Tag Archives: the beer counselor

Why I Write

I see them come in every day to the bar.  They are all like greyhounds chasing a fake rabbit around a track.  They are on a track chasing a goal they’ve been told they should want.  They set goals, hit benchmarks, and achieve things.  We are taught this concept at an early age, and then it is reinforced by a whole industry dedicated to teaching and perpetuating that across almost every business.

That approach did not work for me.  That is not quite accurate.  That approach might have worked if I had been setting goals that I wanted to accomplish and not the ones I was told I should accomplish.  After a series of not quite failing but not getting what I believed I wanted and going broke, I had to find another way for me to be content.

I was flailing and working at a job I knew I could do in my sleep that had no real future for me.  I found website zenhabits.net.  The author, Leo Babauta, had a similar story as I did in not finding happiness in the traditional goal setting manner, so along with deepening his Zen Buddhist practice, he became a proponent of living a goalless life.

The first blog post I read from was to imagine the perfect day.  The day where you are living your life the way you want to.  What are you doing and who are you with from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep.  From that, you know what you should be doing every day.  If you start doing the things you saw in that vision right now, you will begin to live the life you want and begin reaping the things you need for a content life.

After I started that, I then started reading more about Zen Buddhism and found another concept that has shaped how my life has moved.  It goes hand in hand with the goalless life and it is the idea of doing the thing to do the thing.  You dig a hole and fill it up.  Why? To dig a hole and fill it up.  Zen meditation isn’t about achieving enlightenment, it is about sitting and breathing.

This appealed to me because it had been my experience in life.  The times I tried to do X solely to accomplish Z, I failed.  The times I did X for the sake of doing X and did it to the best of my abilities I found I gained much more then I could ever have imagined.  I did X and I still accomplished Z.  No expectations and no goals work for me.

This Christmas season I had lost the idea of no expectations and no goals.  I forgot that doing the thing, to do the thing was how I have made the life I’ve made.  I have lost a lot of weight in the last year, and part of that was because of running every day.  Somewhere in the last two weeks of dinners, weird work hours, going out with friends, etc. I lost the idea of running to run and running began to take on the weight of losing weight.  I forgot that I ran because I like it and it is fun.  By thinking about it as solely a way to lose weight it took on too much and I couldn’t make myself run for the last week.  The same thing happened with my mediation and my writing.  I sit and just breath to sit and breath.  I write because I like writing.  The outcomes of any of those actions are uncontrollable.  You can only control the things you do and not really what they accomplish and certainly not how others react to it.

So, why do I write? I write because I like it and I write about beer because the things around the American craft beer market are interesting and ever-changing.

Living with no goals and no expectations works for me.  I think, my life will see great changes over the next year.  However, I don’t expect it.  I am simply going to keep running, keep meditating, keep writing.  I know if I do those things every day, I will get the things in my life I need.

The Beer Counselor 3.0 or something like that

If you know me or have seen photos of me over the last year, you know that I have undergone a significant weight loss.  I abhor taking medicine, and when my doctor told me I could lose weight or go on high blood pressure and cholesterol medicine, I decided to change my lifestyle and lose weight.

This past week, I went shopping for a new winter coat and had to buy a medium.  I was shocked.  This time last year I was comfortably wearing an extra large. This is a change I like and it is a change I intend to keep.  Again, it isn’t just about weight loss, it is a change in lifestyle and mindset.

This is where the beer part of losing weight comes in to play.  This weight loss means I have to drink less beer then I did before.  I have chosen as my profession, selling and writing about craft beer.  By definition, I have to drink craft beer.  However, I am treating it not as a sacrifice, but as an opportunity.

Two things about losing weight and drinking less.  The first, it makes me a cheap date.  If I drink more then one or two beers over 6% ABV, I might not be drunk, but I can definitely feel it.  The second thing it means is I have to drink beer in a way that gives me maximum enjoyment.  That means drinking really good beer (already doing that) and ensuring every interaction between my beer and my food is as good as it possibly can be.

Yes, I’m talking about beer and food pairing.

This blog has always been a living thing to me. It has changed to reflect the changes in the craft beer world and the things that most interest me in that world.  This is the next evolution of The Beer Counselor.  In this iteration, I endeavor to write 2 reviews, 1 beer and food pairing specific post, and 1 general (sometimes kvetching into the internet void) post.

Also, I have a new accomplice to assist me with my food and beer pairing.  Plus, in the very near future, there will be a new project hitting the interwebs with me and Aaron Gore.

