What (Beer) Defines You? What (Beer) Doesn’t?

If you were to fill in the blank below*, what would you write?

If I was a beer, I’d be _________________. And I’d never be _________________.

(*brand, style, flavor, whatever and however you define beer)

This idea gives me pause thanks to Jim Sullivan for the inspiration today. He asked this question of the audience at the TRA last year, where I was also speaking. ‘What defines you? What doesn’t define you?’

So many beer enthusiasts proudly wave the snob banner. The best banner to wave is the diplomacy banner.

With the 'Sullivisionary' in Texas.

With the ‘Sullivisionary’ in Texas.

Diplomacy is so much better, productive, and progressive than any snob banner would be, I’m miffed as to why anyone would claim to be a beer snob.

Who wants to hang out with a snob anyway!? Perhaps only other snobs… I don’t know but it sure ain’t me.

Plus, as an open minded beer enjoyer, I want to try everything I can to see what’s available. It’s a tragic error for anyone to turn down any beer they’ve not had – regardless of all factors – unless they’ve tried it in the last month. How do you know you won’t find a brand new friend you can wait to enjoy again if you don’t try it?

Answer: you can’t.

So you allow your taste buds to go without something that could have enlightened, pleased, and delighted your entire sensory system.

Diplomacy reign supreme.

If I were to fill in the blanks above today*, here’s what I’d tell you:

If I was a beer, I’d be the fresh one you bring over for dinner. And I’d never be stale.

*qualified with “today” – it can and likely will change, as I hope it does for you.

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Rules of Beer Engagement

Craft is a hot, hot, hot word right now, particularly in the beer world. On the one hand, some care. Passionately. On the other, who cares? I don’t. I want a fresh delicious beverage I can sip to me delight. I don’t want to hear your rants and raves, your denigrations or high faluting opinions or judgements on high. So just call beer what it is: beer.

If you’re a buyer and consumer, I’d encourage you to consider your habits with the following Rules Of Beer Engagement:

1. Focus on flavor first, not style. What flavors do you enjoy, across beverage and food? Find those and get to know them, well. Identifying flavors at their base will help you move towards beer (and food) you enjoy. It’ll better enable and empower you to ask for what you want which is better for the breweries, retailers, and distributors as well. Specific is terrific.

2. Keep an open mind. Indeed, an open mind is the every best palate tool everyone can and should utilize. Saying you like this or that, saying that you don’t like that or this is closed-minded. Unless you’ve had serious repercussions of beer in your mouth very recently, then it’s time to try it all. Just as an open mind is a help, a closed mind is a major pleasure inhibitor.

Don't get upside down about beer - enjoy it for what it is.

Don’t get upside down about beer – enjoy it for what it is.

3. Enjoy what you like and support whomever is drinking with you in what they choose. In fact, try what they’re drinking and share what you’re sipping as well. If it’s been more than a month since you tried a certain beer your friend is now sipping, try it again. Our physiology changes in various ways as we age – so beer of days past will not taste the same as it does today.

4. Be a diplomat, ditch the snobbery. Diplomacy changes the world for the better. See number 3 above. Supporting beer includes supporting freedom of choice, reserving judgment (who the hell needs that anyway!!??), and fully embracing the moment.

5. Craft is 5 letters connected together. That’s it and that’s all. Any remaining parameters, lines in the definition sand, and boundaries are only on you to put up or leave down. I suggest not labeling your beer. If the product is well crafted, if care has been taken in the manufacture of beer, then it matters not the quantity made. Small isn’t the antithesis of big; it’s a sheltered view of the world and only encumbers your bee enjoyment.

Beer is meant to be enjoyed, shared, savored, and consumed. Doing so with an open mind and diplomacy will more than expand your taste buds – it’ll expand your world and make you a welcome member of society at large.

I want to hang out and get to know people who are open. If you’re one of them, give me a call – let’s go for a beer.




The Fable of Good, Better, Best

“Good, better, best, never let it rest. Until your good is better, your better’s best.” – Dr. Fagerberg, prof, CCMM

Once upon a time, there were three friends: Good, Better and Best.

They had met early in their lives and did a lot of things together. Hung out at the park, where there was really old original play equipment, newer gear and some sparkling new features. They’d go to the library where they’d see really old books, 20th century works, and then very current publications. They especially liked eavesdropping on conversations because they learned so much about what people thought.

Regardless of what they all thought individually, they all got along well and lived peaceably together in the same neighborhood. They knew that while they didn’t always share the same opinions, they wanted to get along and respect each other and keep their minds open to new ideas. Their elders and other close friends had taught them the value of diplomacy and respect.

One day the three friends were indeed listening in on a conversation. It was a table of 3 People in a brewpub and they were talking about beer (of all things!)

