The Social Brew Work

I first dipped my pen in the quill of writing about crowdfunding (namely Kickstarter) in the the brewing industry with this blog post (July, 2011) and not only does it remain a viable force in the realm of funding these frothy startups, but it has spun off its own platform, CrowdBrewed. For better, for worse, and for big bucks, welcome to the Social Brew Work.



95% Asshole Free

I don’t recall the specific conversation that inspired this post for The New school, but that’s probably the point–that it wasn’t one straw that broke this camel’s back.

It used to be said that the craft beer industry was “asshole free.” Then someone made that figure a bit more realistic and many now refer to it as “99% asshole free.” For years, that was entirely true. Now? I begrudgingly consider it 95% asshole free. That’s still amazingly better than you’re apt to find in any other industry, social scene, or grouping of any sort. Look at the people in the last classroom you were in. In the last office job you have/had. In your family, even. The fact is, whether you’re a brewer, a beertender, an avid beer fan, or in some way connected to the craft beer milieu, odds are you’re a pretty great guy or gal. I look forward to our next or first beer together. (Unless you think I fit into the 5% of jerkwads, in which case go eff yourself.)

For a long time, there was a sense that it was one-for-all and all-for-one among the band of brewers, at least all the little guys versus the few big guys. That’s changing. Not on the whole or in giant leaps, but I’ve noticed some disparaging comments here, or there some snide remarks pointed at a new or neighboring brewery. Obviously those utterances don’t make the utterer an asshole in any overall sense—there’s a big difference between being an asshole and just acting like one—but brewers are saying some assholish things about their colleagues.

Beer Soup

I don’t know when she kicked it off, but All About Beer editor Julie Johnson launched the magazine’s online equivalent to E’s show Talk Soup (now just “The Soup”), a forum to discuss anything and everything in the brewing industry. In 2011 I was asked to keep the soup stirring. I used it to spitball beery ideas that I’d neglected to post on my own then-blog at BeerOdyssey. Here are some of my lasting favorites beginning with the first entry:

Building Brand Disloyalty (5/13/11). “Entrepreneur Eileen Hassi (Ritual Coffee) discussed the idea of local San Francisco coffee roasters creating a disloyalty card emulating the idea conceived by World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies in London…Buy the competitors’ products and get one on the house from us…the polar opposite idea of standard punch-cards (buy 10, get one free)….Beer folks are usually ahead of the curve when it comes to their brewing brethren, but for all the talk of camaraderie and being united against the corporate behemoths, wouldn’t it be great to see this concept emerge in cities with multiple brewpubs or tasting rooms?

Pairing with exes (5/23/11). We love to to pair beers with cheese, breakfast, music and even philosophy. Basically, we take beer and something else we love and muse about the perfect partnership. But what about pairing it with something we used to love, er, make that someone – wherein the partnership has ended?

Consistency (5/26/11). One of the keys to success in the brewing business – or any manufacturing industry – is offering a consistent product so the consumer knows what he’s getting each time. But in no small part, isn’t that anathema to what we love about our little indie breweries? If we all wanted homogenized beer, we know very well where to find that. Is consistency overrated? Is is ever okay to be differently great rather than consistently good?

Whales vs. Diapers (6/1/11). It’s bad enough to bogart rare beers. Is it worse to sell them?

Fruit Beers (6/7/11) and Vegetable Beers (6/8/11). Are we drinking beer or eating a salad in a glass? Of course, this line of thinking led to wondering what to pair with carrot cake (6/10/11)?

Nips. Already addressed here.

33,000 breweries? (6/30/11). The Brewers Association’s fact sheet tells us a lot, such as that there are presently 1,753 breweries operating in the US (give or take, since they also report that new breweries seem to bloom daily)…We don’t have 1,753carmakers or bluejeans brands or even record companies. Do we NEED that many breweries? This led to the next post (7/1/11) positing on the possibility of a brewpub on every corner.

IPA Day (7/12/11). It’s a thing. A month later, I grappled with “Brewers Droop.” The following week, I dealt with Hybridized IPAs for the first (bot not last) time.

Spiritual enlightenment two or three pints at a time (7/19/11). Brewers long ago, and I’m not talking in the early days of craft like Anchor’s Fritz Maytag and John Carpenter but hundreds of years prior, referred to the fermenting agent as “God is good.” …When we appreciate great beer, we might talk about the toastiness of the malt, the spiciness of the hops, or the earthiness (or cattiness) of the yeast, but don’t forget the holiness of the “God is good.”  Isn’t that what opens our mind holes the way it did for the Sumerians, Visigoths, and Romans did? Maybe it even helps us see the divine in each other.

Non brewery collaborations (8/1/11). Perhaps it started with BridgePort and the Audubon Society with Blue Heron Ale, first brewed in 1987 before the concept of the craft beer collaboration was born.

Keg on your coffin? (9/21/11). Chris Trapper’s first song’s first line went, “Put a keg on my coffin.” Throughout the rest of the song, I pondered that interesting twist on the desert island beers question about what you’d want to have if stranded out at sea. Admittedly, at first I started dreaming about what one keg I’d want with me inside my coffin.

Smoked cider (11/7/11). To say the cider tastes exactly like a big, smokey bratwurst (with just a hint of apple) is an accurate description.

Kumquats (11/18/11). I like beer and kumquats and think they could be divine together.

Music to my beers (2/3/12). There’s not shortage of by, about and for beer. What are some of your favorites?

The Oscar for Best Supporting Hops (3/8/12). The Academy Awards might be over, but there’s one category of film theyoverlooked. They’re not really documentaries, though they do document a vital element of our culture. …Oddly, though all sorts of awards go to special effects, what do we root for more than the way this particular subject matter affects our beer?

Why “nice” and “good” are bad (4/16/12). I literally cringe, my face scrunches up a bit, whenever I hear someone say, “A nice bottle of wine” or some such variant such as “a good Pinot.”

180 degrees (Is beer part of your life?) (7/3/12). My life is completely different than it was several years ago, but in the right ways. Before, I was always looking for the perfect girl and the perfect pint.

Purple States of Beer (8/7/12). Something to revisit as election cycles roll around!

10 reasons craft beer is not macho (9/18/12). Some examples:

1. They record notes about each beer they’ve enjoyed in a notebook.

5. Tulip glasses.

9. They use cellar as a verb.



Variety pack of 18 cl bottles. Photo: Brian Yaeger

Variety pack of 18 cl bottles. Photo: Brian Yaeger

I don’t recall the catalyst, but starting in 2011 I rapidly took up the mantle in support of small (AAB, Vol. 32, Iss. 2) forming something of a Nip Bottle Preservation Society (an army of one). Nips, typically those diminutive packages that offer a scant 250ml (about 7 fl. oz.) aren’t just cute, they’re great for myriad reasons. And I got to explore them even more beyond the feature story for a triptych of 3 posts in All About Beer’s then-blog, Beer Soup, for which I’d started blogging in early 2011.

Everybody Wants Some. Smaller portions of limited volume means more consumers get to try the beer (even if they get less liquid than they may like,)

Does this beer make me look fat? Sorry fellas, but beer’s not exactly dietetic. If we’re all about quality not quantity, maybe smaller portions aren’t such a bad thing.

It’s the economy, genius. Nips and splits are the answer to the “problem” of the rising cost of rare beer. I’d rather spend $16 for a 375ml than $30 for a 750.

But I didn’t stop there. I went on to launch and you can follow our exploits on #Twitter at @welovenips.

Remember, less is more.