Industry Inspiration: Craft Beer Girls Beer & Body

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
– Coretta Scott King

For a number of years now, I have been fortunate enough to be part of the craft beer community. As I’ve mentioned so many times previously, there is something special about this community and its people, an overwhelming sense of acceptance and passion (and compassion) that I have never come across before or since.

While I am now fully immersed and engaged in this world, it certainly wasn’t always this way. When I first became interested in craft beer, I was very timid in regards to this crowd. The breadth of their knowledge and ability to discuss in-depth topics like yeast strains or style requirements resulted in me feeling very much out of my element.

As many of us do, I turned to the internet for answers. Being a Type A personality, I research when I feel inadequate regarding a topic. So I researched. But even that made me feel lost. There were so many differing opinions and technical verbiage,etc. that my head was spinning by the third article.

That is when I stumbled upon Craft Beer Girls Beer & Body. This group, originating on Facebook as a forum for women who share a passion for craft beer, welcomed me with open arms. It was as simple as a request to join and my entire outlook on the craft beer community was turned upside down.

I began, as I often do, as a quiet observer but soon became an active participant. It was hard not to engage though, to be honest, I could not really fathom what I was witnessing. I saw hundreds of different posts from women that ranged from a question about a beer they were thinking of sampling to someone posting a story about a mental health issue they were battling. As this was the internet, I kept waiting for a bully, a snide comment, or a troll. But, time and time again, without fail, I scrolled through dozens of uplifting and encouraging comments. Not a single negative or even slightly vicious comment to be found.

This was not just my first impression but has continued to ring true throughout my time in the group. Being both impressed and intrigued, I decided to ask the founder, Kate Christensen, about the origin of Beer & Body.

Kate explains that Craft Beer Girls Beer & Body sprang from her personal enjoyment of craft beer. “[I] grew up south of Cleveland, Ohio and my dad loved Great Lakes Brewing.  He got me into craft beer. I was a teacher and decided, after moving for my husband’s career several times, I wanted to do something I loved,so I started working at a brewery to learn more about craft beer. I just knew I loved it and it was something I was interested in learning more about.  I also like the laid-back vibe of the brewing world.  It’s a [lot] of hard work, and long hours but it’s a community that will accept you as you are.  I’m not a formal person and I’m super goofy (or so I think), so I needed to be in a community that could give me that daily.”

Kate adds, around the same time she began working in a brewery, Beer & Body was born. “I really just wanted a fun space for women who had craft beer in common.”

Beer & Body began as two sub-sections. The first is beer-centered, naturally. The second, however, is a fitness group that encompasses the “Body” part of the name. While this may seem counter-intuitive, Kate explains, “The fitness page really was a driving force [because] so many fitness groups or accounts (Instagram) were just not relatable for me.  I had a trainer tell me I couldn’t drink craft beer and workout.  So I felt like if I posted about drinking beer and working out, there could be some judgment.  I wanted a place for me and a place for other craft beer loving females to post real sweaty selfies and ask questions about real life things that we could all relate to.”

After those groups became increasing popular, sub-groups were created for each state. “The ladies wanted to meet their local B&B ladies so it was natural to create all the state groups to make it easier to connect.” 

From there, the momentum was unstoppable. Today, there is a sub-group for just about any topic one might want to discuss. Kate expresses, “I just want ladies to know it’s a whole community for them.  I encourage them to find our subgroups too and join one that they are interested in.  The subgroups are smaller, more intimate, and awesome for extra positivity, fun, and ideas in whatever it is you are interested in. Everything from Homebrew group to Books&Beer book club.”

Having a community that one can call their own within an even broader community is important, and has brought about a much fuller experience for me, personally. And while the craft beer community as a whole is very accepting and strives for equality, it is still difficult as women to get our foot in the door or to feel connected in this very male-dominated demographic. It can be frustrating and even lonely at times. Being able to turn to this group of well over 20,000 women is refreshing, not only for the feeling of connection, but for the variety of backgrounds and viewpoints these ladies bring to the metaphorical table.

