beer, but I can’t imagine actually going to a beer website, because I can’t drink it there. *Laughter*. You know? I mean, I drink coffee, but I never go to the Starbucks website either, unless I wanna log into the internet at one of the locations.

 

Julia:

Sure.

 

Jason:

How do you make something that interesting where you leap across bits and bytes that’s usually dealt with in atoms and matter. You know, bits and bytes meaning..

 

Julia:

Right and it’s a busy world too. You know, any website, whether you’re talking like craft beer like us, US craft brewers or foodie sites or business orientated site, whatever, you have to create a need for people to go to you, so we do have things that catch out viral amongst the beer world. Some of our muses in the blog, the Craft Beer Muses Blog or in our brewers banter’s blog, literally create a pull from the outside world based on social media chatter on what we’re talking about.

 

So, if you happen to be..and the whole site by the way is geared towards beer beginners, we don’t want to talk anything but up to people. Wine kind of lost its way, got very unattainable by price point and information, we make everything accessible to the beer beginner. Basically, Jason, if you want to enhance your appreciation you might find us because you caught some chatter from one of your Facebook influencers you’re tied to or Twitter and that might trigger your interest to go, “Yeah, that’s the brewery down the street from me, I’m going to check it out.”

 

We also have the most extensive recipe database on the internet for cooking with craft beer. So, if you want a recipe, it’s all sitting right there for you to set only a handful of times a year that you might sit down and Google beer and food or cooking with beer. We have the most extensive database on the internet for the breweries in the US, so if you wanna know how to contact a brewery, it’s sitting there free in your database.

 

So, I think you have to do multiple things. Create content that furthers the conversation that goes a little bit viral is one key component and then on top of that, create landing points that are more static pages, maybe updated dynamically, but they’re static in what they are offer, and those areas in need are evergreen and referenced throughout the year by people who use them.

 

Jason:

Why does, I’m sorta curious, it’s great that you provide any easy way for someone to contact a brewery, but what would be some of the reason someone would contact a brewery?

 

Julia:

Touring. Beer tours, I mean…

 

Jason:

Oh tours, okay.

 

Julia:

We’re the most diverse destination for beer in the world, the United States now, so brewery tours is bringing economic contributions no body imagined. Just from my segment that I represent a small and independent craft brewers is $38 billion dollar economic in 2012 to our country.

 

Jason:

Yeah, okay, interesting. I didn’t even think that like, wine tasting tour. *Laughter*. That’s funny. I thought, “Oh well, there’s something wrong with my beer, so I need to contact the brewery.” Okay, good point. Very interesting. Where are some of the best beer touring places, I mean, we know where kind of the wine countries are, most people do at least. I wanna ask you about some of your events, because you do a great job at that, but is Colorado kind of like a prime location?

 

Julia:

There are advance beer culture pockets in many areas of the US. There’s also breweries in all 50 states. Whenever you have breweries, you have tours, and people traveling from right down the street to outside the region into that area to visit those breweries. Most breweries do give tours, it’s not like restaurant where you can’t raise your hand to the waitress or waiter and say, “Hey, can I go back and check that kitchen out while you guys are cooking?” But, that’s what breweries do.

 

They walk people through their facilities. You know, 2,700 of them are basically doing that. So, any pocket of the area where you have multiple breweries those tend to be pulls for bigger tourism. The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery by the way and with that you’ve got, you know, multiple breweries in one area creating tourist central locations. California, Colorado, New York, Chicago, Michigan, tourism is going on all over.

 

Jason:

It’s just all over, wow. Okay, I was thinking you could name a couple of areas like, you know, if I were to ask that question about wine, you’d say Napa Valley in Northern California for example. It’s kind of nice that it’s more accessible, not just because of the cost being lower, you know, maybe the snootiness element isn’t there so much, but also geography. Is beer, they can brew it anywhere because it’s not as picky as a thing as grapes for wine?

 

Julia:

Well, they’re brewing wine anywhere. You can transport grapes anywhere. Harvest time just happens to be in fall with grapes, just like harvest time happens to be only in the fall with hops, which are a key component, an ingredient, in beer. So, beer is definitely as much as an agricultural product and frankly I would argue for those out there would say a more complex product than wine.

 

The ingredients of barley that’s been malted is a very complex process, where grapes you basically just have a sugar source with a very less board flavor profile amongst the grape vine compared to what you can do with roasting with malt and then you throw hops into the mix, which are an absolute agricultural product that are affect by location and region and then, you know, the yeast profiles and any extra fermentables like fruit or spices, oaking, and the like. You’ve got a lot to play with.

