Monthly Archives: March 2013

Craft Brewers Conference Day 1

It was a day of transit for me so not much of note. I started at the brewery in Raleigh fussing about as a mother hen looking over things one last time, making sure the brewery was in good order before coming to DC. The train ride up was slow, late, but wifi and reports of others heading the same direction kept me in good cheer.

I managed to see old coworkers, local friends, and friends from the other side of the country, but not run into my boss at the opening reception. Funny too as everyone had just spoke with him, but I  never managed to catch up. Receptions at the Air and Space Museum are always impressive with the aircraft lit up at night, but it always evolves into people having conversations while ignoring their surroundings. And getting kicked out of galleries with drinks, The beer food pairings with local breweries were particularly mentioning, they had paired a dish with a local beer. The duck sausage and Belgian ale was really amazing.

Today the conference starts in earnest.

BrewHub

My post about A Sense of Place has been in my mind for a while. What brought it back to my attention was this recent article on BrewHub. The idea that 5 ‘craft breweries’ would combine an operations space. Admittedly it takes my idea and pushes it to a test, can breweries keep their individual sense of place if you are in a multi-use facility? I think it will dampen potential for unique personality to shine through, to show the personality of the brewers and their art.

Or perhaps they will all shine through and my idea on place is worthless?

Time will tell.

I will say that brewpubs looking to expand into the production space this will be a potentially attractive route. The test case is already been made in the form of the 21st Amendment Brewery, while they have their home in San Francisco they have a partner brewery in Minnesota.

For smaller regional breweries, it might be a way to expand production when in a pinch waiting on a new or expansion of a facility, but I don’t think many brands will be successful on this model.

A Sense of Place

One key element of the modern brewery to me is a sense of place. I mean that the brewery itself is in a sense the social object.  A center where people can travel to, gather with others, and enjoy this shared bond of liking this breweries beer. I see it regularly here in North Carolina with Big Boss having close to 500 people on their monthly tour, Fullsteam has a number of community events weekly, or Mystery brewing having movie nights.

Let’s consider back the first generation of craft brewers in the 1980, two companies I can think of started out both contract brewing their product. They both grew to national attention and grew at a good pace, eventually one established a permanent home, with smaller test batch system and place for public to visit and tour, Boston Beer Company. While the other Pete’s Wicked Ale did well initially, never established a ‘home’ and eventually was spun off from Pete Slosberg to be killed off by Gambrinus years later. And yes there were more factors going on but this sense of place to put a face on the company is a factor among them.

Have you driven past a InBev or MillerCoors plant? Is there anything compelling or could it be any other industrial plant along the highway? Even Guinness for how much it has grown and been acquired it still has the old brewery for tour and a shrine that many of my friends have gone and taken the tour and enjoyed a few pints.

From Magic Hat’s quirky taproom to visiting the iconic Anchor brewery, it’s a sense of place that helps people find a connection to the beers they love. With all the debate of Craft vs ‘Crafty’ the last few months, this remains in my mind at least a touchstone that helps define what a brewery is.

New Start

A new start, a new site, a new opportunity to reflect on the world and the day. As is my nature I am sure it will have some smart-alec tendencies, but frankly I am more interested in understanding the future of beer and my small role in that. The Craft Beer community has grown too large for any one person to fully grasp it. With more than 2,000 breweries around the nation, you can never know all the latest news. For every brewery I know starting there are at least another two in planning stages I haven’t heard a whisper of and that is just here in North Carolina.

For the last six months I have been brewing and learning at a pub, getting a better understanding my system, the customers, and the challenges in a one man operation. When I first started I wanted to discuss publicly the lessons I am learning, my hope with this new site is to start bringing that idea to fruition.

On my way to work I think occasionally about the movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It’s a wonderful story about one man’s devotion to his craft. Jiro complains about holidays and days he can’t work. As my wife can attest often when I am on a day off or not at work my mind is still spinning with the latest batch in process or some problem I am working on. I suppose I share that with him and I hope to be as successful one day. The bigger point is one I think about regularly, the sturggle for excellence in your trade.

This next week I’ll be attending the Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, DC. I look forward to seeing old friends, both brewers and locals, but I am more looking forward to learning from people and making improvements to my brewing. Lastly I see it as an opportunity to get back into the habit of posting on a more regular basis.