One Beer Article You Need To Read And Why, 11/20/16

Highland Cold Mountain was released last week.  It is a good beer.  It isn’t a great beer nor is it the best of its style.  I prefer Triple C White Blaze or Anderson Valley Winter Solstice.  But that’s just me.  While Cold Mountain may not top my list of beers, it does top another list.  It is one of the best marketed beers produced in the southeast.  The basis of their marketing is limiting production to increase scarcity.  It sells out quickly because there is a finite amount and it is spread all over Highland’s territory.  Without letting anyone know we had it, we sold all our bottles in less than a week.

This post isn’t about Cold Mountain, but it is about Highland.  After reading this article, it dawned on me that I grew up as a craft beer drinker with Highland.  I remember buying my first six-pack of Gaelic Ale back in 1996 after I moved back to Shelby after college.  However, over the years I stopped buying Gaelic Ale.  I really stopped buying Highland except for the Oatmeal Stout or the Mocha Stout.  Their beers were good, not great, and they didn’t do much to make their experience exciting for old and especially new craft beer drinkers.

That is why I have been so happy about the last year in the life of Highland.  Head brewer Hollie Stephenson came to Highland from Stone Brewing in January.  In that time, she has introduced the Mandarina IPA, which has already changed the trajectory of the brewery.  Now there are apparently four more new beers expected to all debut in the first quarter of 2017.  It would be an overstatement to say these changes have saved the brewery.  It wasn’t going anywhere, they still sell a ton of Gaelic.  However, it isn’t a stretch to say these changes saved the brewery from irrelevance in the changing craft beer market.

Twenty years is a long time and it is an eternity in craft brewing.  There is only a handful of breweries around the country 20 years or older that are still operating independently.  The thing that distinguishes the ones who are still around is that they have adapted to the changing beer world.  They survived the late 90s/early 2000s purging of bad business models and worst beer.  Now, they are managing to stay relevant in an ever-changing craft beer world.

Craft beer drinkers, in general, and newer craft beer drinkers are fickle.  They flit from style to style and brewery to brewery chasing the hot style.  They always seem to chase the next big thing.  However, if you look at the breweries that last, they have one or two beers at the core of their product lines that people always come back to.  Sierra Nevada has the Pale Ale.  Boston Beer has Samuel Adams. Highland has Gaelic.

It is like any business.  You must have that thing that people like and that you do extraordinarily well that you can count on in times of trouble.  Newer breweries should take note of that.  Try your hand at all the hot styles drinkers flock to, but have 1 or 2 beers that you know you do well and that people like.  Those two beers could be the difference between survival and watching some startup buy your used brewery equipment.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/29/15

Until I started looking at the news every day to find articles to post here, I had forgotten how little news happens in the days right after Christmas. Let me change that, I had forgotten how little news gathering happens the days right after Christmas.  This is especially true this year with Christmas and New Year’s being on successive Fridays.  Many people are taking almost two weeks of vacation this year.

So, instead of reading another round of year-end lists and speculative “what will happen in the beer world for 2016” columns of varying quality, today’s Five Articles will be Five Things to expect from me and the blog this coming year.

  • I will do more reviews this year. The goal is one review per week.  There are two reasons for this.  One I will cover in a bullet a little further down, but the other is to continue to add content to the website.  Tasting is also fun.  I get to drink a beer and tell others about it.
  • I will also get back to writing, at least, one (hopefully two) Beer Counselor blog posts. Again, these are fun to write.  They are hard work, but fun work. I want to travel and do more non-work related beer stuff this year and write about them.
  • I will take the Cicerone exam. My goal is to take the August 17 exam in Asheville.  I want to study and prepare for it for a few months before I take it.  If I don’t feel I’m ready by then I will probably wait until the exam at GABF this year, but my goal is to take it and pass this year.  This is another reason I want to do more reviews.  I need to expand and exercise my palate.  The tasting portion of the exam is the one that worries me most and the one I will have to work hardest at.  Also, prepping for the exam will hopefully give me more material to write about.
  • I will go back to the GABF. As much of a shit show, Saturday night at GABF can be with (a bunch of people with no responsibilities getting drunk and stoned in a confined space) the rest of the week is great.  The first night is the beer geeks night.  We are all wondering around trying to taste beers we’ve only heard of and trying to find the next great brewery.  Also, you are in Denver for a few days.  You get to go around to all the breweries and bars that respect craft beer.  It is just a wonderful working vacation.
  • I will provide you with more chances to read things I write outside of the blog. I will active seek out more opportunities for freelance beer articles this year.   This is actually in part goes back to GABF.  If it is at all possible, I would love to go to GABF with a media pass.  I don’t think I can express how big a deal that would be for me personally.

