08 Mar 2010 @ 9:30 PM 

What I needed, more than anything, was another project to work on.

My brain has delivered unto me another idea.

Back in February, a buddy and I went up to Winston-Salem for the Foothills Sexual Chocolate Release Party. There, we ran into the gents from Hop Cast. Nice guys. I mention them as gents, however, because of their participation in The Fellowship of Gentlemenly Gentlemen. It is a group of people who get together on a general basis with a plan for tasting beer, cigars, and liquors in a social setting. As it’s been described to me, it sounds like a good time, and in our brief conversation we said – maybe we should start something up. After all, “Southern Gentlemen” has quite a ring to it.

Then my brain started working on it, which is never healthy.

Sometimes, when I’m working on something but not moving on it, the idea kind of ferments in my head: starts off as one thing, I add beer, it kind of works around in there, I add more beer, and then three weeks later it emerges from its alcohol-soaked chrysalis as some sort of… insect, I guess.

Here’s what came out:

I want a tasting group.

Stuff that’s somewhat similar to my idea already exists in my local area. There’s TriBeer, but it seems to be about just showing up and socializing where there is beer. While that’s cool, it’s not what I’m looking for. There’s the classes put on by our local homebrew mecca American Brewmaster. They focus on styles, how to taste them, and how to make them. They’ve got one coming up on Belgian Ales. It’s definitely a good resource, but I’m not really looking for another homebrew event or how-to-brew information necessarily. And that tasting panel is really wide. “All Belgian beers”? Holy moly. That’s quite a target.

I want something like this:

A group of people show up at a bar. They know ahead of time that there’s a theme. Tonight, we’ll be drinking porters. Someone (who was prepped ahead of time) gets up and talks a little bit about the history of the style, what people generally expect when they drink porters, maybe a rundown of the BJCP style and the BA style. Then, you drink a porter. You talk about what you just had. What flavors did you taste? What components of what you just talked about did you notice in this porter? Then, you drink a different porter. How did it compare the previous porter? How as it different? How was it alike? How do either of these beers relate to the style overall? Then, you drink a third porter. Same questions. Talk, educate, taste, learn.

Basically, I guess what I want is a book club, but for beer. I want it to be educational, and I want it to be for people who are not necessarily beer geeks. I want to help people explore their palates, and learn new things. I want them to be able to talk about it and not be afraid of sounding stupid. I want people to learn what they like and what they don’t like. I want people to grow and help craft beer grow at the same time.

So I’m putting one together.

I’m putting the wheels in motion next Monday. I’m planning on doing it at Tyler’s Taproom in Durham. The first week will most likely focus on IPA, mainly because – after perusing their menu – that’s what they have three of. Until I can get permission to actually bring beer in somewhere and create a more customizable flight, that’ll be the easiest thing. I hope to be able to put a handful of people together and I hope to god that there will be somebody there that I don’t know. Bonus points if they also don’t know beer (or IPA) and are there to learn.

I don’t know. The whole thing could be a bust. It might just be me hanging out with friends drinking IPAs on a Monday night. That doesn’t sound so terribly bad, though. But I’d really like it to be the start of something great.

Next comes the huge question: What do you call it?

Tags Tags: , ,
Categories: appreciation, RDU
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 09 Mar 2010 @ 11 44 AM

EmailPermalinkComments (18)

Let’s be clear about something: Beer has alcohol in it.

No! Really! I wear no tin-foil hat! It is a scientific fact that one of the by-products of fermentation is ethanol which contributes to the feeling of fuzziness that you feel after a good pint.

You thought it was just the flavinoids, didn’t you? Maybe a carb high? Excess CO2? Hah! No. It’s alcohol.

I know. It’s a potentially dangerous topic. You see, in the early 20th Century, as your history teachers may have taught you, the creation, transport, and sale of alcoholic beverages was banned in the United States. It was crazy. You want to talk bullshit politics? They even amended the Constitution to do it – the one instance of an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that restricted freedom instead of expanded it.

Luckily, a few years later (only 13!) this Amendment was repealed by another, different, freedom-making-Amendment. What’s not often made clear is what led to alcohol being prohibited. Many people think that it was just a bunch of teetotalling windbags that happened to have gotten popular sway and managed to get 2/3 of the states to ratify an Amendment.

Just FYI: That’s a LOT of work.

But they’re not wrong. It was just a bunch of teetotalling windbags that happened to have gotten popular sway. It also happened to be a bunch of crazy religious windbags, but this is not about religion. It’s about windbags.

Let me tell you about windbags. Windbags know what’s good for you better than you do. Windbags come in many, many different colors. They’re Democrats. They’re Republicans. They’re white and black and hippies and yuppies and pretty much everybody with a half a brain who thinks that their shred of randomly sparking neurons makes them a better judge for what you do with your life than you are
There are even windbags amongst beer geeks. But those aren’t the windbags that I’m concerned about.

