It snowed the last week of September. Part of me got giddy (which is my general reaction to the first snow in years’ past) but another part of me steadied and waited, gulped and focused. Most years I don’t feel prepared for winter, but this year is different, it has some experiential knowledge attached to it. My neighbor Bob (who has been living up in the Skyliners neighborhood for over 30 years) says, “There are 2 seasons up here: Winter, and Getting Ready For Winter.” The first year he told me that I laughed and thought it was hilarious. Each year that goes by I find it less and less funny, more and more true. In this virtual anti-weather blog/internet world where there is no weather, I’m waxing about it to distract me from starting this post in a much more blunt way, because really, where the fuck have I been?? My wordpress account says there are 402 of you that elected to get notified every time I post and I have to hope there might be just a few of you that think of me from time to time, missing this tiny slice of entertainment? While I hope that that is accurate & true, this ‘not writing’ brings up a very personal issue; one that I am struggling to inform my son and daughter about. In order to do the things you enjoy and love, you really must do them. Dreaming is fun and hanging your self-worth on ideas and concepts are, um, inspirational, but I am a firm believer that ‘showing’ is better than ‘telling’ and doing is better than dreaming. Wait. Let me rephrase that last part. Doing follows dreaming. I’m talking about the kind of dreaming that can change things; change your world (or someone else’s) for the better. I dream like this a lot. Probably too much. With the way much of our world is going, it’s hard (in practical, thoughtful terms) to believe that we humans can really turn things around to where one feels in general that things are Pretty Good. There will always be complaints, but I do dream how amazing it would be to simply feel that most of these big things are going in a good direction. Can you imagine? If the news was full of stuff like ‘Atmospheric Carbon Reduced Beyond Expectations’, ‘Immigrants Appreciated’, ‘Veterans Are Totally & Completely Taken Care Of’, ‘More Cooperation in The Senate’, ‘Homeless Population at Lowest Point in Recorded History’ & ‘Arts Funded 100%’. Anyway. That’s enough of that. That is the kind of dreaming that makes it hard to follow with doing.
Me writing, however, is a dream I can act on. And I’m doing it right now! For any of you that were around in the Old Days when I started this activity and might wonder about my whereabouts as of late, the gods’ honest truth is that I spend my time running a business now instead of making beer. Part of me has avoided writing because in many ways I have become exactly what I was trying not to become. I have Mos Def become a form of what I was running away from when I left Deschutes Brewery. When I do get the opportunity to mash in or brew, I enjoy it tremendously…but the facts surrounding my mental health is that when I try to do the labor consistently, my mind wanders into the little office in my head to tidy up shop. Now that I have employees (and this general comfort in How Things Are Going) I really really don’t want to risk dropping the ball on maintaining my affairs and tripping (not that kind, silly. Tripping UP). The distraction (trying to run the business AND brew) was becoming a personal stress of fairly high level and my solution was to learn, to accept how to be comfortable being an ‘owner’ instead of ‘owner/brewer’. It’s not easy because I judge myself (and others, truthfully) pretty harshly and I believe in work. I believe in craftsman and artisans. I align myself much more with creators than businessmen. While these are not polar opposites when entering the entrepreneurial universe, I’m not convinced I feel any better about it. I am working on it, though. Perhaps if I simply moved toward the things I enjoy I’ll find it easier to give myself a break? Maybe others as well? I remember when Staci and I returned from over a year of living abroad, traveling, experiencing the world. I was motivated and energized to follow the thing(s) that resonated most with me. We were 30 years old, I had quit an amazing opportunity at Deschutes Brewery after only about 6 years to spend time (and all our money we’d saved for over a year) exploring parts of our planet and the people that live here, hand-in-hand with my wife without the work/life constraints of our 21st century American existence. Well, barely the 21st century! It was 2003. When we returned in late 2004, I had notebooks full of all of the writing I was going to do, art and humanitarian projects, actionable items for Big Dreams. What did I do instead? I got my old job back at the brewery in order to pay the mortgage and went back to the previous life I had left. Definitely not a bad one, but in hindsight, it was one I had lived for 6 years and I had done it well. Why did I feel the need to do it again?
Hard to tell now, but probably comfort, ease. More truthfully, it was fear of failure in the unknown. Either way, it only took another 6 years or so for me to rebel against that decision and bail. Because I didn’t act on my intentions 6 years’ earlier, when I finally allowed myself to act I swung like a pendulum and emptied my 401k account and built the oddest little brewery up in the woods you’ve ever seen with tremendous idealism and meaning. This allowed me to enter into a relationship with President Business in a way I didn’t think myself capable. I also got extremely lucky, starting my brewery when I did. The sour, barrel-aged brewery was still fairly new. I was able to keep my integrity while growing my dream into a working business. I’m beyond proud as to what my brewery represents! We have amazing customers that I’m honored to serve and share my vision with. I do wish there were more people like them who truly cared about stuff. Not just my brewery, but anything. Anything at all. People, for the most part, really don’t give a shit. About much of anything. And because of that, we are taken advantage of in gigantic ways! I’ve learned how ‘business’ can be decent way to reward ones’ actions and how businesses can benefit their communities and employees. However, I can’t see how we can trust them to do the right thing in the big picture routinely. Our human tendencies and Bottom Lines being what they are make Business (or Capitalism, in my view) a good tool for a healthy society, a great tool, maybe, but it is most definitely not the solution. It is as flawed as us humans and relies on human nature to succeed. Which, I suppose, it is doing in some pretty rare form these days. Seeing both sides of the owner/worker schism is fascinating, but most often its’ fascinatingly incredible how labor is undervalued and manipulated by corporations and our government. I tell myself the reason that I focus on our business and only talk beer with Connor and Hans (as opposed to make it) is that I’m committed to our employees to keep what we have, to provide us a space where we can provide an alternative to that. But, still, we haven’t got our 401k plan figured out yet and our health care is more of a health share. The reality is I can’t do much more than we are currently doing…hopefully it’s enough so we can keep on doing what we are doing, because I really like what we stand for. Art, people, culture, history. These are the things that I learn from, that I draw upon. It’s what we all can share, and (again, in my opinion) what we need to act on Big Dreams.
This is where my head is at, I thought I would let you know. Currently we are working at making our brewery a tad bit larger in square footage so we can separate our brewhouse from our fermenting space. Hans is building our 2nd puncheon mash tun (along with about 6 other projects in addition to brewing and cellaring), Connor is acting as Head Brewer most of the time (I’ve made handing off this job pretty difficult :), Staci is managing our Ale Club, finances and, along with Kirsten, managing our tasting room. Micah is labeling and helping out on the bottle line. I’m trying to steer the ship and avoid the lurking icebergs (last year was a doozy!), but I did make a film about the Kornølfest I attended last year with my brothers and looking to screen it around after getting positive reviews from about 250 brewers at the Master Brewers district meeting, where they let me show it. I’m playing some loud and rocking music with Hans and Matt Jackson (our band name is Via For Real) and our tasting room is getting a food cart, our friends from Sunny Yoga Kitchen are opening Carrello’s on our patio soon…Italian inspired eats. Very exciting! Lots going on. Lots of art, people, and culture. We are making our history. Hopefully if we focus on the things we have control over, the world will hang on until we swing back into a more agreeable time. I’m tentatively hopeful, but at the same time, incredibly happy and content with things in general. At least all the things I can act on, like writing to you tonight. Thanks for being here, thanks for believing I’d come back and write again. I’m planning on coming back real soon. Ciao for now!