By The Pittsburgh Current
Dec 4, 10 a.m.: I’ve been invited to speak at a beer conference in Santa Monica, Ca., called Brewbound Live. Like many other industry conferences, leaders from across the nation meet to network, discuss the current state and trends, and take turns showcasing their soothsaying abilities. Unlike any other industries I’ve been a part of, there is an open bar here at 10 a.m. for research purposes. No, really. If you’ve got something to say, the best messenger is your product. Bonus if your product lowers inhibitions. I’d be interested to see if they leave a candy dish full of pills out for the attendees of the Big Pharma Summit or hand out pre-rolls at CannaCon. If so, this column may go from Day Drinking to Bracey Bonging.
I run into some hometown heroes from Pittsburgh, Aurochs Brewing, who are here to participate in the annual Brewbound Live Pitch Slam. It’s a Shark Tank style competition with 15 contestants from around the country competing for money & education. Common themes in this competition and the overall vibe of discussions throughout the conference include social impact, a need to appeal to consumers beyond the bearded Pale Dales, and products referred to as “Beyond Beer, which include hard waters (much more than a fad), non-alcoholic beverages, “better for you” options, and any other products that share shelf space with the craft industry. Aurochs fits into the “better for you” category in the sense that if you are part of the 1% suffering from celiac disease, this product is better for you and your toilet, something to consider when buying booze for the family or office party this holiday season.
There is a shared understanding here that as the market becomes more and more saturated, there is a need to appeal to new demographics. The question most commonly posed to me is how to do so without seeming disingenuous or pandering. The most common answer given is, “I’m a comedian. I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing here.” The second most common answer is to recruit everyone else the same way you recruited white men, by spending time and money in their communities, and providing opportunities to enrich their lives beyond the few hours spent consuming the product. The biggest draw of craft isn’t the variety of flavors; it’s the sense that if I buy here my money will stay here; the concept of craft breweries as community centers utilizing shared resources to uplift those in the area, and not just watering holes. The pride of saying, “I know the folks who brewed this.” Listening to what new consumers want rather than telling them what they should like with an air of superiority; creating environments conducive to learning without shame. There is no easy fix, just as it wasn’t easy to convert Bud drinkers into hopheads. You either care about the people you’re serving or you just want to sell more product, and it’s becoming increasingly easier with technology and social networks to sniff out the latter. Again, this is just two cents worth of insight from a comedian with an overworked and underpaid liver.
Dec. 6, 1:30 p.m.: I’m at Three Weavers Brewing in Inglewood, CA, owned by two women, named after three younger ones, and only 10 minutes in LA traffic from LAX, which should make this your first stop when arriving to the city, or your last before departure. It’s in a fairly massive warehouse adorned with local art and a sizable patio. Worthy of note is the Nashville hot chicken joint across the street. Unless you have Indian sensibilities of spice and digestion, I recommend you don’t go above mild when ordering there. There are 18 taps and enough variety to appease hazebois, hopheads, barrel is lifers, and fruit fanatics alike. My favorite is the 5.6% pale ale called “Day Job.” I don’t know what it is. It just speaks to me. I grab a flight and sit down with Alexandra Nowell, brewmaster and co-owner, for a conversation that you’ll get to read all about in my next column. Assuming bong-blowing businessmen haven’t brazenly bought out beer belching Bracey by then. TBC…