  • Person 1: “I love this beer! It’s so delicious.”
  • Person 2: “Are you kidding?! It’s rank and smells like barnyard and wet hay. Ick! I don’t know how you can stand it.”
  • Person 3: “Really?! I think it’s fine, and perhaps it’s supposed to taste that way. Did either of you check into it or ask our server about it first?”
Good, Better, Best

Good, Better, Best

And so it went, the conversation of the 3 People – around and around, back and forth, never agreeing on the beer in their glasses.

The three friends (Good, Better, Best) found this confusing and confounding. They wondered why the supposed three friends at the table were arguing so, not understanding that they can all simply taste, enjoy a and talk about it AND still value and respect each other fully.

They stayed a little while and eventually the 3 People paid their bill and left the pub, still squabbling over very minor things.

The 3 friends were quiet for a little while after the People left. “I wonder why they just didn’t let each other fully enjoy what they wanted to, instead of bickering and making the others feel bad or wrong…makes no sense to me,” said Better.

“Me either,” stated Good. Best agreed with them both.

They left that day feeling a little more sadly enlightened that some people want to always be Right, to be the Loudest Voice In The Room (making them Right) and wouldn’t graciously accept and encourage their friends to simply enjoy what they wanted without putting it down.

They decided that they’d always stay open to what the others wanted to try and enjoy. After all, everyone has their own taste buds, experiences and opinions. Good friendships are built on variety of and respect, they told each other. They knew they’d learn more and have more fun too if they all treated each other well and were kind.

Then they went along their merry way.

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The Power Of Words

Micro. Local. Regional. Organic. Nano. Macro. Small. Big.

What is the power of words when applied to the topic at hand? They have a huge impact in many ways. Words are labels – and if you follow the site, you know I talk about labels with some regularity.

When we fall in love with something it’s usually due to an emotional response. Reasonably so since we’re sensory beings and we tend to lean with our emotions. Because we are also thinking creatures, we should then engage the brain and think things through in conjunction with our emotions.

To be able to totally remove emotion from decisions seems cold and calculating to some, liberating for others. I find a combination is wise and the balance of which one holds more sway depends somewhat on the decision at hand.

Am I interested in going out for pizza? Well, my emotions will most likely take the lead since my senses are the biggest audience to this decision. Did I like where I went last time? Would I rather make it at home? What new place has a friend recommended?

Once these questions are considered, I may ask: what’s the monetary investment? How far or near is the place? Do I want to see lots of people or go to a relatively quiet place? These are more brain focused decisions for me.

Pour your words carefully. Photo by Judy Pavlik.

Pour your words carefully. Photo by Judy Pavlik.

In the greater universe, there are loads of people enjoying beer. All over the world, all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, genders, and backgrounds. Great, I say!

I’d turn then and state unequivocably that there are too many people in the beer world who are judgmental to a fault. They choose to judge a beer on various emotional aspects before they dig into the quality and brain type decisions.

Liking a beer or not liking it is an entirely subjective discussion. Liking, loving, bashing, and hating are all emotional choices. And they’re based on a wide variety of experience, sensory and brain input. I give a toast to those who remove their own personal biases and decide what they like about the beer instead of summarily embracing or dismissing it. Who’s to say something is good or bad unless it’s your own choice. A lemming mentality is dangerous and foolish.

Think for yourself and use your words carefully. Before pronouncing something divine or despicable, be diplomatic, thoughtful and calculating. Then be sure to use words that indicate your intelligence: we can all use more civility and diplomacy. Start with yourself first.

The power of words is truly that – powerful. If you want to go to battle, go elsewhere. Beer is meant to be congregational and should therefore be approached with open-minded consideration and an open palate. Take a nod from the well-regarded food pro Ruth Reichl or seasoned beer pro Lisa Morrison or the astute writer Jay Brooks. Their work and reviews embody thoughtful discourse, honesty, and respect.

Once you do some homework on self improvement, engage, embrace, talk and enjoy.

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Continental Travel For Beer

The distinct pleasure of traveling across this amazing continent has created highlights of my year. We do a good deal of travel overall for business, my friends and colleagues remind me often, and it’s usually productive, fun and tasty.

Jeremy Parsons & Ginger at TFOB, 2013

Jeremy Parsons & Ginger at TFOB, 2013

This year so far I’ve been invited to present at the Toronto’s Festival of Beers (July), Toronto, Ontario, Canada where I have the honor of being the first American to take the Grilling Tent Stage. A Cooking With Beer session was great fun – terrific hosts, fun guests, and generous sponsors.

