He grew up in Perth but it wasn’t until Matt Kukura hit the UK ten years ago that his beer journey began. This epoch also included a career change that saw him rubbing shoulders with giants of the beer world at an esteemed East London pub and, as result, falling down a beery rabbit hole. Or, as he puts it: “I went from chasing crooks to hunting whales.”
Scrolling through his Instagram account, Matt’s deft use of natural light is the most obvious @allofthebeers signature style. Moody expressions shoulder with hazy levity, and there’s a fair whack of some of the world’s most sought-after beers as subject matter to boot. However, this is all about making real connections and authenticity as Guy Southern finds out in the latest instalment of our Australian Beerstagrammer series.
How did you get into beer?
I wasn’t always a beer drinker. Far from it, in fact. With the likes of Western Australia’s Swan Valley and Margaret River wine regions on my doorstep, it was easy to deep dive into some incredible and accessible vino. For the most part, though, Little Creatures Pale Ale was my "go-to beer" before I travelled through Europe, discovering the likes of Belgian Trappist beers.
Then my good mate was adamant that I needed to get into IPAs.
“The hops!” he said. “The hops!!!”
My resistance relented, and what followed was countless bottles of Little Creatures IPA, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Green Flash West Coast IPA and Alpine Windows Up. That was it. The end of who I was as a drinker and, in one fell swoop, he’d created a monster and my desire to pursue and share great beer with a great community has never been the same.
How did you get into sharing your beer love on Instagram?
I was really hesitant to share my love of beers with the online community for a good little while. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I was often surrounded by people who always had an opinion and an apparent need to voice it. What music I was listening to. What I was wearing. How much it cost. What the label was and so on. I never understood the source of the constant questions and apparent judgement. All I know is that I just didn’t follow anyone. I was happy running my own race, so to speak.
Sadly, this left a mark and resulted in me constantly thinking to myself: “Who the heck am I? What do I know when stacked up against people who’ve been embedded in the scene for years? I’m just a punter, and probably one with a beta palate."
They were all common threads amongst my thoughts that held me back. Until I realised, with some gentle pushes from my wife, that it’s a digital world – I can always just press delete!
Once I started, I didn’t want to just say: "Hey! Here’s a photo of a beer." I yearned to discuss it and wanted to learn more about it from others. I wanted to share my thoughts, my criticisms, my praises and I was genuinely interested to listen to what other’s thought.
An additional tipping point was landing a job helping manage a well-respected and, at the time, industry-connected pub in London’s inner east, Bethnal Green’s The Kings Arms. An East End boozer where local and visiting brewers and beer peeps would often be sent to get some of the best and well-cared for beers in central London. That position, and the amazingly knowledgeable people I met whilst working there, gave me self-confidence to take the plunge.
What’s your typical setup like?
I don’t really have one. I simply try to work with what is available at the time. This all stemmed from the low-light, shoebox-sized flats that London is renowned for.
Like everyone, I started with a phone and the old "point and shoot" approach until I decided to start borrowing my wife’s Canon DSLR. I fell in love with some of the features and eventually got one of my own. I still struggle at times with the myriad settings available and am always keen to explore them but, truth be told, I’m of the opinion that if I can drive one, anyone can!
I currently roll with a Canon EOS 77D and almost exclusively use a Canon EF 50mm lens but my thirst to explore settings and other lenses and setups is always strong.
Modesty aside, can you describe your style and suggest a couple of images that best represent your account.
Style wise, I am big on clean and crisp shots with nice, and hopefully natural, light though, admittedly, that’s not always possible. Using a 50mm lens allows me to get a nice depth of field and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a bit of bokeh?!
However, recently I have been getting more confident working with low-light and hope to use that to expose the bar and brewery scene a lot more in the future.
Someone once told me that taking a "90 percent photo, 10 percent edit" approach will give you the best results, so I try to keep that in mind.
What Instagram accounts do you follow and what makes them special?
In craft beer, inspiration is everywhere you look. Being such a visual medium, Instagram has an endless treasure trove of images, not all beer-related either, but every bit as applicable.
I have a handful that I follow religiously and have always been a source of "wow factor" for me. @theresa.undine is first cab off the rank. Theresa is one of those awesome people in London who will always be much more to me than just a fellow drinker, she’s a great mate and a definite source of inspiration from some great images and beery chats. It’s her natural and low-light work that I really love, with an at times gritty texture adding great depth of character to her photos, and go beyond just the beer.
@pancakesandbeer provide an endless run of that clean and crisp photography that I mentioned previously, along with a seemingly constant string of stunning beers as good as their images.
