Education and Beer – Learn and Share

Education

I was out delivering a talk recently, on beer; you know the usual stuff: how beer is made, how long it’s been made, what makes it “beer” and a loose intro to beer styles and the differences between.

I really love getting out and about, meeting all sorts of people – and thankfully that lovely phrase crosses over, Different Strokes for Different Folks. I am sure some of you have serious qualifications in your chosen career or prior career before you fell into Beer, so you might have the insight in to what a Stroke is. Well, I can start by saying it’s not the brain injury we’re talking about. It’s what some have referred to as an approach to different people that should be individualized. The proverb also means that different people have different tastes. Nobody knows exactly where the saying comes from. Wolfgang Mieder thinks it originated in the United States.

Anyway, why all the psycho-philosopy… well, I think it’s important that we understand where we stand in the world of beer. I think EVERYONE who has a personal or professional interest in beer has an obligation to help those who don’t know about beer, but with the caveat that we mustn’t judge people by their tastes, by what they drink or otherwise.

My toughest tasting from memory, was a bunch of bankers (I have used other terms) certified Industrial Fizzy Lager drinkers, and proud of it. Did I berate them for doing so… no. Did I find an angle with them, exploring their other food intake to seek parallel toward drinking better beer… yes. I had to work very hard on these chaps, one by one, they slowly came around to thinking that perhaps they could do better – and I learned something: their motivations weren’t flavour or the like – it was getting where they wanted to be, in a controlled amount of time – hence drinking Weak Industrial Fizzy Lager. Also, Price was a factor – these better off, financially, people were hung up on the price of Artisan Lager vs Industrial Lager. They also came with the mindset of Last Man Standing – a game of dare to who falls over first; a challenge if there ever was one from my stand point.

The funny thing, even with all the bravado and bullshit spouting forth, once I had done my gig a few of them were keen to talk to me at the bar. Why? I think it was, so not to be under the gaze of the group bullies. What did they ask? Great questions about the history, locale and what does X beer drink well with on the table; not the how much, how much and how much they were involved with when in the formal presentation.

There was my chance to grab a couple from the heard and change their ideals toward the fuller flavoured smaller brewery brewed beers; why beers were sour, why there are 10%+ abv beers etc.

I am in a fortunate position to be able to travel and learn about beer, many people can’t. Relying on friends and mates down the pub – maybe they were bought a box of beers for Christmas Beer, maybe they have a of a 1000 beers to drink before you end up in a wooden box. There are all tiers of tastes, levels of awareness toward beer.

This is where you come in.

I want you to go out, learn as much as you can about beer, learn from those who write, talk and video blog about Beer, and take it to those that aren’t beer-aware. Er, that really sounds like taking a faith to the uninitiated; so you don’t want to sound like a missionary. Ok, how about disruption: Getting out there and flyering for your next local beer festival. Invite all your friends on Facebook, email them. Become an advocate for your good local brewery! Having a party? Take some good, but accessible beers – if no one drinks them, so what!? You’ll have something good to drink all night. Instead of Alcopops try some fruit beers.

It’s all well and good having 1000’s of followers on Twitter, and they’re all beer people, all the people you socialise with are beer people etc… But, I make a concerted effort on corrupting my Fishing and every day mates ideals toward beer – even my gluten intolerant mate who had resorted to cider and corona (his words; they kinda taste the same) to Mongozo GF Pils, “it actually tastes like a lager”.

Why do I say this?

Well, if you as a beer lover, on my Beermerchants twitter numbers, say 3000 people – turn one of your friends onto artisan beer, or just beer (away from wines or ciders – or god forbid Alcopops – a double word score) you immediately double the numbers of people who might buy or the chance that people may find the beers we love.

I am not talking about Militancy – ok, “Occupy The Pub” or “Occupy Supermarket Isles” sounds great, just a gentle nudge here and there. Take a friend to a beer festival – much like Teach a Friend to Homebrew.

Remember – No one likes a Know it all.

Why can’t this be done via marketing or advertising:  You have the trust, you know these people, you know what they want, like and their tastes.  You know their social schedules and you speak to them when they are either making a choice at the bar or in the supermarket isle.   You can of course, should you so wish to, help them with recomendations from Beermerchants.com.   You can hit that totally indivualised experience for the newby beer lover.   Do it!  Tell them, This is why I love beer.

Go for it!

I would love to see this taken on… not in some sort “you must” – just a little softly softly approach. I am sure many of you do anyway.

