"Daddy, why don't you work at the brewery anymore?" That was my 6-year-old son's question a few weeks ago when we drove by the brewery that opened near my normal place of employment a little over a year ago. Kyle sounded a little sad and disappointed, even though we were on our way to hear some music performed by my fantastic colleagues on my son's day off from school.
Well, the answer was easy. I explained that I had simply run out of time, and that I needed to devote my energy and time to my regular job, and to him, his mother, and his newly adopted 2-year-old brother. While volunteering at the brewery, I got to show up once a week, do a lot of cool stuff brewers get to do, then go home. No pay, no set hours, no stress. It was fantastic.
My work at the brewery lasted from September of last year until about May of 2014. I connected with Bluejacket through mutual friends of the original head brewer, Megan Parisi. I learned a lot about brewing beer on a commercial scale. Recipe formulation, sanitizing procedures, recipe creation, and many other aspects were all taught to me by the 2 Brewers I worked most closely with. I could write 10 posts on what I learned from a brewing perspective. What knocked me out is what I learned about work, managing, leading, and passion from two very talented and hard working guys that get to make their living putting a smile on people's faces.
You might think on the surface that being a musician and a brewer have really nothing in common. Frankly, nothing could be further from the truth. The parallels lie both in the creative part of the job (making recipes, improvising with ingredients) as well as in the more blue collar aspects of the two crafts. In a brewery, sanitation procedures are key. Creating recipes, dry hopping beers, and pouring tastes from the latest cool rum-barrel-aged Belgain sour are the glamorous parts that only happen after the fundamentals are taken care of. Sounds a lot like music! As a trombonist, daily routines, practice, and study of the art are key. I got to watch some of the best in the business, and certainly the most motivated, in working under Bobby Bump and Josh Chapman. The guys about worked me into the ground my first couple of work days!
Most impressive to me, Bobby and Josh (and now Owen, too!) aren't afraid to make something and put it out there. Many times as musicians, we are taught and coached to practice and refine until we unintentionally drive all the life and spontaneity out of our creation! Because beer is a living thing, brewers don't get too much say on when and if a particular beer is ready to drink. Natural processes of fermentation, hopping, clarity, and conditioning all happen in their own time. I watched these guys making new beers, for the first time, on a system that was brand new to them, and putting that beer out for the public to drink, putting their reputation and that of the brewery on the line every day. That isn't to say they don't have standards. I witnessed a couple of occasions where beer was deemed not worthy and unceremoniously dumped. But, that was only a couple of batches out of over 100 brewed in the first 9 months of being open. What was interesting was that they didn't let the insignificant details hang them up and prevent them from moving towards the ideal of a particular recipe. In other words, if the concept was right and the beer was a pleasure to drink, they didn't let themselves get hung up on technical imperfections. They still served their beer.
And that's where we get to the hard part. Putting it out there. Do the work. Be the man (or woman) in the arena. We are all going to make some (lots of) mistakes. Keep coming back. Keep creating. Keep serving your customers.