Where Do We Go From Here?

“You’re the Hoperatives, right?”

I’m sitting at the bar having lunch with a friend the other day. It’s a  cozy place I like a lot and don’t get to often enough. We were actually on our way somewhere else when a fruitless attempt at avoiding holiday traffic put us out front. The point was to have lunch and catch up and my friend had never been there before. There was a convenient parking spot out front, so I called an audible and here we were.

We’d both ordered a beer and the owner overheard us talking about them. It’d been forever since I’d been there, but he remembered me. There was a thing he wanted to bend my ear about.  The three of us wound up talking about it and about a dozen other things on and off for the rest of the time we were there. We eventually decided we need to get back to other things. We paid our bill and we were on our way. It was a thoroughly pleasant experience.

The owner had frequently apologized for joining our conversation and we’d both assured him it was fine. The topic was interesting, but it’s not what this is about. The point of this story is that things like this happen all the time. The only thing a little unusual about the other day is that Carla wasn’t there. We’ve both noticed we’re more likely to be recognized when we’re together than when we’re solo. It’s become a part of our lives.

Yesterday was a bit of a milestone for Hoperatives. We turned eight-and-a-half. Anyone who’s ever been an eight-year-old knows it’s very important to recognize that half year. Carla and I will have been married 19 years in just over a week. Intellectually I understand that we’d been married more than 10 years before we ever started working on this, but I honestly don’t remember what it was like not having Hoperatives be part of our identity. I don’t know if that’s actually a good thing mental-health-wise, but mental health has never been my strong suit, so I’m OK with it.

I know this is sounding a little like a eulogy. Or maybe a lot like a eulogy. That’s not the point of this either. We’re not shutting down Hoperatives. Not today, anyway. What we are doing with it is an open question. That’s the point of this. Where do we go from here? (Hey!  I have a title!)

An occupational hazard of being human is that you develop these little scripts to get you across the social landscape from Point A to Point B. The one that applies here is the one about how there were only four breweries and one brewpub in Cincinnati when we started. When we told people what we were doing we got one of two questions (that we still get to this day): “Do you sell hops?” 1and “Do you home brew?”2. Carla has described Hoperatives as an informational website for several years now. When someone asks me what it is I freeze like a deer in the headlights. I never quite know what to say. Then again, that’s true of most things people ask me about.

The thing is, “Why Hoperatives?” has always been a little vague. Over the years we’ve done things and then stopped doing them when there didn’t seem to be a need for it anymore. We used to give out Hoperatives numbers. If you search for “Roll Call” in the search box over there to the right you can still find it. More than 400 folks have asked for a number over the years, but we never really had any plans for what to do with them other than thinking it was a fun idea. If you have a Hoperatives number you’ll be happy to know that there is no list of email addresses associated with it. There’s no danger of spam because we never got that organized.

Eight years ago today. An unplanned coincidence. Also:  6:36 AM?

We used to do Hoperatives Happenings as a way for people to gather and geek out about beer without having the overhead of a beer dinner. We introduced folks (and ourselves) to places that embraced better beer. We stopped doing them when it became too hard to schedule them because there were too many other events going on. There just wasn’t a need anymore. So we stopped.

We did a blogging conference in conjunction with the Cincy Winter Beerfest for a couple of years. By the end of the second one we knew there wasn’t a reason to have a third. It was pretty obvious “Peak Blogging”  had come and gone.

More than a dozen people have written for us at one time or another. “Traveling Tuesdays” came out of the fact that many of us sought out better beer locations when we were traveling for business or pleasure. But folks have lives. They move on. They have jobs and families. Loving beer and writing about beer are two different things. Most of the regular writers were friends before they wrote for us. Now they’re friends who used to write for us. The right thing remains.

We used to do previews of new local places and beer reviews.  The reviews stopped early on because it’s a rat hole you can never climb out of. People love the reviews they agree with and hate the ones they don’t.  Thus it was, is, and ever shall be. Since we weren’t trying to change anyone’s mind, it seemed like a lot of effort for no good end.  News faded out more slowly.  All of our major local print publications do a great job with beer as a beat, as do several of the broadcast outlets. By the time we quit doing news, we were pretty much just running press releases.

