When I first started writing about beer over a decade ago, I quickly discovered the fastest way to find out what was happening in Oregon's beer scene: get on the Oregon Brew Crew email listserve. It is not fully accurate to say the Brew Crew is a homebrew club, though it is that. It is the homebrew club, and if you start to track the number of brewers, brewery owners, pub owners, fest-runners, beer writers, and other assorted of the beerly connected, you'll find most have been members or affiliates of the Brew Crew. And the listserve is their rumor mill and grapevine. For well over a decade, members of the listserve have been posting up to two or three dozen emails a day.
Here's the genius of technology like this: it harness the brains of scores, a neural net that can harness the activities of members all over the globe. Add to those brains Google and you have a system that produces information in near real time (thanks to cell phones and Wi Fi, readers have seen actual real-time emails appear from drinkers at fests or in pubs).
But that's old school, dinosaur stuff.
There's a new generation in Beervana, and they inhabit places known as "wikis" or "social networking" sites. I don't actually know if they'll replace listserves, or if we'll have a generational divide, or what. But here are the latest developments.
Portland Beer Wiki
If you're reading this, you must know what a wiki is--because who among us have not visited Wikipedia. Wikis are open sites that users edit to include new and updated info. Much like the listserve harness the power of many brains, wikis do, too. Since webpages are only as good as the information they contain, having more participants is always handy. The site contains a growing collection of information. Kerry Finsand is the fellow who started the Portland Beer Wiki, but of course, he'd love to have company.
Where wikis are essentially resources, social networking sites are essentially communities. Famous versions include Facebook and MySpace. In Seattle, a bunch of twenty-somethings have started a social networking site revolving around beer. It's a little bit raw now, but I could imagine it developing into a robust community. A site of its general design will surely be the next generation of beer website, because it can contain so much more information than a single blog, but can offer communication and personality, like a tangle of blogs. (Thanks to aggregation and information design, users can personalize and sort these sites to suit their own interests, whether they tend toward Corona and clubbing or the latest sighting of The Abyss.)
Go check 'em out and give them some support.