I reached out for some specifics of what these wonderful women think of the group and what causes them to continue their participation. Overwhelmingly, the answer was the same: the community and the sense of acceptance. Many expressed that they felt they were able to be truly authentic and not fear judgement or shame. Some of the ladies explained to me that they were uncomfortable discussing beer with their friends because they did not drink and looked down on her. She commented it was freeing to be able to discuss her passions with people that understood. Personal stories were shared with me about acts of kindness from complete strangers to one another just because they saw a need and didn’t hesitate to step up. Again and again, the same words were used: support system, community, sisterhood. Kate echoes this sentiment, as well, when asked what her favorite thing about her creation has become: “The friendships, consistent kindness, support and real sense [of] team and community. We have THE best ladies ever!”

While this group continues to rapidly expand, Kate has a clear prerogative for the future. “We have to always remember to stay with our basics. I want it always to be a fun and safe space for craft beer ladies to share their lives and build friendships. Right now, we are focusing on BeerFriendships more than anything.  We are working on building the state groups and getting our ladies connected and into breweries together…If it’s in person or on Faceboook, it doesn’t matter. Bringing JOY to the lives [of] our B&B girls is #1 priority always.”

Beer & Body is also expanding past Facebook. The website is:

www.craftbeergirls.org   

This provides some wonderful information about the group but also a section of beer related shops- all owned and supported by members of Beer & Body. For instance, BrewerShirts provides logo apparel and Babe and The Beard offers other Beer & Body products.

Beer & Body can also be found on Instagram: @beerandbodycraftbeergirls  and each state has their own account. Beerandbody(state abrev).

While I used to scoff when anyone would use the phrase “found my tribe,” admittedly, since Beer & Body, I can’t help but say I get it. I honestly believe that a strong sense of community leads to a strong sense of self. I have grown as a person because of and along with these ladies. Especially in the age of the internet which seemingly divides so many, it gives me such hope to find examples of individuals building each other up in such genuine and meaningful ways.

So here’s to you, ladies.

Cheers.

#SeektheSeal

“The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison”
-James Cash Penney

Since time immemorial, the human race has banded together in pursuit of common objectives, some of these based in survival and others based in truly living. Beer is one example of how, occasionally, it can be both.

Over the years,  brewers and drinkers alike have endeavored to create and consume quality craft beer, resulting in the craft beer culture we know today. One of the key pillars of this environment lies in independence. In fact, in some ironic sense, it depends on independence.

I was fortunate enough to be able to converse with Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director at the Brewers Association, regarding this facet of the craft beer community.  She emphasized how important independence is and has always been, commenting that it is  “a true part of the fabric of our country.”

But why should this matter in a beverage?

Turns out, quite a few reasons. Julia explains to me that “small businesses drive so much of our economy” and that craft breweries are far from an exception.  Sure, consumers help keep local breweries afloat and successful by being patrons and helping these businesses become profitable enough to sustain themselves and continue to make their product, but Julia says that it actually goes the other way, too. She asserts that craft breweries help stimulate entire communities with their outreach. Between events, fundraisers, and other programs, local craft breweries tend to take a vested interest in their consumers, far beyond that of a typical business transaction-centered relationship. In fact, the Brewers Association estimates that, in 2016, breweries donated approximately 73.4 million dollars!

While that number is pretty staggering, there are other reasons besides money to value craft breweries, specifically those independent and locally owned. Quality, variety, and passion come to mind. But, more importantly, trust. When I walk into a brewery, I can have confidence in the beer that I order. In most cases, I can literally look up and see where the drink in my hand was produced. If I speak with the brewer, they can tell me exactly what ingredients were used, how much, and from where. And I can hear the passion behind their words. I know that this is not just some mass-produced product, this is their little beer baby. There is an understanding that, upon handing me this beer, it is someone’s proud creation and I should cherish it for the rest of my life.

Well…at least for the rest of the pint.