(In this part of the column.)

The turn-of-the-20th-Century windbags saw depravity at hand in the country. They saw problems in society, and they had this idea that rather than working toward a reasonable solution to the problems existent in the country by addressing the root and causes of problems, that they would instead work toward eliminating a symptom: drunkenness.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease and they squeaked a LOT. For years. Political battles were lost and, eventually, won on the topic, and our forefathers were treated to thirteen years of attempting to pleasantly escape reality using … well .. cigarettes, probably. Whippets, maybe. Not the dog.

As it turns out, drunkenness is a great human pleasure. We’ve been doing it for 4000 years, and we’ve made it this far – in fact, I’m sure that on some level that we made it this far because fermentation helped us get through some sort of sterilization procedure before we knew what those wild autoclaves in the forest did. People strove for drunkenness, even through Prohibition, and in the country came out of the other end much worse for the wear, not only in the realm of beer (where big industrial lagers were able to take the market in their hands), but across society which had been indulging in just as many depravities, except now they were increasingly more depraved because they had to be secret about it.

I’m rambling, extrapolating and hyperbolizing a lot, here. Bear with me.

As it turns out, there are still windbags out there who would like to restrict alcohol consumption and/or ban it altogether. Even the person who started MADD has said that it has become a neo-prohibitionist organization. They’re not alone. There are windbags everywhere, even (and especially) in other countries.

So, back to beer. Beer, as we said, has alcohol. We, the craft beer industry, love beer. Duh. Why the hell would there be a craft beer industry, otherwise?

A few weeks ago, there was a poll out in the intertubes asking:

If beer didn’t contain any alcohol, but still tasted the same, would you still brew/drink it?

Yes – 76%
No – 23%

The results show me that at least 23% of the people that took this poll were honest. I took this poll when it came out. I voted no. Why? I mean, I love the taste of beer. I probably would drink it if it didn’t have alcohol if I thought it would exist in society if it didn’t have alcohol in it. As much as I love it for all of its other properties, there’s no doubt that one of the beautiful things about it is the fact that it’s a mind-altering social beverage. Is the alcohol the only reason to drink it? No. Is it a part of the package? Most definitely.

On top of that, how many sodas, juices or other drinks do you consume that have astringent bitterness as a core flavor component? You wanna put some hops in that Coke or that apple juice to balance out the sweetness? Yech.

But that’s okay! There’s nothing to be ashamed of in liking alcohol and, dare I say it? Liking to get drunk! You can enjoy it without abusing it – the ability to do just that is the backbone of the craft beer market segment.

Here’s where the problem lies. There’s a thin line between the appearance of enjoyment and the appearance of abuse. The difference is between:

“I’m heading out to a beer tasting to try some awesome new beer.”


“I’m heading out to a beer tasting and I’m gonna get TOTALLY TRASHED.”

Please note: Most likely, both are true. I’m as happy about it as you are. But, craft beer industry, here’s my question: Can we let the latter go unspoken when we’re in public? At least MOST of the time?

Appearances are important. We are judged by our actions and our words in the court of public opinion, and nobody’s going to take the time to look for extenuating circumstances when they think they’re right before they hear us.

Beer geeks and brewery employees are the ambassadors of the products that we craft and love. While the “I’m getting totally fucking crunked” line will definitely pull in one section of the population to our cause, it doesn’t portray us as connoisseurs and enthusiasts. It doesn’t portray us as artisans and experts. It portrays us as drunks. And if we’re all coming off as drunks, we lose the collective respect of those NOT in the craft beer industry

I mean, we might be drunks. But we don’t have to advertise it, do we?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be the windbag here: Go get drunk. Tell your friends. Enjoy it. Have a blast. I do. Just have some class.

Every once in a while, you’re going to end up telling the public at-large about the obscene amount of fun we’re all having. But can we at least attempt to tell them that the obscene amount of fun that we’re having just happens to go alongside intelligent discourse and honest appreciation and leave the “OMFG I’m sooooo trashed” for friends and trusted compatriots?

Tags Categories: appreciation, marketing, op-ed Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 04 Mar 2010 @ 11 01 AM

EmailPermalinkComments (5)
 01 Mar 2010 @ 7:38 AM 

Sometime last summer, I got an e-mail from this guy Kevin. I didn’t know who he was. He was a fan of North Carolina beer and had an eye on this website called Know Your Brewer. It was a site that I had run across before – it was something that had been put together at the tail end of Pop the Cap by Sean Wilson – the guy who put PtC together – as a site to highlight North Carolina beer. Kevin had noticed that there wasn’t much movement on the site and had a few ideas about how to get things rolling again. I’ve never been quite sure about why he decided to include me on the e-mail (among a few others who I DO understand, because they’ve been involved in the beer scene – @Geistbear and another local beer guy – who ended up being too busy to be involved at the time). It turned out to be me, Sean, and Kevin sitting at a bar sort of brainstorming ideas of how to highlight NC breweries.

