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. 🙂

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 01 Mar 2010 @ 07 38 AM

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 01 Jan 2010 @ 12:13 PM 

This post was originally going to be for this month’s Session, #35: “New Beer’s Resolutions, but I canned it. It’s a cute topic, but I can’t do it. I don’t believe in looking back at mistakes. To learn from your mistakes is paramount, to dwell on them is folly. They are done and I won’t revisit them, but rather stay positive with their lessons in mind and move forward to greater achievement.
The future!
At the same time, I feel like resolutions are bunk. The number one way to not get something done is to make it a New Year’s Resolution. If you want something to get done, you need to roll out of bed in the morning and do it. Screw tying it to the calendar. Just get up and go.

I also won’t attempt to make any predictions about what could happen in 2010. The problem with predictions is that they are based on the past; they’re based on our current knowledge set and our current environment. We cannot forsee individual random events or, even more importantly, what will be invented that will change the world in the next 12 months. It’s impossible and fruitless to speculate. You can only be ready for anything and enjoy the ever-living-crap out of it.

But! The dawn of a new year is an opportunity to look forward to all of the wonderful things to come that you DO know about. Here’s my personal list of things to come in 2010:

Homebrew and Competition

After withdrawing myself from homebrew competitions for a while, I plan to get my feet wet again to see what comes out of it. I’ve had some rather snarky judges in the past that have made me feel rather jaded about entering competitions, but in the spirit of “I’m going to start a business.” I’ve decided to say screw-all to the critics, throw my hat back into the ring, and wait for the Gold Medal to arrive in the mail. If the rest of my big bold headings work out as I expect them to, this will also be the last year I enter into homebrew competitions.

Here’s where my beer is going:

  • 2010 Winter Brew Bash, Carrboro NC: Start local, right? These guys are working hard to have what appears to be a really incredibly non-traditional homebrew competition. What I like about it is that it is built around a homebrew tasting, so that brewers and the public alike can come in and try all of the beers that are entered into competition. It’s a lovely PR event for homebrew and has the possibility of getting a lot of new people involved in the hobby. At the same time, I love sharing my beer with other people and it’s a good opportunity for that, as well. Finally, as far as I can tell, it’s not tied to category, and thank god for that, because I don’t fit inside categories well.
  • LoneRider Brewery‘s Brew It Forward: Another style-less competition, where the prize involves getting your beer made and sold. I’m not sure when this is coming up – spring sometime – but they’re so close to my house that it seems ridiculous to not send them some beer.
  • National Homebrew Competition: My opportunity to play to style and send something out, and maybe – just maybe – I’ll get a feedback sheet from a judge that doesn’t make me want to punch them in the throat.

2010 Craft Brewers Conference Panel Presentation: I’m a Social Media Guru Now!
One of the things that I am both looking forward to and slightly terrified of is the 2010 Craft Brewers Conference where I will be part of a panel presentation entitled Storytelling 2.0: Social Media as Conversation with some colleagues that I feel rather starstruck about. Fullsteam’s Sean Wilson (one of my co-panelists) posted a nice up front review of what we’re attempting to do. Here’s the selected excerpt from our draft pitch that sells it best:

It’s time to stop thinking of Twitter, Facebook, and blogging as simple extensions of your press releases. Storytelling 2.0 will help you discover your own unique voice, and connect, build, and bond with your fan base. It’s time to talk with — not at — your audience.

Craft brewing is story-driven. Each individual brewery has a unique story to best engage its customer base. Social media empowers your brewery to include enthusiasts in that story, giving them access to your narrative voice in an unparalleled way. Well-crafted updates, photo postings, and personalized responses engage your customers, giving them a chance to see inside your operations and meet the characters in the story first-hand.

By the by, I hope nobody ever calls me a social media guru. I don’t use it enough (I’m sure my wife would argue that I use it way too much) – on purpose – because I feel like it’s easy to spam and therefore achieve negative impact through annoyance, but I think that automatically takes me out of “guru” running.

As we work on the conference panel over the next few months, you’ll probably see a few columns here about social media and how it pertains to breweries. These columns will not be meant as part of the presentation or may not even be related, but it’s the best way I have to work through things. At the same time, I hope that my ramblings will be useful to the internet/brewing community at large.

Know Your Brewer Re-Launches

We haven’t said a whole lot about this yet, but I am working with Sean over at Fullsteam on a little project that I think will turn out for awesome. Know Your Brewer, a website that was originally focused on North Carolina Beer as part of Pop the Cap 2.0. The site provided the basic template and early content for the North Carolina Brewers Guild website NCBeer.org, which I’m also helping on, but that left a domain and a concept unoccupied. I’ve somehow managed to convince Sean to let me help retro-fit Know Your Brewer for a new life.

The re-launch is coming and it’s coming nationwide. I’m not yet sure of our official re-launch date, I can say that I think it will be pretty terrific. The site will focus on the men and women behind craft beer – the people that make it, the brewers – and look at their beer and their breweries through their eyes. We’re hoping to have writers and bloggers across the country interviewing brewers from across the country, with lots of added content – recipes, Q&A, etc, all in a regular weekly format.

I’ve already done interviews at a couple of breweries and I have a half-dozen more scheduled in the next few weeks. It’s been a ton of fun talking to brewers about their work, how they got into it, and what they enjoy the most about it. It’s been a ball and I can’t wait to share it.

What you see there isn’t the final design, but it’s on its way. Look for an official announcement here (and, of course, on Know Your Brewer) soon. In the meantime, we’re recruiting writers – are you interested? Let me know!

Announcing the Location of Mystery Brewing Company

Finally, in either the second or third quarter this year, I will be making the announcement on the geographical location of my own startup: Mystery Brewing Company.

At that point, the blog will likely go through a slight transition where you end up hearing a lot more commentary about startup issues. On of my major criticisms with startup brewery content I have found, read, and yes, even paid thousands of dollars for, is the lack of practical detail. I get a lot of “you need to fill out TTB forms and apply for licensing.” And while it’s true, it’s not necessarily as helpful as telling me what forms are around, what information they tend to expect, and what pitfalls I should look out for. Not to say I’ll be posting how to fill out your TTB label forms here, but I will, whenever possible, post practical information about the startup process specifically pertaining to startup breweries in the hopes that others coming after me will find something useful. I believe that the future of the industry lays in continuing spread of the individual small brewery, rather than the continual creation of more megabreweries, and I hope that I can help the industry in the right direction.

Back when I was in high school, as a miserable teenager, I remember somebody taking me aside and telling me: “Remember these days, because these are the best days of your life.” And then I remember thinking, “Oh god – kill me now.” They were wrong. Totally and completely and in all ways possible: wrong. They were not even remotely the best days of my life. Every year that I’ve been alive, things have just been better and better, more fun and more awesome, and I can’t imagine that changing now. I’m looking forward to 2010, for all of these reasons up here and the hundreds of reasons that I haven’t found out about, yet.

Happy New Year, everyone. It’ll be a great one.

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