While I have always believed that no one should be ashamed of what they drink, I do think everyone should know what they are drinking and be able to make an informed choice. So does the Brewers Association. The Brewers Association, which is a “membership organization dedicated to promoting and protecting small and independent craft brewers in the United States,” says that, unfortunately, making educated decisions based on face value is becoming harder. Whereas, in the past, one could make an educated choice simply by examining the beer bottle or can, these days, it has become a little trickier. This is in part to what is referred to as “craftwashing.”

Craftwashing is when a larger beer producer (think Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors, etc.) either mimics labeling to appear like an independent brewery or purchases a smaller company, keeping it “formally independent” but not truly independent. This means, even if a consumer looks at the label, they may not find proof of the parent company, and make the purchase believing they are supporting a small business, instead of a multi-million dollar corporation. And some people are quite content and don’t feel the need to know; we all have a right to spend our hard earned wages as we wish. However, the problem with these practices is that it muddles the information that a consumer uses to decide what they want to purchase. It is inherently deceitful in that it is an omission of all the proper facts. This also “skews the marketplace,” according to Julia, which is a large concern, as it diminishes the amount of opportunities and shelf/tap space for locally-owned/smaller breweries.

Julia reveals that brewers and consumers alike have been pushing for a definitive standard for quite some time. In late June 2017, their wish was granted. The Brewers Association introduced the #seektheseal movement, as well as the Independent Craft Brewer Seal which brewers can obtain and display both on their brewery entrances and their bottles/cans.

Julia explains that, to obtain usage of the seal, a brewery must meet certain credentials. The Brewers Association does clarify for their usage what a “craft brewer(y)” should be and the business must provide proof they fit this definition in that they are (among other factors) small, independently owned, and licensed. The seal depicts an inverted beer bottle to represent how the “U.S. craft beer movement has turned beer on its head worldwide.”

The seal accompanies the campaign’s slogan,

“That’s Independence You’re Tasting.”

To date, Julia reports that approximately 4,000 U.S. craft breweries participate in the #seektheseal movement and proudly display the seal. For perspective, she elaborates, this represents about 85% in volume of craft brewed beer. In fact, the movement already had over 400 participating breweries within the first day. Talk about traction!

While this is very good news for both brewers and consumers alike, the movement won’t stop there. It can’t stop there. As a consumer, it is our responsibility to #seektheseal.  Julia suggests several ways to do this. We must first prioritize what the Brewers Association stands for, which is “certified, independent, craft.” Choosing those breweries that furnish the seal is the best way to live out that priority.  The Brewers Association also proposes, for those social media savvy beer lovers, taking a photo of your seal and posting it to Instagram with the tagline of #seektheseal. This allows others to inquire into the campaign, become more educated themselves, and to also know what you stand for. Besides beer consumption, Julia notes that visiting the breweries themselves is a wonderful way to not only show your support, but to become more knowledgeable. “Tour the breweries,” she encourages, “Take a beer-cation.” I like the sound of that-as did an estimated 30 million people in 2017!

So while it might sound scary and a little like Big Brother brewery edition is taking over your right to choose certain aspects of your livelihood, there is quite a bit of silver lining. With so many people choosing independence and becoming more vocal about it, both in their online posting and their offline activities, craft breweries are thriving. If we continue to #seektheseal and do our part, we can continue to keep the craft alive and well and take back our independence in regards to choice. By empowering ourselves, we can empower the whole craft beer movement. You just have to take a stand or, in this case, a seal.

Julia, her enthusiasm evident in her voice, ends our conversation on this note, “It is the greatest time in history to be a beer lover.” And I couldn’t agree more.

Cheers.