So, there we are.  That is a lot of words to say that my two goals this year are to pass the Cicerone exam and get media credentials for GABF, but there you are.  Also, there is one other thing I want to work on to take my mind off of the exam and other beer stuff that will remain secret until I get a little farther down the line with it.  If you know me well, you can guess what kind of project it is.  Hopefully, tomorrow, I’ll be able to scrape together five news articles from the past few days to pontificate over.

Confessions and Slight Changes

The Five Articles are coming up a little later this morning, but I wanted to make a confession and give an update on a few changes coming.

First off, my writing on this blog and in Gravity (and hopefully other places) and making Craft successful are the most important things in my life.  Those are the things that make me happy.  Over the last couple of months, one of those things has taken precedence over the other.  It has also taken precedence over other things in my life that I started doing over the last year to make my professional life easier and to stay centered and present.

So besides rededicating myself to reading and meditation and sleep (sweet, sweet sleep), I am creating a schedule for writing for the blog.  Starting today, there will be a guaranteed 3 posts besides the Five Articles on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  At least one of those posts will be a beer review.  This week’s will post today.  The other two posts will be of the Beer Counselor nature where I answer questions I hear when I’m bartending.

As I said, I want to get back to the core of what I want my life to be.  The first step will be to get the blog back up and humming at full strength.  Again, I will be making other changes to make sure I meditate at least 30 minutes a day and read a lot.  If all goes right, I may also have other writing to put on the blog.

Also as an update, I want to let you know what my resolutions for next year are (I’ve already started working on my New Year’s Resolutions. My year always restarts in September and October.) First, I will complete my Cicerone training and become a certified Cicerone. Second, I am going to the GABF and my goal is to get credentialed as a member of the media.  That is going to be the harder part, but I can do that.

To sum up, stay tuned for the Five Articles and today’s review.  More is coming and it will be awesome.

This Time I Have Something That Resembles A Plan

Part of it was self-imposed and part of it was a distinct lack of sleep (I do have a day job), but I have taken over a week off from the blog.  I feel bad not writing, but I used the time to asses and refine my goal for this space.

I have two primary goals with the changes I want to make.  The first is to post a new review or other piece at least five days a week (I may never sleep).  The second goal is to try to do something to enliven the beer review.

First, the Five Articles will be written every day, seven days a week.  I want it to set the agenda for the day and get out a few quick hit thoughts.  I just like reading about different aspects of the craft beer world.  I do read every article that I link to plus at least another five that I don’t link.  Reading all this stuff educates me and helps mold the perspective I want to achieve on the website.

Second, I want to write more Beer Counselor pieces.  Maybe change the name or do more then one type of column/blog pieces.  I have thoughts on how I see the beer business from the perspective of someone who works in the retail portion of the business (and by business I mean the industry) and not for a brewer or as a distributor.  I want to put those thoughts out there for agreement and derision.  Not only do I want to write more of these pieces I want to have fun with it.  I don’t want a set structure.  I want to experiment and take chances with what shows up in this part of the site.

Finally and maybe most importantly, I want to concentrate more on the reviews.  I want to try and figure out a way to do them differently. I want to do reviews in a way that entertains me and is slightly different than anyone else’s perspective.  I am trying to make it more narrative in structure.  I have a couple of other ideas I will work into the reviews beginning next week.

Actual reviews of the beer are not hard to write.  If you have any tasting experience and ability to express what you taste in complete sentences, you can write a review.  In fact, the actual review of a beer should not take up more than 200 words.  How it looks, smells, and tastes is not that difficult to describe.  The best reviewers and reviews give you more than that.  They tell a story or evoke a place or time in your mind.  I want to write reviews that have a narrative structure and a little added value (I am going to hold off on letting you know what my planned added value is until the first review of next week).  These first reviews will be rough as I circle around what I’m trying to get at in the writing.

Here is the new plan:

  • The Five Articles – Every Day
  • Beer Counselor (or some other bloggy piece) – 2 or 3 times a week
  • Beer Reviews – 3 or 4 times a week

That means you will be getting at least 500 words of new content a day (just what the internet needs more noise) 5 days a week not counting the Five Articles.  The more I think about it, the less sleep I see in my future.