I’ve also had the honor of being invited to the Congreso Cerveza Mexico/Mexican Brewing Congress, Mexico City, Mexico (early September). Entrusted with judging beer and also given the opportunity to present an educational session to my Mexican colleagues on Women + Beer, I can tell you it’s an exciting time for all!

Beer is testimony that both women and beer are everywhere (we’ve verified that), passionate folks of all walks are interested in beer, and that these aforementioned people are all over the globe.

Jay (SSSteiner) & Jose (Propaganda Brewing) in Mexico City

Jay (SSSteiner) & Jose (Propaganda Brewing) in Mexico City

When we present, no matter the location, we work hard and smart to make sure the fit of the content and requested message delivered best fits the audience and goals. Knowing much less about Canada and Mexico to me is not a disadvantage. It’s the chance to ask people who I get to meet and work with lots of questions. An open mind and smile go a long way towards diplomacy and that’s what we’re after.

I’d encourage everyone who’s interested in beer to take a global look. Yes, support local. Do you know where all the ingredients come from in that beer (or other local product)? Sometimes everything’s sourced close by – though almost nothing is in a vacuum is using resources that are non-local. Yes, support global. It’s always been a global economy – the idea of “local” is not new. It’s recycled. If you like salt, nutmeg, or coffee you support a global economy. And that’s okay.

The new perspective I now have from these two visits has enormously broadened my knowledge and what I can share forward. As an educator, that’s really important to me. Education changes the world for the better and these fine folks (my hosts) found mutual value in working together as well.

Finding a balance is somewhat reliant on taking a wide view. Take it, often, and share it with others. There are remarkable people everywhere. And I can’t wait to meet more!

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What’s Important To You?

What’s important to you for your beer experience?

Is it the flavor? The freshness? The brewer? The ingredients? The packaging? The glass it’s served in? The idea behind it? The tradition? The friends you want to enjoy it with? The food it’ll go with? The perception of the brand? The label? Where you get it? How you get it? What it costs? How often you enjoy it? what memories it conjures up?

With a nod to Dr. Lewis, I’d ask: What’s desperately important to you?

Cheers to that ~

Cheers to that ~

What is it that really matters when you are engaged with beer? How do those elements factor into your priorities?

To me, it’s all about cleanliness, diplomacy and education.

Cleanliness. Any brewer worth her salt will dedicate herself to a clean brew house. Cleanliness and sanitation is what shows the commitment forward. Just as a proud cook should cook in a clean kitchen, an accomplished brewer must keep a clean brew house. No exceptions.

Diplomacy. It’s one of the most important facets of the people part of the beer. Diplomacy goes so much farther than snobbery and judgement. Being diplomatic means welcoming anyone who wants to drink whatever beer they choose. It means sharing, asking, listening, learning and being open-minded yourself first. No exceptions.

Education. It’s what makes the entire world go round. Love and money can be made and lost, education is here forever. Learning, sharing, listening, and giving information to others while wanting to keep educating your own self is critically important. No exceptions.

Take some time to consider what is desperately important to you and then follow that vision. When you do, you’ll be happier and true to your self. The key is remaining open to others and their vision, as we’ll all have our own way to execute what we see.

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Challenging Your Own Prejudice

“I don’t like dark beers, but…”

“I’ll try anything – except…”

“Of course I’m open-minded. I simply won’t try…”

Challenging and eliminating prejudices means recognizing them first. It’s an acknowledgement that something is indeed being judged and this something is either elevated or degraded when compared to something else.

Diplomacy will make a huge difference in accepting and opening the mind.

P1100710For some, exercising a shift in prejudice is uncomfortable. Perhaps because when we change our beliefs, it ties into everything else for us: how we view the world, how we conduct ourselves, what we choose to do and not do. Granted these can be big shifts all the way to seemingly small alterations.

And I’m a believer that “small” isn’t small at all. It’s everything.

With a rise in beer snobbery in recent years, WEB recognizes that we need to maintain diligence in being diplomatic. It’s always distressing to hear a person tear down a beer because of what they think. As educators and researchers, we generally address this as an opportunity to talk about why a person feels the way they do. We also try to offer up more factual information (ala quality, not preference) and ask questions to get the person to rethink how they might look at something.

We’re not trying to change their minds. We are out to shift culture by helping open minds. I say this since it’s a journey I will be on my entire life as well: reviewing what my own prejudices are. We’re human, we all have them. What we choose to do, act and say per those beliefs is how we’ll be perceived and either welcomed or deflected.

It gets more comfortable the more you do it. Give it a try.

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How Do You Manage Good News?

How do you manage good news?

How do you manage bad news?

What about all the stuff in between – how do you manage that too?