To find more information on #seektheseal:

https://www.brewersassociation.org/

https://www.brewersassociation.org/press-releases/brewers-association-launches-thats-independence-youre-tasting/

https://www.craftbeer.com/

 

*All information/statistics/quotes taken from Julia Herz directly and/or Brewers Association website. All photos used in this article are property of Brewers Association and used with permission*

Brewery Spotlight: Saxony Hills

2018-133-e1535594178491.jpg

Tradition is the fabric that binds most communities, especially small ones, together. It is the assurance that, no matter the storms, our roots are firmly planted. However, without change, tradition somehow doesn’t mean as much. We can get so focused on protecting our roots that we forget to grow, the very reason for our roots at all. And at Saxony Hills, Brewmaster Mike Mills understands the importance of keeping the roots sturdy and the branches tall.

Starting even with the name, Saxony Hills springs from tradition. According to Mike, the brewery gets its namesake from “a state in Eastern Germany known as Saxony, or Sachsen. The state has a town in it called Altenburg, meaning ‘old town’ which is where many of the East Perry County natives originally came from. They are said to have chosen this area because of how much it reminded them of their native country.”

The brewery itself embraces its (more recent) history. Built in 1980, the building was once Citizen’s Electric. The tap room and brewhouse are located in what used to be the company warehouse. Even though they have made it their own, there are still subtle nods to this past, including keeping the old loading bay door and a collection of old signs, which ties it all nicely together.

2018 140

The beers also beckon to their birthplace’s ancestry. Mike says he wants to bring some old-world German beer styles back to a predominately German community. (And he would certainly be the one that could do it. Mike has been homebrewing since age 21 and professionally brewing since age 23, even attending the World Brewing Academy’s Siebel Institute. He tells me he has also sampled his fair share of early brand craft beers in his younger adventures of following the band Phish coast to coast.) However, Mike also says he doesn’t want to limit the creative spectrum and wants to evolve and grow with his styles. His favorite beer currently on tap is the Sweet Georgia’s Brown, which is a brown saison with peaches and aged in oak chips that were soaked in Hemman Winery’s apricot wine. Mike says of Sweet Georgia’s, “I love how refreshing the peach brown Saison is and, at 4.4%, you can afford to have more than just a couple and not feel like you need a V8.” This beer is my favorite as well and also has a solid foundation in history. “Saison means ‘season’ in French. This is a style of  beer that was brewed by the seasonal workers throughout the winter months to not only give them something to do, but it was also used as a big part of the workers pay and diet as a result.”
(I don’t blame them- much of my wages end up in beer anyway!)

2018-138.jpg

Why so much emphasis on history and tradition? Mike says it isn’t just Saxony Hills, but all those in the craft beer world that hold that in their core values, and with good reason. “The beers we craft brewers are creating have a story to tell that is centuries old in most cases. We really aren’t the new kids on the playground, we are the wise young ones who listened to- and appreciated- the lessons of the old timers’ understanding of why beer was the way it was, and we not only remake it, but we remake it with modern equipment, ingredients, and unbridled creativity, as well as a better scientific understanding of how and why we do what we do.”

Mike does add that there is something to be said for bringing traditions into the modern era to make them your own, however. “What makes crafting traditional styles of beer in a modern day setting so great is that we can take different aspects to create different beers to suit different people’s preferences. There is a craft beer out there for every beer drinker willing to try something new and I think that is one thing that keeps me passionate about the craft beer industry: it is an evolving creative outlet that draws inspiration from many other art forms, which makes it not only boundlessly creative, but also accessible to anybody who appreciates thinking outside of the status quo.”

The beverages aren’t the only area that Mike applies this thinking to. The Saxony Hills menu is one that is ever-evolving and always pleasing. In similar fashion to the brewing styles, Chef Riley also puts his version of a modern twist on classic dishes. While everything I tasted was exceptional, the Bavarian Nachos were my favorite, as well as one of the better fusion dishes I’ve ever experienced. Topped with smoked sausage, sauerkraut, green onions, tomatoes, beer cheese, and a bit of Brewhouse mustard, this dish is a work of culinary art. Even the mustard, which made me a little hesitant, fit perfectly into the dish, allowing for a complex flavor profile. And the pretzel bread pudding with stout sauce for dessert had me (happily) raving for days.

