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Celebrating 15 years – and a competition

Well, would you credit it? 15 years on from where, looking back, it all started. Yes, I’m going to waffle on for a bit – scroll down if you want to get to the competition. Once a food blogger, always a food blogger. Got to get that word count in before giving away the fun stuff.

So, back in 2008, I started a blog. I kinda liked writing. There were friends in different places who I wanted to keep in touch with our comings and goings. I was writing about stuff I liked – crafting, gardening, cooking. This blog didn’t have a niche, I didn’t think hard about how to promote it. In fact, it was a couple of years before I realised everyone was targeting their content and focusing on a single subject. I don’t even think I’d quite got on to Facebook at that point. Just a little hobby to pass the time. And I didn’t post much at first.

Where it all began

I wrote quite regularly about the things I was cooking and baking at home. Ah, I had a lot more time to cook and bake back then. We were growing our own and getting it ate. My first review was posted in Sept 2010 – a Rimmel nail varnish no less. Would you credit it, this review still gets a decent amount of hits every month. I updated it a few years ago and improved the pictures as I recall. I’ve written about my art, my crafting projects, and no end of weight loss attempts back in the days where I really didn’t need to lose weight and didn’t realise how luck I was with my pre-pregnancy, functioning body. Ah, good times.


Ramping Up

I wrote book reviews and random opinion pieces. I started getting invited to things – music festivals, and new business launches in town. And I wrote increasingly regularly about food and drink. I was starting to get hooked. By chance, I discovered a vineyard existed 3 miles from my house, and I wrote about that. I went on to volunteer there for 8 years. It was essential to know more. Every holiday we took, I would find a winery, a brewery or a distillery to visit. We’d seek out local specialities and learn more about global food.

I put myself through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust levels 1, 2 and 3. The chance of a beer tasting panel training with my local CAMRA branch was irresistible. I was getting obsessed. And I was finding my way better and better around social media. In fact, I was helping small food and drink businesses with their online presence. I organised blogger events, taking local writers to local businesses in an effort to help cross promote both. In 2015, I ran the Leicester Tapas Trail through the blog, with venues around town offering a drink and a bite to eat for £3, because I’d seen it in Spain and I wanted it to happen at home. Be the change you want to see.


Stepping up

Plus I was unhappy at work. Desperately unhappy, with both the organisation and their decision making and with one particular toxic colleague, who put me (and several others) on sick leave for months thanks to depression and anxiety. It wasn’t a good place to be, and with surprising clarity one day, I could see that it was not going to improve.

Meanwhile, one good friend in the beer business – they know who they are – had just struck out on their own after being made redundant. We were chatting in the pub and they asked why I was doing so much for other businesses and never making money. I had never realised that I could. This has never been a money-making blog although I’ve had tentative forays into monetizing. I never wanted to give up what I loved about writing in the end. I’ve always wanted this blog to be about things that I love, or that interest me. All of them. I didn’t just want to pick one thing. It became abundantly clear I hated having adverts interrupting my content. I got bored of chasing PRs and brands and whoever else.

I imagine any web developer would weep at all the redundant coding that is slowing this darn thing down behind the scenes. Oh, the amount of tweaks and changes I’ve made.

Pivotal moments

In 2016, I went to the Birmingham Foodie Festival after winning some tickets on Twitter. I mainly wrote about the wine there, but I remember trying Silent Pool Gin for the first time and loving it. And The Boy and I attended a beer tasting with one Melissa Cole. It was an inspiration. She was an inspiration. I don’t think I had any idea that you could be a beer writer before that. I knew there were dedicated beer bloggers out there, but it wasn’t really a part of my circle.

There were so many ideas and inclinations floating around in my head. The only option was to keep forging on. I kept writing, I kept learning. A photography course helped me learn to take better pictures. I took a number of online wine courses. Every day I was absorbing as much information as I could about food and drink, small producers and the business of hospitality. I didn’t want to specialise. I loved it all. And I’d been given the idea that actually I didn’t need to stay unhappy in my career for the next 40 years. I could break out on my own and set up a company with my husband.


Carrying on

And we did it. Thirst Media came into being in 2016. It was nominally a way to process the money from my first restaurant reviews in the local paper. I began to take on clients, managing their social media, writing PRs, building websites – whatever I could to support small businesses and help them to grow. Unable to manage it as a hobby project in the evenings, I left my stable job in 2017. And never looked back. The business has changed as I decided that drinks writing was truly the thing for me, and I have done everything I can to gradually turn the tanker to do as much of it as possible. But Extreme Housewifery has always come along with me.