 

Jason:

Okay, good. Talk to us about some of your other events and the marketing of them.

 

Julia:

The Brewers Association puts out a Great American Beer Festival, which is what we’re known for on the broader sense, the 49,000 event that’s more than 30 years old. I actually started at the association as a volunteer at that festival and being a beer enthusiast, many people often take it further and want to volunteer at events or steward at competitions and be a beer judge and the like, so our Great American Beer Festival is a public tasting of 100s of breweries as well as a private competition upon different breweries, so breweries wanna medal up at the Great American Beer Festival. It means they make the best example of that beer style on that year deemed by the judges, so that’s super important to breweries getting on the map with any one of those medals that are very rare to get.

 

It’s interesting. Wine competitions, most of wine competitions out there, you get a certain point level in a competition, you are automatically awarded a metal. We do it differently in the beer world, where there’s only one gold, one silver, one bronze, sometimes the judges don’t even award of those if they didn’t feel like it was an example of that style. Few and hard to come by for those GABF’s awards, for sure.

 

Jason:

Did you mentioned attendance at that event, average?

 

Julia:

49,000 people.

 

Jason:

49,000 people and any sort of clever marketing ideas for an event like that? I mean, of course, you have your email list that you’re collecting at the website and so forth, just anything along the marketing of the event, anything else that you want to mention?

 

Julia:

Sure, we’re part of a very enthusiastic community. Beer lovers are very enthusiastic and beer beginners often continue beyond American Lager and then the journey from there is very broad. We tap into those beer enthusiasts. I mean, we’re one of the largest volunteer efforts in the country to literally put on this festival, about 3,000 volunteers help us put it on. So, I would say, any event that you put on, tap into the enthusiast behind that topic and get them behind on your event and give them rewards for doing so, so they can then, in turn, add to the education that happens at those specific events.

 

Jason:

Okay, good, well, you have been very helpful in sharing all of this stuff. You know, is there anything that you wanna mention about beer itself, you know, in terms of pairing and things like that? I bet a lot of listeners haven’t, you know, thought much about beer pairing. Of course, we’ve heard about that when it comes to wine, but not beer, probably. Anything you wanna mention there in terms in pairing?

 

Julia:

Sure, beer pairing is huge. We’ve been doing it for 1000s of years. What works with wine is wine has acidity and that comes down to salt and food and that allows us to taste the flavors that are in existence on top of beer being able to do that, because beer also has acid components. Beer also complements and harmonizes a lot of flavors.

 

Grilled, roasted, smoked meat have many, many complementary flavors with what’s going on in the malt in the beers and then if you can find flavors that can harmonize with the hops of herbal notes, woodys notes, citrus notes, tropical notes, beer to food, you’re going to have a lot of harmony when you pair, when you find harmonies, you often have, you know, that 1+1=5 where things get a lot more delightful quickly.

 

So, you want it to just have a beverage next to your food and not strategic, awesome, have at it, but when you strategically prepare you are often very rewarded and it makes the food, you know, be the more impressive.

 

Jason:

Fantastic. So, any particular types of beer you want to mention for pairing with those or is that sort of too complex maybe?

 

Julia:

Well, big picture it is. It’s a hard nut to crack in knowing how to approach pairing. We, the Brewers Association, 142 beer styles, so that it is something that’s a challenge. Today I recommend, you wanna pair, go to any better beer provider that’s a larger liquor store or supermarket, that has a big selection is where I’m getting at, and has knowledgeable people filling those brands and ask them for US centric, you know, the least traveled amount is what I often try for, you know, beers from my backyard are going to be fresher frankly than the ones that have traveled across country or have been imported in, so I want fresh beers.

 

I also want base beers that are going to go with the food. If you’re open minded, then CraftBeer.com has amazing pairing suggestions or you already have a pairing, a food item, that you want to pair to, then you can talk to that person at that establishment. Tell them what you’re cooking and ask them what beer style or brand they think would pair best with it. Again, look for harmonies. Don’t overwhelm with impact, don’t want something too big in alcohol to go with something too light, you know, wait for the food and just pay attention to those two things, you’ll be on your way.

 

Jason:

Fantastic. Great advice. Well, Julia, this has been a lot of fun. Julia Herz and the websites are CraftBeer.com and then BrewersAssociation.org. Thank you so much for joining us today!

 

Julia:

Thanks for having me, Jason, have a great day!

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