One of the coolest experiences I’ve had in the beer industry was at Elk Mountain Farms in Bonners Ferry Idaho. My wife and I got to spend 2 days with the brewers from 10 Barrel, Goose Island, Elysian Brewing and Blue Point out of New York. There was an online competition put on by Goose Island where a video needed to be submitted of yourself explaining why you deserve a weekend in the hop Heavens. I made a video on my cell phone that showed all of my brewing equipment. While explaining my equipment I talked about my ambition and dream of becoming a commercial brewer. I may have mentioned a few times how lucky I am that my amazing wife puts up will all my antics and rooms full of brewing equipment.
Four months later I was checking my email… There was an email from Goose Island brewing company that said I won something. Blah, blah, blah… I never win anything. I thought it was another piece of junk mail. NOPE! As I read on, I remembered about the video I submitted. It explained that that contestants from all around US had applied and I was one of the winners. Myself and a friend were invited with 3 other winners to spend the weekend with some of the coolest people I’ve ever met.
We didn’t have a lot of expectations on our way there. It was just some beer competition put on by Anheuser Busch…. How good can it be? Wow were we wrong!!! There were canvas tents set up all over the place with carpet and furniture nicer than what we had at home. Log beds with huge fluffy down blankets. There were two HUGE tents set up with an around the clock kitchen and another with all you can drink Goose Island ales.
Over the span of 2 nights and 2 days we received nothing but encouragement and advice from some amazing people. I told my tales of someday wanting to become a commercial brewer. We talked forever about beer and how it’s made. The 10 Barrel group took my wife and I under their wing for the whole weekend. Part of me thinks it’s because we brought Cards Against Humanity with us… Well, that at least broke the ice. It was here that my wife Dana and I learned that these people have just as much ambition and motivation as I do to create great beer. Not only do they still have 100% of the freedom to create and conjure amazing brews. They never lost sight of community, family and the love of beer.
It’s easy for us to say, “Oh, don’t drink that! That’s an Anheuser product.” or “There goes another good brewery to the corporate giants.” But really, we should be congratulating these groups for making big enough waves to rock the boat of these enormous companies that grew from nothing decades ago. These large corporate giants all started the same way. Making small batches of beer in some hole hoping to come up with something that will bring people together.
Maybe over a few pints I’ll share the stories of being drunk in the hop fields and betting $1000 that one of the 10 Barrel brewers couldn’t catch a wild turkey. Or the story of Eric from Goose Island getting the Razor stuck in the fields and having to walk back at night. One of my favorites was getting trashed at a five course meal paired with some of the most amazing food and Belgian beers that I’ve ever had. Only to be found standing by camp file drinking out of a 32oz, $100 bottle of beer and the brewer who made it saying “I like your style.”