Another London chap is @millionbevs. Mark doesn’t load up with fancy shots. He doesn’t bombard you with posts. It’s not "Content! Content! Content!" What he is, to me, is a voice of reason. He speaks truths we all think. From hype beers to non-alcoholic offerings, from what people think is cool to how it’s a load of BS most of the time. Super nice guy with his head screwed on straight, reminding you that FOMO is just a state of mind.
On the home front, @beerthread was one of the first I started following upon my return and Leon is always pumping out great images of fantastic beers.
On the local front I have to suggest @stickingwithbeer for a follow. Simple with a twist is how I’d describe it. I’m really enjoying what he’s doing.
Here’s a handful of others I try to keep track of: @elitraks @beerfriends_ @dontdrinkbeers @mattthelist @seanislegend
What differences have you found with the Australian and UK beer scenes, and Instagram communities?
Returning from the UK to Australia, I was a little unsure and a bit hesitant about what I would find, beer scene wise, but any fear I had was absolutely unfounded. The Australian scene is well and truly prospering and, to be honest, there’s not a great deal of difference in the way Instagram communities behave and interact here as they do in the UK. If anything, the beerstagrammer community here is closer, which I like.
One obvious difference I see is market behaviour. Hype releases in the UK and EU follow trends long established in the US, just on a less regular scale. Essentially seeing beers last online for mere minutes and those same beers lucky to last a day once they hit national shelves.
On a personal note, I would love to see more barrel-ageing outside of wine barrels. Bourbon, whisky, rum, maple and the like. And I expect there’ll be some solid pastry stout releases this coming winter as well, as divisive as that may be to some.
That aside, the mixed fermentation styles that are available here are fantastic. We have some seriously talented brewers here in Australia with awesome outlooks on sustainability and their environmental influence. Not to mention some dead set killer settings in which to capitalise on the natural microflora that’s floating all around us.
Changes to social media platform algorithms can create headaches when it comes to engagement. How do you stay on top of this constantly shifting digital sand?
Essentially, there’s not a lot you can do. I have found recently that whatever algorithm is now has brought any and all local accounts to the front and it’s takes me a few refreshes to get to those that I want to follow.
I still engage with who I always have. Fortunately, I have met and drank with many of my far-flung followers who I now consider friends so that engagement that started many moons ago is now just mates keeping in touch.
Hashtags are synonymous with Instagram yet have zero influence on Facebook. What are some of your favourites and what’s one of the weirdest ones you’ve seen or used?
Hashtags. Now this is a concept it took me a while to grasp and it all seemed a little silly to start with, until I began to understand how it worked with respect to engagement. Even more so when Instagram provided you with the opportunity to follow ‘tags.
For obvious reasons, I throw in #allofthebeers with each post but there are some I always use, namely #beertography, #brewtography, #socialbeertograpy as well as the old fave of #craftnotcrap and #beersofinstagram. I also often with hashtag the brewery, beer name and style.
A lot of businesses see social media as time consuming. How long do you typically spend on your posts and what could a new brewery do to stand out on Instagram?
On average, my posts consume maybe fifteen minutes a pop. I might post five times a week so it’s not a huge issue on my time, personally. However, if we were to include the time of taking a photo and giving some thought to what you’re drinking, sure, that’s a whole different story!
However, it’s really easy to get caught up in the ‘gram when your account is new and you see that followers number increasing. There’s a nice buzz so you want to go in a little deeper but I think there is always a breaking point. You don’t ever want to feel obligated to post and this whole process is nothing if you’re not enjoying yourself. Instafatigue is a thing and I have no issue leaving the ‘gram alone for a few days.
I think if you keep your posts and your engagement somewhat regular and interesting enough for those who follow you, they’ll keep following you. If they only hang around for a week or two, guess what? They were never going to hang around anyway.
For the most part, I think most breweries do enough. Sometimes I think we all need to take a breath and remember that they have a business to run and it’s often all hands on deck with a skeleton staff and social media takes a back seat to essential tasks, like brewing good beer!
How do you choose which beers to feature?
This is always difficult. Like my Insta handle, I’d love to feature all of the beers but it’s just not feasible. Anything rare or difficult to find usually gets a nod. Not so much for the humble brag but to show that if there’s a beer you really want, be it for that rare tick, a huge fan of the brewery or mere nostalgia, there are ways and means to get them. Being very familiar with the realms of trading and the secondary market, I’m always happy to answer questions and give tips about it.
Artwork can also be a factor. There are some incredible artists working with breweries these days and it’s difficult to not want to share a can or bottle that has a stunning piece on it.