A few weeks later, the North Carolina Brewers Guild spoke up. They were interested in pulling the content that Sean had originally put into Know Your Brewer into their domain, NCBeer.org. They needed someone to manage the creation of content and help move the site forward. Sean was busy (and still is) with the launch of his own brewery, so he sent a message out asking if anybody was interested in stepping up. I jumped at it, and have been working for the Brewers Guild managing their website, its content, and whatever else they need – alongside Rob Ulick who has been in-freakin’-valuable and fantastic – ever since.

In the meantime, Know Your Brewer went a little vacant. A lot of the content that had originally been created got moved over to ncbeer.org. A lot of the traffic moved, as well. But I had an idea sort of banging around in the back of my head and I pitched it to Sean.

This Know Your Brewer idea was a good one. I had really enjoyed reading the interviews on the site, and I was a little sad to see it die. What if, I asked, we took the time to move this nationwide? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could celebrate breweries everywhere? One of the things that had struck me ever since I started getting into the craft beer industry is just how nice the people are. It might be the friendliest industry I’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part of. There’s camaraderie in the place of competition. What’s more, like any small business, the people involved are very much the epitome of their own brand.

Every brewery has its own story that each day and each beer become sentences, paragraphs, and chapters of. The people that work there are characters in their own storyline. Customers – beer geeks – tend to get wrapped up in the story of the brewery and in most cases (high profile breweries aside) don’t get the chance chance to know anything about the greatest protagonist: the brewer. That, I said to Sean, is what I’d like to see. We’re such a young industry, we’ve got so many good people with so many good stories – someone should be telling them.

For whatever foolhardy reason, Sean agreed; we’ve been moving forward ever since. He’s been an idea machine and – let’s face it, it was his site. That he was gracious enough to allow me to descend on it with my idea was wonderful. That he jumped in feet-first with brainstorming and hard work whilst in the midst of starting a business is beyond awesome.

It’s been a little rough to get moving at times. Neither of us really have the time to dive into another project that we’re not getting paid for. The site needed a pretty hefty redesign and, most importantly, it needed content. I started contacting breweries in every place that I was traveling in the winter and coming up in the spring and trying to arrange interviews. We asked a friend of mine that I met through Intrepid Media, Russ Carr to give us a hand with the design and then we set out to recruit writers. Kevin Myers, the guy who sent me the e-mail to start this insane chain into action, was one of the first people to sign up. His interview with Josh Brewer of Mother Earth Brewing will start off our second week. The reason that Know Your Brewer looks as snazzy as it does is due 110% to the hard work that Russ put in. I owe Russ lots and lots of beer.

The reason that we have good content queued up is because we’ve had some really great writers step up and volunteer to throw some stuff our way. Nobody’s getting paid to do any of this. We’re all working through this as a labor of love to tell the stories of some pretty admirable men and women.

Take the time to head over to Know Your Brewer and read a little bit about Brian Connery, Senior Brewer at Dogfish Head – a really nice guy who took time out of his schedule two days after Christmas, to get interviewed by me at the end of his work day. He’s dealt with me badgering him over the past few months, promising that this content was going to go up sometime and, oh by the way, would you mind answering this other thing, too?

I hope you enjoy reading about his background and about why he loves his job so much. Later on the week, you can read a great recipe that he made up using two Dogfish Head beers that I’ll actually be cooking up in my kitchen this evening.

I hope, too, that I can get back to writing here on a more regular basis. Know Your Brewer has been taking up so much of my attention lately that Top Fermented has only gotten a few rants from me. Look for more in the upcoming weeks – when I’m not typing out my interviews for KYB.

And finally, I hope you’re moved to take the time, go talk to a brewer, and write it up to submit it to Know Your Brewer. We will always be in want of more content, but with 1500 breweries in the U.S. and more opening every day, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be swamped with it. If you’re interested in contributing, send a message over to info@knowyourbrewer.com and we can get you hooked up.

Enjoy. 🙂

Tags Tags: , ,
Categories: blog, industry, marketing, media
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 01 Mar 2010 @ 07 38 AM

EmailPermalinkComments (0)
\/ More Options ...
Change Theme...
  • Users » 138378
  • Posts/Pages » 204
  • Comments » 2,692
Change Theme...
  • HopsHops « Default
  • BarleyBarley


    No Child Pages.


    No Child Pages.


    No Child Pages.