So what’s Hoperatives now? Here on the site, it’s mostly event listings. It’s incomplete because it relies on a very few people emailing us, but otherwise it’s an aggregation of events that Carla finds posted on Facebook. A weekly summary gets sent out to a mailing list. We have a Twitter account that I update on occasion and Carla handles the Facebook side. We’ve suspected for some time that the Facebook reach is much wider than the site. It definitely triggers more social interaction. Perhaps because that’s what it’s designed for? Facebook wasn’t close to being the media gatekeeper it is now when we launched, but now it is.

There’s really only one thing that’s been a constant with Hoperatives: We’ve never turned a profit doing it. That’s not a complaint. We never had a plan and we’ve executed it flawlessly.  There was a time we were part of the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s blog network and that mostly covered the hosting fees and a bit more. That ended a couple of years ago when they changed their strategy. We haven’t — and won’t — run the numbers but over its life there’s no way it’s been anything but a loss financially.  Then again, so are Bengals season tickets. I think we’re ahead on that.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating by saying Hoperatives has changed our lives for the better. You probably can’t say that. It would, be kind of weird if you could. Many, many, many of you have told us how much you appreciate what we do. That’s different.  I’m proud of the perch we’ve had watching the beer scene mature here. We’ve been welcomed by brewers, distributors, and fans. Once in a while, we’ve been able to be part of bringing the parts together. A small part. I can’t honestly say there’s anything that wouldn’t have happened in the beer scene had we not existed. And that’s as it should be. We’ve been more than fortunate.

I said earlier that this isn’t a eulogy, but it’s also not a “business-as-usual” post. Hoperatives has to evolve or go away. We’ve been close to hanging it up a couple of times but it seems we find something new to start doing and run with that. Maybe we will this time. Maybe we won’t. What I can say is that we have until Sunday, December 31, 2017 to figure it out. That will be nine years to the day since we put up our first test post to make sure I’d gotten WordPress installed correctly. By that date, we figure out what we can do to be a unique part of the Cincinnati beer scene, or we call it a whatever-you-call-nine-years. We don’t know what that will be. If we did, I’d be working on that instead of writing this. We like being a resource. We’re committed to the Cincinnati beer community. It has to be something that’s worth the time we invest. Beyond that, it’s just spit-balling at this point.

We’ll come up with something or we won’t. We’re always open to talking ideas over a beer.

1  No.
2  Not really. There are so many professionals out there willing to do it for me in exchange for small amounts of money.

Thanks for the validation!

To say that we have been overwhelmed by the responses we’ve received since our Hoperatives: Where We Stand Now post came out on Tuesday would be an understatement. We asked that you let us know what you thought and you did. For that, we are very grateful.

We are looking into possible advertising partners that are appropriate for Hoperatives. More importantly, please know that we will only take advertising from companies and products that we believe in. Through this little experiment, we’ve learned that our responsibility is to our readers first and foremost and that’s where our loyalties will always lie.

And we want to publicly thank those of you who tipped us via our PayPal link:

Mark McChesney
Chad Harrison Ford
Jeff Van Kirk
Craig Quesnell
Ryan Phillips
William Kiessling

As the title of this post says thanks for the validation. It really means a lot!

Thank You

Sierra Nevada: Craft Beer Walt Disney World

The meaning of the word ‘craft’ in ‘craft beer’ is a never-ending discussion among beer folk. That’s partly due to the fact it’s most often discussed when people are drinking. No one knows when to shut up. It’s also because it’s something people are willing to believe is real without the parallel need to know exactly why one beer is “craft” and another isn’t. “I know it when I see it” is as much as anyone can really argue. Yes, there’s the Brewers Association (BA) definition, but that’s the outcome of a political process, not a statement of objective reality. And that’s not a criticism of BA. I don’t think they claim otherwise. If you’re going to form a club where you don’t want some folks joining, you’re going to have to have criteria. Otherwise, why have a group?