Knowing how to herd cats, manage information, mitigate situations, and deal with everything and everyone that comes your way is a monumental task. I don’t even think Wonder Woman could manage all of everything we get to encounter and process each day.

how do you respond to all the pieces thrown in your direction each day?

What is key is knowing that there will constantly be stuff come at you and your windshield. How you choose to drive, navigate and respond is the key.

Again, there’s not a hard and fast template since each scenario and actuality have their own personalities.

One thing that everyone can manage is how you choose to respond. Processing and responding with respect, diplomacy and equality is ideal, and a challenging growth oriented ongoing process. Keep these things in mind and keep your mind open.

Like the tee-shirt states, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” I’d wear one.

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The “You Should…” Festival Syndrome

Have you ever approached someone, started in conversation with them, and then said “You should…” (fill in the blank)? Well if you have, please refrain from doing so in the future.

Be a gracious and kind guest

If you have ever run your own business you’ll realize there’s a much better way to offer suggestions. Someone you don’t know telling you “You Should” feels very arrogant, even if well intended. Business owners have five zillion irons in the fire, even companies with staff and employees.

Try these instead:Have you ever thought about…” or “What do you think of this idea…”

These are way less finger wagging and feel less intrusive. Again, even if well intended, they feel slightly affronting and ignorant (you’re not the business owner, even if you have insight to share). If you offer it in a friendly and suggestive way ideas will be much better received, conversation will be much more productive and enjoyable for everyone.

Ask questions by all means, make gentle and appropriate suggestions, and think about things before they come out of your mouth. It’s truly remarkable what some people feel compelled to ‘tell’ people on the working side of a booth. A lot of it is appalling, and a lot of it is fine. Err on the fine side.

Also – never insult a brand that has just served you. Know the difference between preference and quality – these two things are worlds apart. Diplomacy goes a loooong ways.

Keep in mind too: if the booth worker is someone with the company they have most likely had a long busy enormous energy output day (if not multiple days per some fests and events) and be mindful they’ve most likely heard about everything. Be kind. Be gracious. Be supportive. They’re compelled to be polite to you and they’re working to make a living.

Don’t tell a business what they should do. And if you do and a business decides to call you on it and tells you what you should do, be ready for it. Turn about’s fair play.

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Clever Campaigns

Clever campaigns can be highly effective in customer engagement of your beer brands.  Make sure clever goes hand in hand with tact, diplomacy, good taste and fun.

Here’s an example in The Black Star Barter from Great Northern Brewing Company out of Whitefish, Montana.

So ask yourself and your crew: What would your customers do for a years worth of one of your labels? Don’t answer it yourselves, ask them and let them answer completely untainted.

Then develop an idea surrounding what they think is really cool – and what fits with your brand – in good taste and conscience.

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What Women Mean When They Say "I Don't Like Beer"

You can usually find a beer a women will enjoy

When the average woman says they don’t like beer, they overwhelmingly mean a few things, all along the same vein.

1. Most commonly: they don’t like the beers they’ve had previously. Bear in mind it could have been ‘bad’ keg beer at a high school or college party, beer that had gone bad through oxidation/other off flavor issues, beer that has a negative context – like they drank to much of it and got sick and never want to see that beer again, or simply they don’t like the flavor the beer offers whether or not they realize it.

2. Another iteration: they say ‘I don’t like beer’ and they immediately follow it up with a ” except XY and Z.” So they really do like very specific kinds of beer. They unfortunately lump all beer into the same beer with a capital B together.

3. Some simply don’t like what they’ve had, and are absolutely not interested. So let it go. Pushing them into something they already have a negative image of won’t help anyone. Find out what they do enjoy instead (with or without alcohol).

Here’s what you can do about it. When that phrase exits their mouths, ask them – very non threateningly or accusingly – what they mean? Do they mean they haven’t enjoyed the beers they have had or one of the other scenarios list above in #1.

I was at a party just yesterday and this very thing happened. When I wear my WEB shirts, the conversation seems to start quite easily. People immediately feel compelled to comment and it’s more like a confession for some. I Like Beer. Or (leaning in) I Don’t Like Beer. The important thing to keep in mind is the entry into the topic.

The host flatly stated she didn’t like beer…but….and proceeded to unknowingly correct herself. It’d be like someone saying I don’t like wearing shorts…but on a hot day I like short pants/long shorts/a skirt/a kilt. It’s up to you to decipher and offer an appealing direction.

Find out what kinds of beers they do like, or wines they like, or foods they like and then put your head to matching flavors. So many people like coffee and chocolate that this entrance (into the stout direction) is almost a gimme.

So next time you hear that phrase come out of a woman’s mouth, or man’s for that matter, chase it diplomatically and curiously. When you do it with respect and perhaps suggest, as appropriate, you can make progress.

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