Roots are the foundation on which any strong tree grows, but that isn’t necessarily the way of the craft beer enthusiast. We grow like hops. Like vines, we must keep with forward motion, keeping our faces towards the sun and constantly growing. Never forgetting where we come from but knowing we can only take it along and we cannot stay on the ground forever. Because, like hops, there are many types but, by working together and for something more than ourselves, we can become the very fibers of history and the flower into which it blooms.

“I feel we’re all on our own journey to create something unique and pleasing…it is a joy and an honor to be a part of defibrillating the heart of local beer and what it represents in a community.”

Cheers.

2018 021

To find out more about Saxony Hills, visit:
http://www.saxonyhillsbrewery.com/

 

 

Brewery Spotlight: Charleville

panoramic

Tucked away between rolling green hills and rich foliage is a hidden gem of Ste. Genevieve county: Charleville. Boasting not only a brewery and a winery, Charleville also provides a B&B, just in case you realize you’re not quite ready to say good-bye to those picturesque views.

Brought to life 15 years ago by Jack and Joal Russell, Charleville has become a family dream. Their son, Tait, is the Director of Operations at Charleville, which is actually a family name itself.

Jack and Joal Russell (who are the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, by the way.)

Tait let me in on a little secret: he hasn’t always liked craft beer. But, just like many of us on the path to craft beer, one day he stumbled into love at first drink. And you don’t forget your first love…or, in this case…loves.
“Easy Street Wheat & 90 Schilling by Odell’s  and Fat Tire by New Belgium when I went to school in Ft. Collins, CO back in 1995… I never liked beer until I tried those!” Tait enthuses.

Since being bitten by the beer bug, Tait got his brewing certificate from the American Brewers Guild and has spent the last thirteen years brewing professionally. He says of his experience in the craft beer world:
” I love the people in our industry, and hands on physical work suits me, I couldn’t live in a cubicle, I like to go and move!  I only wear suits when my wife tells me to, I am a shorts and flip-flops kind of guy!”

Even though these days he is behind the scenes handling operations, sales, and distributions, he maintains his passion for the craft by brainstorming new creations with his talented brewers, Kevin and Don, on their impressively large (30 BBL) system. And the things they come up with…

…are delicious.

20180820_175425.jpg

When asked what his current favorite brew on tap is, Tait chose Cloud Breaker IPL (India Pale Lager) because “it has all the Qualities of a well made lager but with the Hop intensity of an IPA.  We used Bravo, Centennial and Citra Hops.”
And the rest of the menu is just as enticing. Naturally, once I tried one, I had to try them all. For research. And…quality control. That’s it. Gotta make sure they’re all as good. Spoiler: they are.
For example, the Coffee Stout is so on the nose, it causes you to want to start drinking before 10am just so you can start your day off with it. And the Mango Habanero beer is one of the most balanced pepper beers I’ve ever had. It’s juicy with just a slight heat at the end, which gives a fun kick without causing a four-alarm fire inside your throat.
Their Strawberry Blonde, which smells exactly like a strawberry patch, is even in demand at Busch Stadium!

In fact, it’s all in such high demand that Charleville has expanded to a second location and tap room in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. Amongst the hustle and bustle of the city, Charleville provides a welcoming atmosphere with plenty to do, no matter what day of the week it is. While closed on Mondays, Tuesday- Friday offers a Happy Hour from 3-6pm and trivia every Wednesday night. A delectable food menu ties everything together into a can’t-miss experience!

So whether you are in the mood for a light, crisp beer in a relaxed, rural setting or a brew with a kick in an animated, metropolitan scene, Charleville has something for everyone!

Cheers!

To learn more about Charleville:

http://charlevillebeer.com/
http://www.charlevillevineyard.com/

 

20180820_175105

 

Brewery Spotlight: Minglewood

“A couple more shots of whiskey, I’m going down to Minglewood.”
-Grateful Dead

20180629_210222

The sun was shining as I strolled down the sidewalk and up to the doors of Minglewood Brewery. The outside architecture hinted at the past stories of this river town building constructed in 1891. Suffice it to say, this building has seen some sights.  This historically registered establishment was originally home to a Masonic temple, then a well known local music store and, most recently, is the residence of Minglewood Brewery.