I had occasion to think about this during the 2015 Beer Bloggers & Writer’s Conference in Asheville, NC last month1. One of our activities was to go to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s brewery just south of town in Mills River. It’s gorgeous; there’s no other word to describe it. It’s difficult to avoid a comparison to an attraction at Walt Disney World in Florida as you drive in. Don’t believe me? Check this out:

It’s not a theme park attraction, of course, it’s a working factory. And yes, breweries are factories. It’s not the way we like to think of them, but it’s what they are. It’s a place where raw materials are processed using semi- or fully-mechanized means that result in a packaged product suitable for mass distribution. Any beer that’s sold is the outcome of an industrial process that’s been refined and perfected over generations. There’s not much romance in that, but there it is.

It’s pretty clear that Sierra Nevada made the decision to build a brewery that could also be a showcase. Everything is labeled. All the production areas are visible behind glass or accessible by large groups of people (or both). It’s a working brewery, but it’s also meant to be seen. I had the opportunity to have an informal conversation with an employee who was involved in the process of bringing the facility to life. The conversation was interesting, but it really was informal and I don’t feel right quoting her directly because we weren’t explicitly on the record. Two things stand out in my mind, though. First, the company was very excited to be able to build a new facility from scratch. The original brewery in Chico, CA grew in bits and pieces as demand required. You can always plan for the future, but it’s always harder to expand an existing facility than build one from the ground up. The second thing is that a tremendous amount of work went into the planning. I don’t know this for a fact, but I have a feeling that somewhere there are storyboards that mapped out how the building and grounds were to tell the story Sierra Nevada wants to tell. That story includes beer, the company itself and its commitment to minimizing the environmental impact of a large industrial operation. It tells that story well.

Carla and I spend a lot of time giving money to the Walt Disney Corporation, so when I say there’s a Disney quality to the Mills River brewery, I mean that as a compliment. When a Disney property is really clicking for me, you experience the outcome of an excessive obsession to detail in both facilities and customer service. That’s what I saw at Sierra Nevada. I know, however, that calling something “Disney-like” can be considered a pejorative for some people. “It’s fake,” goes the thinking, “it’s the imitation of a thing and not the thing itself. Shock Top or Blue Moon or any of the other ‘crafty’ beers are the real beer Disneys.” That’s a discussion that goes beyond what I’m trying to write about here, but sufficed to say I know the mansion isn’t really haunted and it’s all fake, but I love the Haunted Mansion anyway. That’s how I can use Disney-like as a compliment.

So we’re on the busses heading down to Mills River from Oskar Blues in Brevard and I happen to be in the front seat of the lead bus. We arrive in front of the brewery and I get off the bus. There are a dozen or so folks on either side of the door inside and they’re clearly a welcoming line. A guy in blue jeans walks up to me and sticks out his hand and says, ‘Hi, I’m Ken Grossman. Welcome to Sierra Nevada”

I never really understood what it meant to “nearly plotz” until that moment. The founder of Sierra Nevada. Brewing legend. KEN frickin’ GROSSMAN is introducing himself to me! So of course my only response was to gurgle incoherently. I have a way with words. A really, really bad way. After everyone else on our bus had a similar opportunity to be star-struck, he proceeded to take us on a tour of the brewery. Then we went down to the river for a pig roast and a little oompah music. Sierra Nevada collaborated with Germany’s Brauhaus Riegele to produce a memorable Oktoberfest beer and the brewing team from Germany was there. A camera crew was also there. Here’s one of the things they put together from the footage. A disturbing number of the people in this spot are beer bloggers. 15-seconds of fame, baby:

I recommend the Oktoberfest, by the way. Marzens aren’t my absolute favorite style, but I enjoy them when the season rolls around. Brauhaus Rieglele’s recipe relies heavily on Steffi Malt which gives the beer a slightly lighter, sweeter character while still having good body and mouth feel. Steffi has been used in German brewing for decades, but it’s not as popular as it once was. Grossman said that they bought as much as they could get their hands on in order to make the beer for the US market, and that meant buying some of the malt from Riegele’s stock.

