This past weekend marked our brewery’s first official participation in a beer festival, the Little Woody wood-aged beer fest. I admit, I had a little bit of anxiety about it. Showing up with our delicately bottled (and highly carbonated) beer on an extremely warm Central Oregon day was concerning enough; the beer had to be kept ice-cold in order to allow our volunteers to pour our tiny bubbles into even tinier glasses. The cold temperatures brought out the chill-haze and repetitive pouring caused the yeast to come off the bottom of the bottle quite often, creating some pretty cloudy pours. On top of this, we presented the most expensive beer at the fest by far. Our beers cost festival-goers twice as much as most of the other beer available. Boo-hoo! Obviously, I have much to learn about what I say vs. what I do.
In order to prepare for the best possible outcome, I spent all 15 hours of the festival behind our booth, sharing the story of our beer with everyone that would listen. Jeffery helped out by keeping us stocked up on food & beer (both our bottles and samples from the fest) and we had some rock star volunteers who poured the most elegant samples Little Woody has ever seen! I opened almost every single bottle and chatted more in 2 days than I have all year. I also have never been in a position to share my beer with so many people at once. We had all 4 public offerings (Sahalie, La Tache, El Cuatro, Sahati) because Lee, who runs the Little Woody, has been stocking up on beer since February. We had more beer options than any other brewery, as well as the only brewer available to talk directly to the attendees.
There were really only a few main reactions. Some folks saw the cost of the beer and acted like we didn’t exist. They kept walking or just asked for our sour wort lemonade. Others stopped and asked, “WHY?” A small percentage walked right up and said, “I’ve been waiting to try your beer. Which one should I start with?” Not one single person left our booth complaining. Most were euphoric…one fellow who hemmed and hawed about committing 6 tokens for an El Cuatro came back later with 6 more tokens. “Here,” he said. “Buy the next person who isn’t sure about spending their tokens on this stuff. Your beer is amazing!” We made a point of making up a token or two for others and by the end of the night, I witnessed quite a few strangers handing tokens to each other.
It seems a little incredulous (ridiculous?) that an unnecessary liquid can possess so much ability to bring people together. I was convinced that our beer was not ‘festival beer’. I must say (again) that I was completely wrong on that one. Granted, it’s not for everyone, but my experience from Little Woody was a fairly large statement on the beer consumer, ever-evolving, encouraging, and adventurous. On top of all of that, being able to witness the entire life-cycle of the beer from concept to consumption was phenomenal! There were numerous examples I gave when asked why our beer tastes so different than anything else at the festival…methods of production, mainly. Truthfully, when I am able to share the moment with a stranger enjoying our prepared New Experience In A Bottle, it’s clear that the energy the beer absorbs along the way rolls out the red carpet for everything else that follows it.
Yeast, evidently, are some highly metaphysical mo-fo’s.
We have brought the rye barrels into the brewery…and finally started brewing our dark beer. Notice that I’m not calling it a stout? Still incubating a few ideas on this, but it’s evolving and harkens to be our next flag to plant as to what we stand for here in relation to beer and people. Up to now, this brewery has defined itself with actions and things that paint a picture (aha! Marketing!). Fancy beer, artsy bottles, stories, trees turned into lauter tuns. This kind of behavior is core to who we are. But concepts are as well. I didn’t know it at the time, but I built me a nice little concept brewery. Through the use of it I have come to understand how the concept of an idea can be more powerful than the action or thing that results from it…and concepts are light and drift far.
I am in an exhilarating position where creativity and action produces tiny little ingots (things) that inspire. People take these things and turn them into pools of light by sharing them with others, massaging their own energy & concepts into the process. Pretty soon, even though there are precious few of these little ingots, the light they cast shines like mirrors reflecting the sun. Without you, I simply have beer in bottles. With you, there is the intangible component that people have used to change the world, to bring people together.
Oh, wait…I’m getting carried away. It’s just beer!