Exactly fourteen years ago, a brand new bouncing baby blog was born. And though there was a test post before it, that was indeed the title of the first post on Hoperatives. It started like this:
Welcome to Hoperatives, a place for believers in better beer. What's better beer? It's not just the beer you like, it's the beer you love. It's the beer you'll search for far and wide, the one you'll drive long distances to sample and buy, the one you'll hoard for yourself or grudgingly share, but only with friends who get it. That's what this site is about. It's about the beer, the places that make the beer, the places that sell the beer, and the places that serve the beer. Most importantly, it's about the people. The people who make the beer, and the people who love the beer.
So much has changed in those thirteen years. Things that we were told would never happen actually did (like Samuel Adams opening a tap room in Cincinnati). Things that we thought were going to be flash in the pans took hold (good on you, Hanson Brothers Beer Company, and your Mmmhops IPA). And things that would get better often took one step forward and two steps back every year (like the relationship between women and beer plus the need for diversity in the brewing industry).
I vividly remember the day we decided to stop publishing Hoperatives. It was June of 2021, and we were driving home from a night at the BrewDog Hotel after attending the quarterly meeting of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. Tom had been approached about a new job, and that possibility made us spend the time driving back, assessing what we were both doing with our lives at the time.
As we discussed the pros and cons of Tom taking the job, I finally said out loud what I had been thinking about for several months: it was time to shut down Hoperatives. It just didn’t make sense to have a blog when we weren’t creating content for it. And I just didn’t have to energy to scour Facebook and websites for beer events anymore. With the boom of breweries and better beer locations, it wasn’t as simple or easy as it had once been. And, more importantly, it was no longer fun. And so one day in the summer of 2021, Tom put the website into "maintenance mode," sort of a zombie state where there's only one page that said ‘thanks and goodbye.’ He said it made him feel like he shot Old Yeller.
You see, that was the thing that kept Hoperatives going those first ten years or so. It was fun! We went to better beer locations that enthralled us. We had beers that we would dream about later. And we met people who became dear friends. And many of those friends became contributors to Hoperatives or stronger supporters of the work we were doing.
Alas, to paraphrase the old saying, for every hill, there is a valley. As we got older, so did our bodies. Health issues meant changing our beer intake. We also moved my dad to NKY in the fall of 2017, and we were busy helping him as best we could. And there was the pandemic which had an impact on everyone, but especially the hospitality industries like brewing.
We started to reassess our decision to shut down Hoperatives in late 2022. Since 2015, we’ve been involved in the U.S. Open Beer Championships, and this past year, we took over the US Open College Beer Championship portion of the organization. On a beautiful October day, we met with Aaron Ross of Kalamazoo Valley Community College to present KVCC with their 2022 Grand National Champion plaque. As we sat in their tasting room enjoying some of their students’ beers, we talked about all things brewing: breweries in Kalamazoo that we should visit, breweries in Cincinnati that he should visit, what trends we saw in the industry, and more. It was like being back on a Hoperatives research trip, as we used to call them. It was great.
Afterward, we stopped for lunch at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe. While enjoying fresh Two Hearted and burgers, I broached the subject: what if we brought Hoperatives back? What would need to change? What would need to stay the same? We had a long drive home the next day, and we spent most of it discussing different possibilities. And we decided to do it.
So what is the new Hoperatives going to be like? The new tagline of “Believers in Better Beer (and Beverages)” hints at some of it. First of all, we will no longer be concentrating on just beer and the brewing industry. Bring on the wine, spirits, cocktails, and more! Basically, if you can drink it, there is a strong possibility that we will be writing about it.
Second, while we are still based in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, we are not limiting ourselves to that area. We’ve always had Traveling Tuesday posts, but this change will be expanding our focus to where our writers are.
As we mentioned on Cincy Brewcast, we are pivoting from a newspaper model to more of a magazine model. Expect one in-depth article from us every Wednesday. Consider it our cover story. There may be shorter ones on other days of the week (like this one), but the focus is on that weekly Wednesday article.
We will not be chasing down breaking beer news in order to be the first to publish it. We will cover news but in a more analytical way. We will take our time.
In addition, we will not be concentrating on beer events as we did in the past. We’re not saying that we won’t ever write about them, but no more “This Week in Beer” or “Tastings and Tappings Report” posts. If you are looking for that kind of beer news, we highly recommend you follow the Gnarly Gnome.
As we mentioned in that very first blog post, Hoperatives is about the people. We’ve been lucky enough to have some great people who make Hoperatives better (and more fun) by writing for the website. Jared Whalen, Chris McGreevy, J.R. Andrews (a.k.a. Pud’n), and John Lavelle are returning as core contributors. In addition, Michelle Lentz (of The Grape Gatsby newsletter and My Wine Education blog), Julie Niesen (WineMeDineMe), and Monika Royal-Fischer (RedKatBlonde) are joining the writing staff to help with the expanded coverage.
In order to make Hoperatives simple, we’re kicking WordPress to the curb. Instead, Tom is building a custom blogging platform for Hoperatives that is called CrankybearPress. As you can see, it gives Hoperatives a clean design that loads quickly. No extraneous WordPress plug-ins that slow down your viewing while they suck up your data. And we promise no popup ads at all. We might consider sponsors, but that would just mean a logo or such in the sidebar to acknowledge their support. We want to keep things fun for all of you too.
At first, we’re going to try out a lot of different topics and types of articles. We are going to play around with different social networks like Mastodon, TikTok, and YouTube plus old standbys like Facebook and Instagram. We will keep what works for us (and you) and drop what doesn’t.
We had our first Hoperatives staff meeting this past week, and the question came up about Hoperatives Happenings. We may try setting up another one, but not for a while. We want to get our feet underneath us first.
Another question was about the old Hoperatives posts and pages. They will be coming back at some point and will be marked as archive posts. We originally thought about deleting all of the “This Week in Beer” and other dated posts, but we know enough historians, librarians, and archivists to release that wasn’t a wise idea. Among those pages coming back will be the Hoperatives Numbers page, but it may take a while to recreate.
Something old that is coming back as new is the Hoperatives Guides to Beer at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and the Disney Cruise Line. These were always some of our most popular pages. With Hoperatives’ new focus, we may branch out to guides for wine and spirits too. We’ll just have to see.
So that’s where we stand on this first day of 2023 and the first day of the Hoperatives relaunch. In Monique Judge’s The Verge article “Bring Back Personal Blogging,” she points out that:
At the end of the day, we don’t know what is going to happen next with Twitter or any of these platforms. We don’t know what changes Web 3.0 is going to bring to the internet. We do know that we will all still be here, wanting to share our thoughts, talk about anything and everything, and commune with our people. Personal blogging is the simplest and fastest way to do all of that.
There was a time when blogging was considered a bad word. Tech journalist Mike Elgan once referred to bloggers as “floggers”. Of course, the flogger type of bloggers would now be called influencers (and I know some of you felt your skin crawl just reading that word).
It’s time to take back blogging (either individually or with people you enjoy). And it’s time to get back to what Merlin Mann and John Gruber at SXSW Interactive described as the three things a successful blog needed: “obsession + topic + voice.”
Blogging is back. And so is Hoperatives.