I like the video in that it shows Grossman’s easy-going demeanor. The quip about taking off the coat is a good example. They don’t explain it in the piece, but the day we were there was warm for Asheville, reaching the the mid to upper 80’s. The jacket is a German jacket that he’d admired when visiting the brewers in Germany when the collaboration was in the planning stages. It turns out that the Riegele brewmaster’s wife makes them, so Grossman and his son both ordered one. They were wearing them when we showed up to the brewery, but these are definitely cold-weather jackets. I’m surprised they lasted in them as long as they did. For the record, the Riegele brewmaster didn’t stay in his the whole time either.

Ken Grossman fixes door

So the Friday trip was great, but that’s not where my meditation on what puts the craft in craft brewing started. That had to wait until Sunday. We decided to go back to the brewery before coming back to Cincinnati. We wanted to try out the taproom and it’s less than five hours from Asheville to home, so it was a no-brainer. We get there, park and get in line to get a table. Our name is put in, and I’m sitting on a bench in the waiting area. I’m messing with my phone and suddenly I realize there’s someone standing in front of me. “Hey,” says Ken Grossman, “Did you have a good conference?” I think I was a little more coherent this time, but I still think of it as “Meeting Ken Grossman II: The Re-Plotzing.” Luckily, Carla came over and saved me socially, as she tends to do pretty much all the time. We make small-talk for a minute, then he heads to the front door to do what I’m pretty sure he walked that way to do in the first place. The front door was sticking and he noticed that people were having trouble getting in and out. So he went over to work on it. That’s him leaning over and holding the door as they try to figure out what’s binding things up.

And that’s when the light bulb went on. I have no idea how much money Ken Grossman is worth.  Lots. Probably more than lots. But he owns a brewery and when he saw something wrong, his first thought was to go over and fix it. Because the brewery is something that matters to him. I’m not saying that it’s the complete and total definition of what makes a beer a craft beer, but a good part of it is that at the top there’s someone there for whom the brewery is the thing. Throw a rock at any of the breweries in Cincinnati — and I’m definitely including Sam Adams in this — and you’ll find a focus on making great beer that starts at the very top. I vaguely know who the AB-Inbev CEO is.  I’m sure he knows something about beer and I’m sure he’s nice to his family and pets. I have no idea how long it’s been since he’s been in a brew house on two consecutive days from more than an hour each. In my mind, cluttered as it is, that’s what makes craft beer to me.  Do I know something about who is responsible for it being here? Is there an actual person behind it all? That’s important to me. That’s the craft.

And when we left the brewery that Sunday, the door worked perfectly.

1DISCLAIMER: To receive a discounted rate to the 2015 Beer Blogger and Writer’s Conference in Asheville, NC, we agreed to write two posts about the conference. This is one of them.

What Beer Would You Take?

Back in November of 2010, we were lucky enough to attend the Inaugural Beer Bloggers Conference in Boulder, Colorado. We went to Oskar Blues and Boulder Brewery. Met amazing beer professionals like Mariah Calagione of Dogfish Head, Greg Koch of Stone and Rob Widmer of Widmer Bros. But, best of all, we got to meet other beer bloggers from around the nation and we still keep in touch with many of them.

In the years since then, we missed some of the BBC conferences but have made it to most of the ones within driving distance of Cincinnati like Indy and Boston. This year, the conference is in a great beer town that we know well – Asheville. Oh, and it has a slightly different name that better describes the conference, so it’s the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference (BBWC).

One event that has been a part of most of the past BBWC conferences is the Night of Many Bottles. It’s basically the bottle share portion of the conference. This year, the instructions are to “bring one six-pack of beer – your local favorite, something hard to get you have been cellaring, or anything else you choose.”

Since we are a Cincinnati focused beer blog / informational website, we always take Cincinnati beers. In past years, we had a much more narrow range to choose from. But, luckily, in 2015, we have so many great Cincinnati beers that it’s getting hard to choose two (one for each of us).

So we wanted to ask all of you. What Cincinnati beer would you take to share with other beer bloggers & writers from around the country? Unfortunately, it has to be in bottles or cans, so local beers that aren’t packaged won’t work.

Tell us what beer you would take and why. You can put your comment here or post it on our Facebook page. If you are concise, you can tweet it to us too. We will take recommendations through July 12th and let you know which two we went with that next week.