In 2018, for the 10th anniversary, I finally splashed out on my own domain and moved from Blogspot, even though the blog still didn’t make any cash. Now, for 15 years I’ve given it another little refresh. I’ve written my first books. I’ve been commissioned by national newspapers. But all the time I’ve kept updating this little blog. Because it has, quite literally, changed the course of my life.

Keep on trucking

I won my first British Guild of Beer Writers award in 2022 for writing on low and no alcohol beer. Most of that writing can be found here, on this blog. I’ve made lifelong friends with people who I initially approached for a brewery tour. I wrote about the launch of a new pub, then years later lamented its closure. It’s genuinely amazing that I have learned so much – about the industry that I love, and about myself – through writing well over 1000 blog posts. I don’t post as frequently any more. But I’m still here. Extreme Housewifery keeps ticking along.

Hell, I’ve even started a new blog to do my new Shropshire thing since we’ve moved. Do check out the Shropshire GOAT, if you haven’t already. I’m clearly obsessed. Blogging is not dead people! At least not in my world.


Thanks to some of the wonderful friends I’ve made along the way, I am now pleased to offer you a little competition. A little way to say thanks to you, the reader, for joining me on this journey. Every comment, every private message asking for recommendations, and every shoutout on Twitter, has all meant so much. Please accept the opportunity to win a little prize with my thanks. And profuse thanks to all of the businesses who have donated a prize!

All prizes involving beer or wine (regular or alcohol free) can only be won by people over 18 years of age. Competitions are for UK readers only I’m afraid!

Prizes

  • CAMRA – a generous prize from my friends at CAMRA – a copy of four of their award winning books, starting with my first book – the Best Beer Book in the World 2022 – 50 Years of CAMRA. They will be posted out within the UK. I’m putting each book as a separate prize so that more people have the chance to win. CAMRA’s faith in me, and their support, has been absolutely pivotal to building a semi-viable career as a beer writer.
  • CAMRA – Family Brewers of Britain by the legendary Roger Protz. It is a privilege to count him among my friends these days.
  • CAMRA – A Year in Beer by Jonny Garrett. Jonny is a superb writer and an absolutely lovely bloke to boot. This is an awesome book that scooped up every award going when it came out, and rightly so.
  • CAMRA – Beer by Design by Pete Brown. I often wonder how I get to keep such illustrious company at events. Pete is one of the most humorous, intelligent and insightful people I know. His writing is witty, beautifully easy to read and totally engrossing. This is a great prize.
  • Dry, Shrewsbury – A £30 mixed box of alcohol free treats, plus some extra merch from Shrewsbury’s first alcohol free bottle shop. One of my first great friendships in Shropshire and the subject of one of the posts that has got me a nomination for alcohol free writer of the year for the second year running. This prize needs to be collected in person.
  • The Forge – Sunday lunch for two at the pub. Just a month before I started a blog, a young Sam Hagger was founding his Beautiful Pubs Collective with The Forge in Glenfield, Leicestershire. We’re celebrated their 15th anniversary together recently and now I’m giving you the chance for what will be the most delicious meal where it all began for Sam. THis prize obviously needs to be taken in person and will need to be booked in advance because they book up fast these days.
  • Gelato Village – 2 mini cups or cones of the best gelato in the country. A nod to our first clients and the people who paved the way for me to make a new life in food. Obviously, you gotta go to Leicester to pick this one up.
  • Ludlow Brewing Co – Two tickets for a Ludlow brewery tour and tasting. A great experience that I wrote about on the GOAT. You will of course need to get yourself to the brewery after booking to take this prize!

Extra Extra

  • UPDATE 14/11/23 – The guy down the pub who told me to quit my job and start my own business (as I mentioned earlier) has offered to put up a case of Citra from Oakham Ales for the prize pot. This can be delivered within the UK.
  • Rothley Wine – A bottle of their gold-award winning King Richard white wine. A nod to a fantastic vineyard that has taught me so much and really paved the way for my wine writing to grow. This prize must be collected direct from the vineyard in Leicestershire.
  • Wiper & True – 12 cans of their brilliant alcohol free beer Tomorrow, plus a W&T hat. In celebration of the amazing grip that alcohol free beer has taken on my life. This one will be posted out within the UK.

Edit – the winners

Congratulations to the winners! Gelato Village @stennno78 on Twitter, Oakham Ales – Aaron on Facebook, The Forge – Liz on Facebook, CAMRA – Jamie on Facebook, Ludlow Brewing – Colin on Facebook, Rothley Wine – NancyLikes on Instagram, Wiper & True – harisahota1 on Instagram.

Laura

Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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