Thursday, June 21, 2012

It's The People, Stupid

Drink good beer with good people. It has been my closing line for my internet ramblings since I started this blog several months ago. If I remember correctly it came from one of many work sessions that I had with my friend David Phelps as we tried to hammer our the branding message and label concepts for Cranker's Brewery. We work well together. David is far more talented than he knows, and when I am in proximity of his creativity, he gives me credit for being a part of it.

We spent hours in his house upstairs bouncing some good, but mostly bad creative concepts off of each other until we created a label line up that we are both quite proud of. These sessions were facilitated by samplings of the homebrewed pilot batches of beer that I was tweaking in preparation for the brewery's opening. Even though the majority of these work sessions consisted of each of us buried in our respective iDevice, it was always a tremendous amount of fun, and one of those memories that will always remain with me. Seeing these images in the brewery today helps to make work feel like home.

Ever since I started homebrewing and I stopped making beer that tasted like wet cardboard I have had the dream of brewing professionally. I never actually expected to, but the concept was always there in the back of my mind. Then somehow, the stars aligned, and here I am at the helm of a fifteen barrel brewhouse. I always imagined myself watching people drink my beers and enjoying their time out. I figured that would be the best part of the whole head brewer thing. That proved to not be the case. Don't get me wrong, it is awesome to see patrons enjoying the brewery. However my best times as a brewer have come from visits from friends old and new.

I guess it spills into some of my past commentary on food, family, and beer. I view food and family as one. The dinner table is where my family congregates and celebrates. It is were we share and mourn. In many ways, it is our hub. Also, beer is food. It brings people together in the same way that food should. I find that I feel the same way whether I am putting a beer in front of someone, or a rack of ribs that I just slow cooked on the grill. There is always pride and emotion behind those items. I want people to enjoy their time. This is why my favorite role in the brewery is that of host.

Jestin and David, childhood (and still to this day) friends. Lee and Kim, he was the first person I judged beer with. Pat and Ray, homebrew buddies turned bff's. Isaac and Megan, two charter members of the Brewing Network: Homebrew Division. Jeff, potentially the finest cider maker in the country. Seth and Laura, beer bloggers and foodies (insert plug here: Rick and Kim, my favorite local beer tasting buddies.

The fact that these people have taken time out of their schedules to support me is the most edifying part of what I do. Some of them drove from several hours away. Others carved time our of their busy work and family schedule to visit. To all of those who have visited, and to those of you who will, you make this experience special. Thank you for supporting me, the brewery, and in extension, my family.

 Drink good beer with good people!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Dust Settles

I could tell that life was getting back to normal when I began thinking of messing around on Facebook and Twitter again. For so long, writing blog posts and attempting to create a social media base was my work. When school ended in June of 2011, I had no idea that I would not begin working in the brewery until April 2012. I had things on the brewery front to keep me busy: recipe design, equipment research, contributing to branding duties, and trying to grow the aforementioned social media opportunities. However, those things did not stack up to anything near full time work.

Once I could get into the brewery and start cleaning the world around me sort of shrunk away. I tend to get tunnel vision when it comes to the things that I am passionate about. I started working 12-14 hour days seven days a week. I have listened to countless interviews with brewers who participated in launching a new start up like I was. I knew that things would be demanding and exhausting, I didn't walk into this blind, but I didn't realize how intense the whole thing would be. I know that the journey is not over, but I feel as if I have started to come out the other side.

I am proud to say that I have brewed a total of 120 barrels of beer so far and that they have been clean and in the ballpark of where I want it. Sure the will be tweaks made along the way, but I can live with the start that I had. It is pretty wild watching a restaurant full of people drinking the beer that you have made. The local community has really embraced us at the brewery and have been very supportive. I have met a lot of great people. The biggest thrill for me thus far has been speaking to people who drink Bud Light only, sit down and drink my IPA, and then order a second.

I have plans to start posting more regularly. I am excited to share some of the things I have learned about hopping techniques, malt crushing size in relation to extract efficiency, and maybe some general interest stuff. Until then...

Drink good beer with good people!