There are beer drinkers and then there are beer aficionados. Paul Starr of Lansing falls into the latter category. He created the website I’m a Beer Hound
to share his video reviews of beer. But not just any beer—Michigan made beer.
“I officially started [the website] last August,” says Starr. “And I started from the ground up.” Starr designed and built the website himself. “It took about a month to finally get it the way I wanted.” With a laugh he adds, “My girlfriend thought I was going mad because the logo wasn’t perfect.”
Starr cites his passion for Michigan beer as the driving force for creating the site. He wanted “something positive coming from Michigan,” to promote bars and restaurants serving Michigan made beer. “For example, I did a review of the Draft House
in Dewitt, and before going there I never knew of it, and this place is awesome. I’m trying to make people more aware of these cool places you can go eat and get beer.”
When it comes to the goal, or mission of I’m Beer Hound, Starr aims “to create an avenue where breweries can talk straight to the customers.”
Starr says the ability to narrow cast on the Internet helps him find an interested audience. “I think the Internet helps, big time, especially with social media.” He says the use of Facebook ads has helped get him more attention on the popular social media website. “I think I’m doing something that, probably, no one has done—at least not to the extent that I want to do it.”
Starr’s production schedule is a simple: do as many video reviews as he can in a day, especially when it comes to the round table chats. “I try to get three or four people, because if I’m trying to review 15 beers I’m just wrecked,” he jokes. But Starr also likes to have a cross-section of people to get more opinions, “It’s not only my opinion that counts. My girlfriend is in a lot of videos, and she gives a female perspective. And if I’m reviewing Belgians [beer], I want someone who really likes Belgians—because it’s typically not my favorite style of beer.”
Postproduction on the round table chats can take some time to edit, however. “It can take five or six months,” he laughs. “I’m still working on stuff from September right now.”
But, he says the process of getting the individual beer review videos ready is relatively simple, and he sticks to a template for each review. “I make sure I have a close-up of the beer, so people can see what the bottle looks like.”
He says unlike the round table chats
, which are around five minutes long, the individual beer reviews
are only around a minute in length. “I think the round table [videos] seem to be more successful right now, because you get different opinions.”
While Starr likes the round table chats, he feels the short, individual reviews have broader appeal when it comes to luring viewers. “Somebody will be like ‘ah, it’s only 45 seconds,’” he says, in reference to the short video’s low time commitment. “I’ve seen beer reviews online where people meander about, ‘Oh, look at the head’ and all of that…I keep it straight to the point.”
Starr’s reviews are simple and he only rates the beers on taste, “I may talk about the aroma or color, but for the most part I just give my rating on the taste, and keep it short and sweet. The whole point [of the website] is to get someone to put down a Bud Light and to pick a Michigan microbrew.”
I’m a Beer Hound offers more than just reviews: it also has plenty of merchandise for sale, complete with the website’s signature hound dog logo. “Right now I have my new shirts. It’s kind of more of a retro looking shirt, but the back of the shirt says ‘I only howl for Michigan beer.” Starr also sells sweatshirts and bottle openers; “I’m working on pint glasses right now.” He has a plan to sell a pint glass and shirt as a combo for only $20.
And Starr’s merchandise can be found off-line too, at the Lansing City Market. “It’s at A Basketful by Sharl
,” which can be found near the entrance to the Waterfront Bar and Grille. Starr met the owner of A Basketful via a business-networking group, and they worked out an arrangement for his products to be on display.
Speaking of the Waterfront, Starr has plans for the cozy bar and grille to be featured Restaurant of the Month on his site soon, perhaps in May. For the restaurant videos, Starr visits the location and records a segment “They get a video that will always be on the web.” He says the focus on Internet video gives him a bit of an advertising edge over traditional media, “my videos are always going to be online, so people are going to keep making money. I think that’s a huge advantage over any other marketing.”
Starr says the first Michigan made beer he drank was an Oberon, by Bells Brewery in Kalamazoo, which he says was a stepping-stone. “I would say my first Michigan beer was five or six years ago.”
When it comes to the extra cost for microbrews, Starr is noticing a change of attitude. “I think people are starting to say ‘I’d rather pay extra money just to have good beer’” and when someone is ready to make that step, I’m a Beer Hound will be there to guide their hand, or rather, their beer mug.
Check out one of Starr's reviews below:
Daniel J. Hogan is the Geek half of the Ginger and the Geek Podcast
. You can follow him on Twitter, @danieljhogan
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
Paul Starr, Lansing's Beer Hound
All Photographs © Dave Trumpie