29 Jan 2010 @ 9:39 AM 

If you’re in North Carolina, especially the Central part, you should consider putting the evening of February 20th aside and heading over to Chapel Hill.

Why? To drink my beer, of course.

It’s part two of the “World Home Brew Fest“. Nah, I don’t know why it’s worldly, either, but I know that it’s as local as local beer gets. Last time there were roughly 15 homebrewers showing off their beers and this time there promises to be more. I’ll be pouring two beers – one on behalf of the burgeoning Chapel Hill/Carrboro Homebrew Club … which may be called Orange County Homebrewers or something like that now. I’m not sure – regardless! We made a Dry Irish Stout at my house with little incident, and I’ll be pouring that. In addition, I’ll be pouring an Abbey-style Dubbel which is currently being aged with oak, bourbon, and vanilla. That should taste like cookies, and you should come drink it.

So come on down! February 20. Drink my beer and the beer of many talented homebrewers, make a little donation to MS to make the event planners happy, come have a blast, and say hi.

Get your (free) tickets online.

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Categories: beer festival, homebrew, RDU
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 29 Jan 2010 @ 09 39 AM

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The sentiment is right, but the quote is wrong. I know it’s popular, and I’m really trying to inform rather than criticize, but:

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. — Ben Franklin

He never said it. I’m sorry. I know that this flies in the face of half of the t-shirts you’re going to walk by at the next beer festival you’re at, and even disagrees with the myriad of posters, signs, banners, inscriptions, murals, and frescoes you’ll see at breweries across the country, but it’s just not right.

What he said is basically the same sentiment, but Ben Franklin, as near as I can tell, wasn’t much of a beer drinker (not that I’m much of a historian). You can go read it for yourself, if you need to, but here’s the correct quote, in full:

We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana, as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain, which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operation, under circumstances of present necessity, which required it.

See? No beer. I mean, sure.. you can put “grain” in there instead of “grapes”, “fields” instead of “vineyards” and change “wine” to “beer”, but if you’re really looking for heavenly beer miracles, the wedding at Cana ain’t it. Instead, look for St. Brigid of Ireland who turned her bathwater into beer to nourish a leper colony. Fun, if disgusting.

Here’s another interesting excerpt from Ben Franklin’s autobiography (in fact, one of the only spots in his autobiography that mentions beer at all, thank you Google Books), in which he’s discussing working at a printing house in London:

At my first Admission into this Printing House, I took to working at the Press, imagining I felt a Want of Bodily Exercise I had been us’d to in America, where Presswork is mix’d with Composing. I drank only Water; the other Workmen, near 50 in number, were great Guzzlers of Beer. On occasion I carried up & down Stairs a large Form of Types in each hand, when others carried but one in both Hands. They wonder’d to see from this & several Instances that the water-American as they call’d me was stronger than themsleves who drank strong Beer. We had an Alehouse Boy who attended always in the House to supply the Workmen. My Companion at the Press, drank every day a Pint before Breakfast, a Pint at Breakfast with his Bread and Cheese; a Pint between Breakfast and Dinner, a Pint at Dinner, a Pint in the Afternoon about Six o’Clock, and another when he had done his Day’s-Work. I thought it a detestable Custom.

Not to say that ol’ Ben was a teetotaler by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t get the impression that he was necessarily waxing eloquent about beer in any great length. Given the time that he spent in France, wine certainly seems much more his speed.

So, there. Now you can live in the joy of the sentiment (God provides rain which naturally turns into wonderful fermented beverages for us), without living in ignorance (Ben was a CHUGGAH! It’s all about the Benjamin’s bayy-beeeee!). You’re welcome.

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Categories: history, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 27 Jan 2010 @ 04 04 PM

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 25 Jan 2010 @ 10:34 AM 

100. That’s a cool number.

Round numbers are fun, they feel like milestones and because this one feels like a big one, I just wanted to take a few moments to thank you. No, don’t turn around. I’m not talking to that guy. You.

Thanks for coming by and reading and, most importantly, thanks for taking the time to discuss. There’s been some really wonderful discussions here about all aspects of beer, brewing, and the craft beer industry and if you keep on coming around, I’m sure there will continue to be.

So, thanks. I appreciate it.

Cheers,
Erik

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 25 Jan 2010 @ 10 34 AM

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 21 Jan 2010 @ 10:39 PM 

Back – way, way back in internet years – just after last year’s Craft Brewer’s Conference, I wrote a little piece about why and how breweries should be using Twitter. It was originally a bit of a followup from watching the internet panel at the CBC. I wasn’t confident that the panel really convinced people why they should be using social media. In fact, I’m not even sure if left people with a favorable impression. So passionate was I about this, that I got together with a couple of great people to put a panel together for this year’s conference.