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2012

It’s been a long year for me, little travel and no brewing, but I have seen some amazing sights when I have been out and about. I have pondered a few things, hopes, aspirations and even an “if I win the lottery” type thing…

2011 was a year of great challenges, shifting sands and more choice when it comes to great beers. It was great to see British breweries stepping up and increasing the quality and diversity of their beers. It’s been a lagery year for me, but UK brewed memorably:  Windsor & Eton Republika, Buxton Axe Edge, Dark Star numerous, Magic Rock Human Canonball, Brodies Kiwi, Redemption Big Chief.  Great work chaps! 

Things I would like to see in 2012

  1. I really want to see more collaboration, city wide, or just two local breweries.      Sometimes I think UK brewers look at the US brewerying social schema out of the corner of their eye.   Maybe it’s just a British thing, something we’re expected to leave at primary school, the idea of playing/working together.    Get over it, invite people in, homebrewers, pro-brewers, your favourite brewer in France, Italy, Germany or the US.  Do it! now… get on the phone, internet and do something about it!         (BrewWharf Collab with Toccalmatto and Redemption with Mikkeller, I hope is just the start of it!)
  2. Getting rid of the High Strength Beer Duty. Nuff said.
  3. UK small brewery Keg: I am really hoping that keg or one-way keg, be that KeyKeg or EcoKeg presents chance for brewers then bars to present stronger, hoppier, richer brews. Getting the general drinking populous comfortable with bigger beers and non-cask dispense, but still artisan beer, is a mountain that needs to be climbed. I want to wave bye bye to the tied keg dispense that so many pubs and bars get wrapped up in, for the sake of a cooler?
  4. More and more quality beer bars.    Beer centric bars, with a not-too-geeky-a-leaning are a massive change in the way that we might access quality beer.   Of course, then comes the onus of quality HR needs, good supply and favourable rents and leases… but they can all be worked around.   Applaud those that have taken that leap and make great new beer venues open in 2011. Congrats to Emma J Cole and Tony Leonard on the opening of the Spotted Dog, and Mark with the Powder Keg Diplomacy.
  5. Open a MicroPub: The best thing to have happened in Kent, ever. Very few things come from Kent that can have significant influence out there in BeerLand. The “MicroPub”, probably started in it’s modern guise by the legendary Martin Hillier of the Butchers Arm in Herne. Out here in deepest Kent – the Just Reproach, The Conqueror and the Bake and Alehouse are 5, part of something larger.
  6. More diversification: greater experimentation or investment in away from the norm as well as historical brewing. Where have all the Old Ales gone? IPA’s?
  7. PR Freebies: Dear beerwriter-y types, if you get freebies please – I don’t care if you don’t tell on your blog – but, please don’t look like a soft touch.  Please think about your personal brand.
  8. Being Unreasonable. When ever you feel like complaining about something, consider this:  Creating an alternative.   If you’re not happy with the status quo, do something about it.   Work with a local brewery, help promote their efforts. Work with a local beer bar, help set up a micro pub.    Get beer into your work place, arrange tastings.   Start little tasting circle.    Help spread the word! But, don’t suffer the status quo
  9. Homebrew. Do it.  It’s the best thing ever.   If you love beer, great food and find cooking easy.  And, have good cleaning routines… DO IT!     You’ll take a greater appreciation for the beers that you drink in the pub, or buy from beermerchants.com, than from any book, blog or tweet.     Remember, support your local homebrew shop.
  10. Celebrating. We really need to better celebrate the true industry heroes. We need to better celebrate the brewers, landlords and out and out beer passionate people.   Everyone loves a “nice job” pat on the back, so can we not bring it to ourselves?  Hell, if it takes sponsors, energy etc: I’ll throw my hat in the ring? C’mon people! I asked this last year!
  11. Play well with others: I hope for the long term that everyone learns to play well together. For the sake of the beer….
  12. Websites and e-presence: If you’re business in craft beer, please please get your website straight and keep it up! There are so many out of date and just useless sites out there. We’re so connected these days and so many people just jump on the web to find out. These are your main calling card? Want justification on ROI or something? There are loads of beer savvy techies who’ll help! Email me…
  13. Have fun. I think I work in the greatest industry in the world.    I am surrounded by amazing, passionate and committed people.   We have to remain focused on what reason we got into this crazy crazy game, out and out love for the greatest beverage known to man.   I want it to remain fun, exciting and always leave me with a smile on my face at the end of the day.  With out you all, this would not be possible, let’s keep it that way!

A quick note; Simon Johnson, you rock!