Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.
Brew Biz is a column written by Ken Carman for Professor Goodales
The Topic: Beer Priests vs. Gurus of Greed
I have never done this before: exported one of my beer columns over to my political/social commentary column that I have written since 1972: Inspection. But this topic is that important.
I am a BJCP beer judge, homebrewer and fan of fine beer; since about the same year: 72. Before that I thought all beer was Bud or Miller-like, not that there’s much of a dif between the two. One uses corn as an adjunct, one uses rice. And, in fact, in America: especially on the east coast, that’s all there mostly was… with few exceptions: Bud and Miller products. The indes, like in the auto industry before that, were dying, going or gone. And the Adirondacks, where I mostly did my drinking, were not home to oddities like Prior Double Dark or the Bock beer that did exist, un-Bock-like that most of it was.
Now, in addition to what I’ve already mentioned, I run two beer tastings in Beaver River Station, NY that involve beer education. I pay for the beer, the ads I run and until last year I didn’t even put out a donation bucket. And, to add to all this, I supply a good portion of the beer for Big Bob’s Barleywine Bash in Pensacola Beach; weekend after Labor day, every year. Again: out of pocket.
To make it worse my wife and I travel as far as Albany, NY and Charlotte, NC to judge beer in BJCP competitions.
Last year Frank, down the lake, at the Stillwater shop asked me, “Why? What’s in it for you? I try to make everything I do make money: feed back into the business.”
This year I was asked the same, basic, question by Barry who now owns the Beaver River Station Hotel: site of the Labor Day weekend beer tasting.
It dawned on me then that this meme’: that everything, every decision, anything we do in life, must make money or be advantageous to the doer, is perhaps part of the problem with attitudes these days. Just like everything must agree with a certain take on life, politics or faith, or “that means war:” sometimes literally. And I was once part of the problem when it came to having that attitude in my own chosen career.
In the early 80s I formed a one man business: sole proprietorship, so I could travel and entertain young children with my own form of musical storytelling called “Songtales.” The business expanded and I had the same attitude: everything needed to feed the business. My focus was incredible. Ironically, years later, as I loosened up a bit and just had fun with it, I made more money. But the attitude remained. Yet as the body aged I found my focus on heavily choreographed moves lessened and I decided to just have fun with it. “To hell with making everything all about ‘what’s in it for me,’ or the money… and to my surprise my audience liked me more: the focus was more on them.
So the idea that it all has to feed into some biz may be destructive to the very goals one seeks.
But then we get to beer and my give aways…
Does a good priest do it for the money? A great minister? They certainly don’t earn a hell of a lot in most faiths. I think maybe some of the mega churches may be an exception. What about a great teacher? Despite teabagger insistence that teachers have it too well off, it is a profession: one that doesn’t pay a lot. Compare it to CEOS who have sunk their companies and still earned millions. No comparison.
No, there are some things in life that go beyond money or doing only “what’s in it for me.” God you may understand, but beer? Well, welcome to BJCP judges… Beer Priests.
We do it because we believe beer is almost a holy beverage. It is probably one of the oldest fermented beverages, since the Sumerians brewed beer. Most likely the first time someone tried to store a grain with water in it they discovered the beginnings of beer.
An Adam and Eve kind of moment amongst us Beer Priests.
Why do we do it? Because beer doesn’t get it’s due amongst alcoholic beverages. For years in America a swill was produced that was part rice or corn, part barley and maybe a dash of hops. That was all most people identified as “beer,” for the most part. To go beyond, to like anything beyond, often was treated with the kind of disdain an Inquisitor might have had. I remember bringing a beer of dark beer over to the table at Trackside in Utica, NY once and being berated for drinking “root beer beer,” and not knowing what “true beer” was. I shot back with, “Well never guess what your beer looks like, considering the color.”
Bear in mind, a light lager is very hard to brew well. But when it comes to beer us Beer Priests are all for diversity. In fact we promote it. I serve many beers in my tastings that are not to my taste. I actually judge beers I don’t like in competitions better because I have no preconceived notions that get in the way of guidelines.
Does anyone really think with Martin Luther King, or Jesus Christ, or past abortion protesters to move over to the other ideological side for a moment, it was only about the money? If you do then you’re sick. You need help. Get it quick.
To answer the two critics I mentioned at the beginning of the column… so buying an aging hotel, or running a business in a tiny town in the heavily regulated Adirondacks, is “only about money” or “what’s in it for me?” If so wouldn’t there be better places to invest? Wouldn’t there be better places to get more for “me?”
Of course there’s more to it than making everything about, and for, earning money or yourself, right?
We all have our causes, our desires and what appeals to our passions: and those we wish to make happy with what we do in life; and as important: how we do it. Everyone has guidelines, even beer judges. Just like politicians and social commentators should have guidelines of behavior. The problem these days is either everyone is in it for the money; like some corporations that are now considered “people.” This screwy philosophy has handed more of a right to free speech than you or I, and therefore a “right” to swamp us into pretty much the position of serfs, or at least yelling into the deafening wind, bringing what in reality isd no free speech at all.
For years A/B and Miller spent bucket loads of money making sure laws protected them from competition. They had no guidelines.
Sometimes regulation is necessary to protect us wee folk or the small businessman/woman. The idea that it’s all about the money turned the beer biz into bland, and only the “mes” who were most able to protect “me” mattered.
Kind of like “the only real beer is American Lager,” lager like Bud, Miller, etc.
So all this is the mission of the holy Priest of Beer. Promote “real” beer, which includes Miller, Bud, but diversity as well. To educate palates and continue to learn about the vast, every varying and growing world of beer: including all its diversity… and pass on what we know.
Tis a holy quest
Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”