In the spirit of where Beer Culture plans to go in the future, I’d like to tell the story of Beer Culture’s past.
It should be obvious by the capital letters that I’m talking about Beer Culture the weblog, not the lowercase “beer culture” in the sense of “the customs, institutions, achievements and observable manifestations of the activities of producing, serving and drinking lagers and ales.” That particular beer culture is doing just fine, thank you very much. But in case you haven’t noticed, Beer Culture, formerly hosted by Prague Daily Monitor, has been on hiatus for the past six months or so. It’s returning now at a new address — please update your links to www.beerculture.org — as well as with a new sense of what it intends to address.
In fact, Beer Culture didn’t start out as a weblog: I launched Beer Culture in early 2003 as an old-media, dead-tree newspaper column at The Prague Post, the English-language newspaper in the Czech Republic, where for several years I ran the food & drink desk. If I’m not mistaken, just two Beer Culture pieces were guest-written: one by Prague Post staff writer Dan Macek on the SPP, the Czech beer consumers’ organization, when it became part of the European Beer Consumers Union in 2005, and one in which the award-winning beer writer Alastair Gilmour described a festival celebrating one thousand years of Žatec (Saaz) hops in 2004. The remaining 36 or so Beer Culture newspaper columns were written by yours truly.
When I left the paper in early 2006, the column left with me for what we could call its first hiatus. But just before the publication of Good Beer Guide Prague and the Czech Republic in early 2007, I wrote a couple of articles for my friends at the Prague Daily Monitor, the Czech Republic’s daily English-language news website. By the end of the year, we were ready to relaunch Beer Culture as a Prague Daily Monitor weblog, where it ran from December of 2007 until October of 2009, publishing over 100 posts on everyone’s favorite beverage.
By any measure, Beer Culture 2.0 did very well: by September, 2008, the weblog already had about 5,000 monthly visits and was serving up almost 9,000 pageviews per month. March of 2009 saw over 14,000 visits and just a shade under 20,000 pageviews.
But even by that point, it was clear that Prague Daily Monitor was about to go through some major changes. It took a few months of planning and negotiating, but on November 4, 2009, it was finally announced that Prague Daily Monitor had been acquired by Prague TV.
I think the world of the people at Prague Daily Monitor, who put out a great editorial product that remains an English-language must-read for anyone interested in Czech culture and news. And as a 10-year resident of the city, I’ve long been a fan of Prague TV. I remain good friends with — and a reader of — both publications. But the switch gave me the chance to publish Beer Culture entirely on my own, something I’ve been wanting to try for a while. In addition, it allows me to make a break and do things in a new way. Call it Beer Culture 3.0.
So what’s going to be different?
A bunch of stuff. Part of the new plan is visible in the new address at www.beerculture.org. Not having Prague in its domain name means a lot more than just a different URL. Perhaps just psychologically, that frees up Beer Culture to have a wider focus.
Another change is simply personal: at least for now, I don’t feel much like writing tasting notes or announcing the arrival of new pubs. And honestly, there are already enough blogs covering those subjects.
Instead, I hope to write more stories — to tell the tale of how something happened, in other words. How a beer got made, imported or drunk. To tell you who did it and why. And at the same time, I hope to add some light to the history of beer in central Europe: there is simply too much that hasn’t been written about the beer culture here, certainly not in English, and I have to imagine that you, as a reader, would be much more interested in reading those stories than in hearing my personal reactions. You can find personal reactions anywhere. But good stories? Those are hard to come by.
This won’t be a daily weblog, so please feel free to sign up for the Beer Culture RSS feed, or just check back to the home page whenever you feel like it. There’s more stuff coming, including the very material question of how Beer Culture will be able to support itself, which should be interesting. (And fun, or so one would hope.)
I leave you with a raised glass and a na zdraví. To Beer Culture, and to beer culture.