It was a rainy Sunday back in 2019 and I decided to branch out from exclusively drinking Garage Project beers so I paid a visit to the Fridge and Flagon, a local craft dispensary based in Auckland where I picked up a few hazies from Offshoot Brewery, all the way from California.

Being new to craft beer at the time and only just learning to love hops, cracking into this foreign fizz was like Christmas for me, so away I went and took photos of the can, the beer in a glass, the beer next to the can, the beer in my hand…you get the point! I was showing the early signs of being an influencer and that’s when the idea struck me! I could escape the 9-5 rat race and be the Jake Paul of craft beer. So I opened Instagram and created a new profile and threw in the first craft beer related name that came to my mind: hazy hunter which to my disappointment had been taken by some VB drinking bloke which Is why I had to compromise and settle with the illusive double z handle of @hazzy_hunter . . . and just like that, an influencer was born.

I’m going to give you an unfiltered look into how I went from posting beer reviews to Instagram, to influencing what punters across the country choose to pour into their glass all whilst I am stuck in another lockdown, pondering my next steps as an influencer or if I even am an influencer at all.

The 35 likes on my first Instagram post gave me a big enough dopamine hit to continue taking photos of beers alongside some imaginative tasting notes, then on an unsuspecting summer evening a New Zealand brewery slid into my DMs asking if I would like to be sent some of their latest, unreleased hazy IPA, fresh off the canning line. This was new to me, not even my friends DM me asking if they can give me free hazies so I thought, is this brewery hitting on me? Or do they just vibe with my sub-par beer pics and unconventional palate and believe that I am the man to promote their latest creation to like-minded beer drinkers!? Either way I replied to that DM immediately with two words “YES PLEASE!!”

This was when I knew that I was on to something big! Or was I?

Joshua Lee, aka @Hazzy_Hunter

A few days later I get a knock on the door and a small brown package is handed over to me. It’s cold, has the weight of 880ml of liquid and has a brewery’s name stamped on the box. This was a moment I had only dreamed about! That brown package was my first piece of beer mail! And for those out there who have fantasized about receiving beer mail, otherwise known as free beer, it is as good as it sounds and the novelty doesn’t wear off! Well at least not for me.

So off I went to influence/give back some value to the brewery in exchange for sending me two of the freshest cans of haze in the country. I planned out the photo I was going to take, the editing I was going to do and also how I was going to creatively describe the flavours lurking behind the aluminum walls of the can in a way that celebrates the unique aspects of the beer. All of this took me the whole afternoon as I was adamant on returning the favour to the kind brewery that sent me the beer and all of this planning is the reality behind each post that most don’t see.

It is not uncommon for me to commit several hours to a single Instagram post and barely get any likes or sometimes I scroll through my Instagram feed and see other beer influencers receiving beer mail from breweries that I have supported for years, when the only mail I’m receiving is anti-vaccine pamphlets and my fridge is empty in anticipation for beer mail that never arrives. But I don’t let this get me down, I just see it as part of my journey and I use all of this as fuel to keep pumping out unique and informative content that is guaranteed to convert Heineken drinkers to craft beer drinkers in the hope that more liquid filled brown boxes will be dropped off on my doorstep.

It does feel a bit odd talking about the influencer lifestyle with a glass half-empty mindset but just like my reviews, honesty is key and it’s important to show the less glamorous side of being an influencer. But it ain’t all bad, my glass is usually half-full as there are so many aspects of the influencer lifestyle that keep me in the game and no, it’s not just the beer mail.

 

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A post shared by @hazzy_hunter

In the almost two years that I have had my hazzy_hunter Instagram page I have gained a loyal following of over 1000 people who have allowed me to live rent free in their Instagram feed for which I am very thankful! But the thing that I value most from this influencer journey is meeting so many genuine, likeminded beer drinkers. Some of whom I got to know through conversations in my DMs and others that have approached me in public asking if I am in fact “that hazzy_hunter guy from Instagram”. I now socialize with some of these people on a regular basis where we exchange beer knowledge and gift one another hangovers; and to think that this all started by posting a photo on Instagram is pretty surreal.

I’m now at a point where I am contemplating the next steps of my journey as an influencer. Is beer mail the peak of being an influencer or are there bigger opportunities out there for a creative hazy drinker? Should I brew a beer? Pursue a career in social media marketing? Or become a Tik-Tok-er?  It’s a tough but exciting decision to make but at the end of the day, whichever path I choose to take, I hope that the beer mail keeps arriving on my doorstep and the number of buddies I’m drinking with at the bar keeps increasing. To the team at 16TUN: you might need to invest in more bar stools!

 

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