As I enter, I catch my favorite Blues Traveler song floating on artisan pizza-scented air that fills my nose and causes my stomach to rumble. Humming along, I take a seat at the bar, a gorgeous wood installment that is reminiscent of dark driftwood. In fact, the entire brewery is a stunning blend of dark wood, brick, and Edison lights.

20180629_210541.jpg

A friendly bartender takes my order and, after,  I take a moment to glance around, participating in my favorite sport of people watching. The strangest sight catches my attention. I notice that, unlike anywhere else, hardly anyone is on their phones. Instead of growing another digital appendage, everyone is interacting with each other, content just conversing and laughing in the comfortable atmosphere that is the brewery. There’s a couple clearly on their first date who are breaking the ice over a gigantic Bavarian pretzel and house-made beer cheese. At the next table, a girl snarls her nose up at her friend offering her a beer, emphatically stating she does not like beer. Her friend, rolling her eyes, pushes it her way with a “Just try it.” The girl reciprocates the eye roll and takes the tiniest of sips. And then a big gulp. “You know, that’s really good. Is that what beer is supposed to taste like?” she asks.  A bit further down, there’s a group of businessmen who are making it very clear they’re excited that their boss chose to have their meeting at a place with beer on tap and rugby on television.

A smiling server brings me out of my own thoughts by placing a pizza in front of me. I notice three things immediately. One, that pizza is the best looking pizza I think I’ve ever seen. Two, not only is she smiling, but all the servers and bartenders are too, even while they’re briskly walking around. Which makes me and everyone they interact with smile. Three, did I mention that pizza, though??? It’s a taco on a pizza! Not to mention, made with grain from the beers: Bonus!

20180710_192219.jpg

20180629_205857.jpg
20180629_210054.jpg

Of course, this glorious meal would not be complete without a beer. While the tap offerings are all in close but delicious competition with each other for my ‘favorite,’ the Satellite IPA wins out today. While IPAs are typically not my go-to, this version of a New England style IPA is perfection, easily my favorite example of the style. Stuart Matthews, owner of Minglewood, agrees. “[New England IPA] is a style that’s growing in popularity despite its non traditional hazy appearance.  But the tropical fruit aroma and low bitterness has made it my go-to beer as of late.  And my number one selling beer as well.” And he isn’t exaggerating. Stuart tells me that the first couple batches of the Satellite sold out in just a few hours and demand has only increased.

FB_IMG_1531277576737(1)

While being one of the first to successfully bring this style to the area, it is far from the only aspect that makes Minglewood stand out. “The most recent thing that makes Minglewood unique is that we’re the first brewpub in the state to deliver beer with our pizza.  We have a phone app and customers can order from our website.  It’s city wide in Cape Girardeau.  Only on weekends as of now.” And if that isn’t enticing enough, they also can beer directly off the tap at request that can be taken home in an insulated brown bag designed specifically to fit.

20180710_213910.jpg

And if you don’t think that’s the best name ever, you’re just wrong.

Minglewood certainly has a wide array of offerings. The variety and flavor of their artisan pizza menu is enough of a head turner on its own, but when paired with beer that is made with precision and passion, they just can’t go wrong. Nor do they intend to. Unlike some businesses that get comfortable and lax after their first few years, Minglewood has made it clear they’re just getting started. With new styles of beer being expertly brewed all the time and their evolving relationship with the local community, they strive to prove that everyone has a place in the craft beer world, even if you’ve never experienced craft beer before.

“If you’re not familiar with craft beer and you’re willing to expand your pallet, then there’s a Minglewood beer for you.”

And you better believe I will be back for Minglewing Monday.

20180629_210420.jpg

And yes, I did, in fact, finish that entire pizza by myself.

Cheers.

 

 

* Credit where credit is due to Stuart Matthews for providing some of the lovely photos for today’s blog*