The odd local new release as well but, to be honest, this can often result in a flooded feed of the same beer, so I’m a little more sporadic with those. If anything, I’d prefer to post about it weeks or months later if it’s still tasting great.
And, finally, if it’s just good beer. Nothing else. It’s the ultimate goal for all of us, be it a brewer, a consumer or a judge. It’s what we hope for with every sip so when you’ve locked on to a sweet spot, tell the people!
Instagram has the potential to engage brands beyond traditional marketing methods. What do you see as the benefits for beer businesses getting involved with Beerstagrammers?
Instagram is such a strong visual medium. I think if a brewery can get fresh releases out to a handful of good quality beerstagrammers for some additional marketing, it can be a match made in heaven. I’d like to think we are an honest bunch who will give an honest opinion.
Also, I'm a strong supporter of independent business. It was apparent in the UK as it is here. Often with tighter than tight profit margins, it’s important to remember this may be just another beer to you, albeit hopefully a banger, but to a brewery it’s not just that. It’s their job, their livelihood. It’s food on the table. It’s rent and mortgages being paid. It’s hard, labour intensive work. I would like to think we are all on the side of supporting independent business but, to be fair, there is a charlatan out there for every genuine supporter. They’re called "influencers" and they can all fuck off!
For a business, a lot of followers is great, and it’s easy to throw down your lot with the largest account but are they actually hitting your target audience or demographic? Do they represent what the brewery stands for? I think it’s important for a brewery to be absolutely sure that they make the right investment, because that’s exactly what it is. They deserve to have a return if they are sending out packs of free beer and merch. The flipside to that is I think those that are fortunate enough to be given samples should declare it. For the sake of transparency if nothing else.
NB: Declaring samples is a legal requirement and Australian Consumer Law, as part of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, notes there are significant fines for not clearly declaring samples, including on social media.
What tips do you have for anyone keen to, as they say, crush their Beerstagram game?
This is an element I would argue all of us always want to improve on. I think engagement is important, maybe the most important. I’ve made some pretty good friendships that began with a simple comment and a follow, leading on to beers in bars or at festivals whereever my travels take me. That engagement lends an air of authenticity to one’s account that can’t be replicated any other way.
Tagging breweries works too. They do check social media, Untappd and the like. And they want to see you enjoying their beers.
If you’re going down the photography path: light. Learn how to use it and become familiar with the fundamentals, such as composure and the rule of thirds etc.
I think it’s easy to get caught up in various aspects of the Instaworld. Personally, what I think is important is that you do it for genuine reasons. I think if you start down the path of focusing too intently on the number of likes, comments and followers it can become a slippery slope accompanied by that equally slippery term, "validation".
Overall, and above all else though, you do you. It’s the best, and only, way to be authentic. Bu don’t be afraid to draw inspiration from what others are doing, just don’t blatantly plagiarise it. We’re a relatively switched on bunch. We know authenticity when we see it and more often than not, we’ll connect with it organically and throw our collective weight behind it.
And any Instagram faux pas people should look to avoid?
Oh boy, there are a few out there. Using bots for likes and auto-comments for sure. Especially in bulk to attract real followers. Using other people’s images without credit is a definite no-no. Also, I don’t see the point of having an account that just shares everyone else's stuff. Just follow the original post instead, they’re the ones doing the hard yards.
Buying "Likes". Aside from the fact that having 16k followers but only 50 likes per post is as obvious as anything, it’s likely a one-way street to having your credit card duplicated somewhere in eastern Europe.
If you are ever lucky enough to receive some freebies from a brewery, be honest with them. If the beer sucks, you don’t need to trash talk them on a post. This goes for any post really. If you get a bad beer, engage with them directly. They’ll appreciate the honesty and when a beer goes bad, it’s important that they know.
[Excellent advice. It's how we've always operated at The Crafty Pint: describe rather than rate beers when writing about them so people can decide if it's their thing; contact breweries directly in the case of faulty beers and recommend they reconsider releasing them – Editor]
One other thing. Clean your glasses people! If you are more photography focused, a dirty glass is a surefire way to ruin a great pic. All those thumb prints on the outside or tiny bubbles on the inside will see you land squarely in the sights of @dirtybeerglasspolice.
And finally, don’t be a dick. Be kind, for crying out loud. We are so lucky to be part of such an inclusive and welcoming scene. Respect each other and respect each other’s opinions, they’ll often differ from yours, and that’s OK.
For other features in this series, head here. If you would like to be featured – or have an account you love and would like to know more about – let Guy know. You can also check out Guy's beerstagramming at Goodtimes Craft Beer.
Note: It should go without saying but all photographs published in this article are the work of Matt Kukura / @allofthebeers.