I’ve been planning on writing a few columns in support of the panel this spring as I work through collecting my thoughts for later discussion. The first was going to be what I perceive as the effective differences between Facebook and Twitter, built for a craft beer business perspective. That’s still coming, but via the magic of the internet, I was pointed over to a thread on ProBrewer that kind of got me by the short hairs.

Let me see if I can summarize this thread for you:

“What’s this Twitting thing? Is that on the Google? I can’t understand what those kids are saying without my ear horn!”

It makes me want to slap people. There is nothing in this world that pisses me off more than willful ignorance. The idea that you can’t understand something because it’s new is a one-way ticket to stagnation and failure. In the end the real issue is that you’re scared. Grow a pair. It’s a plastic box with electronics in it. We call it a computer. You use several every day, probably even to make beer.

I’m sure that all of the guys that posted to this thread are smart. You have to be smart to brew beer and run a business. You have to know a good deal of chemistry, physics, and biology. You have to have business sense and be at least relatively decent with numbers, you have to be savvy enough with people to know your customers, know what they want, and know how to get them to buy your product. And then you put something out like “I could really give a s#$t if those who read our company tweets consume my beer. If they would take guidance from a simple message from a stranger, they’re idiots.”

Shit, man. You just described marketing. You ever watch a commercial? They’re on the television now. Oh, right- that’s another plastic box with electronics in it. Forget I asked.

Nevermind, the lovely irony of asking “Has everyone willingly given up privacy?” on a public message board using your real name as a username. Liam, buddy: Misdirected ire. You must have been having a bad day that day, eh? I hope I can get up to Yellow Belly the next time I’m in NL to try your beer, regardless of that fact that you’ve completely written me off as a customer. Hey – does that mean I can drink for free?

And I don’t really mean to take the piss out of Liam here, it’s just to easy to troll and be snarky when people give you such opportunities! Moving on:

Allow me to address a few of the points that I’m going to summarize out of this thread (and countless freakin’ others out there):

Social Media is for “young people”

Almost 40% of Facebook users are between ages 36 and 65.

60% of Facebook users are over the age of 25.

Those damn kids. They’re probably planning your 30th high school reunion using the Facebook. Maybe you should get in touch.

Social media is a fad.

Facebook reported hitting 132 million users in December 2009. MySpace reports almost 50 million. Twitter reports 23 million. They’re not all overlapping users, though many are (there’s the followup column I’m writing, see?).

Allow me to translate that into math:

If every drinking-aged adult in the country (~200 million) buys beer (they don’t), and craft beer makes up ~5% of the market share (they do), then more people over the age of 26 use Facebook (79.2 million) than drink craft beer (10 million) by a factor of a whole shitload. Fad. Sheesh.

I don’t have time for social media

I don’t have time to promote my business! I don’t have time to get people interested in my brand! I don’t have time to sell my product! I don’t have time to interact with my customers! Waaah!

Really? You know how long it takes me to send out a tweet? Like 25 seconds. To be fair: I type fast. Let’s say it takes you TWICE as long as me to type – no! Three times as long! Finger-pecker!

Ach! My aged fingers can not stand typing for over a minute! I can’t take 75 seconds out of my incredibly busy day to interact with my customers just once!

If you’re that busy, you’re probably at a point where you could consider hiring someone to help you. If you make the point of hiring somebody who’s not an anti-social curmudgeon, then chances are you could make managing social media part of their job and then you don’t have to worry about understanding anything fancy and new.

Look, there’s only one excuse for this type of response: You don’t get it. And you know what? That’s okay! It’s totally fine to not intuitively understand something the first time you look at it. To assume that it’s stupid because you don’t understand it is folly.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time on social media. Can you? Certainly! It can be borderline addictive. I’ll get into that in my next point.

It’s all anti-social crap for people with ADD!

You’re confusing social media with iPhone owners. (I kid! (Mostly!))

Social media is the opposite of anti-social. C’mon, people. “Social” is in the freakin’ name. Every interaction via any form of social media is essentially a part of a conversation. It’s not an update look-at-my-life-because-I’m-so-freakin’-awesome tool. It’s a human interaction please-talk-to-me tool. It’s not just:

“I had a Brooklyn Backbreaker at Tyler’s Taproom last week and I gotta say: pretty awesome.”

