Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

From beer blog to book, the long way by Martyn Cornell

Nobody should ever take lessons in blogging from me. I break two of the biggest rules of the blogging trade on my blog, Zythophile (it means "beer lover" in Greek), the ones that say that to build up a big audience you should blog frequently, and keep those blog posts short. I don't normally manage to blog more than twice a month, sometimes only once a month, and when I do blog, I blog long – seldom fewer than 2,000 words, sometimes 4,000 words or more. They're more in the nature of essays than blog posts.

Still, in the seven years I've been blogging, I've built up around 1,200 signed-up followers and I get about 600 to 800 hits a day, which isn't bad – indeed, it makes Zythophile one of the best-read beer blogs in the UK. I've also written more than 700,000 words in those seven years, on a huge range of topics related to beer and pubs – and picked up four awards from the British Guild of Beer Writers for my writing on the blog, including awards for beer and travel writing and beer and food writing.

Despite that, the main thrust of the Zythophile blog is meant to be about the history of beer, of beer styles, of brewing and breweries, and of pubs. I've blogged about the earliest mention of the term India Pale Ale, the peripatetic Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell, the history of brewing in Hong Kong, the origins of Imperial Russian Stout, the revival of a 19th century strain of barley, and tasting beer brewed in 1875 for an expedition to the Arctic, among many other subjects.

I don't make any money at all from the blog: I get offers occasionally from companies who want to put sponsored entries on it, but I value my credibility too much to take sponsorship. Frankly, I'd write the blog even if I didn't have a single reader: I get huge pleasure from doing the research, and I also enjoy enormously writing it up. Still, when you've got the equivalent of nine novels-worth of words sitting on a blogsite, the question arises: "Is there a book I can get out of this, to put in front of a few more people"

Great Beer Flood Meux's brewery at the bottom of Tottenham Court Road, pictured in 1830, sixteen years after the Grea Beer Flood. (Author's collection)

The answer, of course, is "Yes, definitely". It didn't take too long to pull out 28 true stories from the hundreds of blog entries that, put together, make up what I hope is an entertaining read for anyone interested in beer, and even for people not interested in beer at all. The story of the Great London Beer Flood of 1814, for example, in which eight people, all women and children, died when a vast vat of beer broke at the brewery that once stood on the site of the Dominion Theatre in Tottenham Court Road, is a great tale in its own right.

Beer - Antoine Santeere Antoine Santerre fleeing from the Vendeans in 1793, by Jean-Baptiste LeSueur. (Musee Carnavalet, Paris)

Similarly you don't have to be a beer drinker to find the story of Antoine Santerre, the brewer who led Louis XVI to the scaffold during the French Revolution, and who has ended up as a character in works of fiction by everybody from Victor Hugo to Anthony Trollope, one to pique your fancy.



So: are there lessons for other bloggers here? I didn't write my blog in order to have enough material for a book, the book came later, but yes, I think it would be perfectly possible to write a blog with the specific intention to end up with something worth publishing between covers after a while. All the same, I'd still recommend, if you want a following on your blog, that you keep your actual posts short and frequent …

Beer - 9781445647975

Martyn Cornell blogs at and his book Strange Tales of Ale is available for purchase now.