It’s also:

“Oooh, I’ve been wanting to try that one. Is it still on tap?”

People are talking about you. They’re talking about your product and they’re talking about your brewery. They’re talking about them a lot and having meaningful conversations about them. That is exactly why social media can be so addictive – interacting with people is fun. You do it in the bar all the time, right? Oh, right – I know: Only with people you know, or people who have the same interests as you, or maybe just the pretty girls.

Yeah, okay. Just like social media. Look, you don’t have to interact with anybody that you don’t want to. You choose who you follow and the people who follow you are enthusiastic fans of your business and your product. They are your good customers and your best evangelists. Not only do they want to have a conversation with you, they want to have a conversation about you to others. You can’t ask for better marketing than that – don’t you want to be a part of that conversation and have the chance to help guide it?

True story: I have met more new beer people in my area in the past year via Twitter, Facebook, and this blog than the previous 6 years I’ve been living here. And I’m talking great people – awesome people that I like to go hang out with after work and have a beer with, people that I have invited over to my house for dinner and drinks, and people that I hope I will not ever lose touch with because they’re such good people. Wow! Being anti-social is fun!

Social media is not a replacement for human interaction – it’s an augmentation.

It’s not a press release machine – it’s a customer interaction tool.

It’s an easy and effective tool that you can use to share your brand and your story with an eager-and-waiting audience and probably have a lot of fun at the same time. Use it. There is no downside and no reason not to.

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Categories: industry, marketing, media
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 21 Jan 2010 @ 11 30 PM

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This will be a little outside the realm of my usual posts.

Tomorrow I’m hosting a little gathering of homebrewers and beer lovers to make beer in my backyard. It’s a club event for the burgeoning Chapel Hill/Carrboro Home Brewing Club. We’re making a Dry Irish Stout that we’re going to serve, as a club, at the upcoming Carrboro Homebrew Fest.

It’ll be a good time, and I’m really looking forward to it, even if it’s going to be something like 30 degrees outside. It’s always nice to freeze your ass off spend time with a bunch of people who enjoy beer, and I’m under the impression that a lot of these guys haven’t done – or maybe even seen – an all-grain brew, so it’ll be fun to teach them how to expand their hobby. But! Some of them have, and most of the others are – like any homebrew geek (like myself) – well-read enough to know their way around the concept pretty well.
Mmm.. mashing in.
In this comes my terror. Here’s what this post is. It’s a confessional:

I’ve never watched somebody else homebrew.

Ever.

I have my system, and I’ve read every damn book under the sun. I know the brewing process inside and out, and I feel pretty confident that if you dropped me on a commercial system without a deadline I could eventually make you a batch of beer in one incredibly long brew day (no promises on cleanup), but I have no idea what my process looks like in comparison to other people.

I’ve got a pretty standard ghetto-brew system. 7-gal stainless steel pot, mangled orange cooler with a false bottom, copper coil wort chiller. No pumps. I still siphon by mouth, because I’m too lazy to do anything else. I mill my own grain. I’ve got a rusty el crappo outdoor burner, that leaves my kettle covered in awful black carbon that it takes me forever to scrub off and I think I make some pretty great damn beer.

But I’m going to be taking people through my process – like my weirdo continuous sparge that I actually do slowly with a ladle instead of any sort of automated fly sparge system or even batch sparging – and part of me is almost kind of embarrassed. Like.. I should be so much less ghetto than this. I should have some 3-tier brewing sculpture made of shiny stainless steel. I should have this incredible system, but y’know what? The ghetto-brew setup works so well.

I can just envision me being halfway through the brewday before someone says, “Wait a sec! Don’t you do some-incredibly-important-step?” and I look blankly at them and say, “I’ve never heard of that.” Probably not. But it could happen! It’s like stage fright. I haven’t felt like this for years. I’ll probably get nervous pees and everything. Ugh.

So, I’m excited to hang out and drink beer with beer lovers all day. I’m excited to show people a little bit more about brewing if they don’t know about it, and excited to maybe help people take the step to all-grain. Having all of those people watch me all day while I do this scares the ever-livin’ crap out of me. And even better, I’m pretty sure some of them will read this blog post before showing up. Hi guys. Now you know my terrible secret: like everything else I’ve ever done in my life, I’m guessing my way through it. Enjoy!

Here’s the one guarantee on the day: I open my first beer at 10 AM. It’ll be a great day.

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Categories: homebrew, meta
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 08 Jan 2010 @ 09 33 AM

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