Thanks in advance!

–Carla and Tom

Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference 2015

Sad day for Cincinnati beer

Carla and I were saddened this morning to learn of the death of Ohio Valley Distributing’s Jim Hennessey. We don’t know what happened, other than it did.

If you love good beer and live in Cincinnati then Jim Hennessey’s life touched yours. He’s been an important part of that ever-changing network of relationships that make up the beer scene for a long time. He was very good at what he did. More than that, though, he always — always — conducted himself with a fundamental kindness that was obvious from the first time you met him.

He got to see Cincinnati beer grow up.  He was a big part of why it grew up. When we were starting Hoperatives he was someone who had no reason to take us seriously, but he did. He let us know what was going on. He’d send us the usual press announcements, but he’d also give us a heads up that something was getting ready to come into the market. It was ok to mention it, but it wasn’t for attribution yet. Sometimes the email would just be the logo of a brewery and the word “soon.” It gave us a chance to get ready for the onslaught that usually comes with a launch. That was Jim. He looked out for us.

In a business full of good people, Jim was among the best. He’d get excited about the beer events out at Riverbend Music Center as much for the music as the beer, It was always fun when he’d get on a riff about some part of the beer business here in town. He never badmouthed anyone, but he had a  great way of telling a story. We’re going to miss that.

Today there are a lot of people mourning the loss of Jim Hennessey. Our hearts go out to his family, his colleagues and the uncountable number of people whose lives he touched in so many ways..

Next time you lift a glass of a beer worth drinking, lift one for Jim.

Fresh Fest at MadTree – Saturday, Nov. 1st

Last year, Queen City Fresh blogger Chris Stevens came up with the idea of hosting Fresh Fest, an event that featured the two things his blog was all about: local beer and local music. Plus it was a chance for local beer bloggers to get together and talk with their readers and each other.

Fast forward to 2014 and Chris is doing it again. The second annual Fresh Fest is set for this Saturday, November 1st at MadTree Brewing starting at 6:00 pm. Unfortunately, we are going to have to miss it this year due to a previous commitment, but you should really go. Lots of better beer and better music to be had!

Here are the particulars:

Event: 2nd Annual Fresh Fest — Beer. Music. Bloggers
Presented by Queen City Fresh and hosted by MadTree Brewing
Date/Time: Sat. Nov. 1st, 2014. 6pm
Beer: Espresso Self (New Release), Thundersnow, Bourbon Barrel Aged Thundersnow, 4 special releases infusions of Lift in Hoff Stevens kegs by local beer bloggers and 1 by MadTree as well as Lift, Citra High, Identity Crisis, Axis Mundi, Gnarly Brown, PsycHOPathy, The Great Pumpcan, Happy Amber and Root Beer (non-alcoholic).
Music: The Almighty Get Down (730-930pm) and Founding Fathers (900-1000pm)
Bloggers: Hang out and talk beer with local beer bloggers

Details: http://queencityfresh.com/2014/10/29/2nd-annual-fresh-fest-returns-to-madtree-brewing/
Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/710181342391479/

Fresh Fest 2014

Local Beer Blog Spotlight: March 13, 2014

Local Beer Blog Spotlight

This week’s Local Beer Blog Spotlight covers two weeks since Carla was traveling last week. We’ll have a Traveling Tuesday post on one of the brew pubs she visited there up soon. In the mean time, you can check out the better beer news that happened while she was gone.

Cheers and here’s to better beer!

— Tom and Carla

BeerMumbo – Taft’s Ale House Is Officially Under Construction

BeerQuest ABV – Review: Quaff Bros. Quaffanator

Brew Professor – Brass Tap Cincinnati Adds Bottleshop and Growler Fills

Love Beer, Love Food – Hopping into spring {TTT March 2014}

The Ohio Beercast – Ohio Craft Brewers Association: Interview Session

Queen City Drinks – What to Expect at a Jackie O’s Bottle Release

Queen City Fresh – Firehouse Grill adding more tap handles

Writing About Beer

Carla and I spent most of this past weekend in Lexington, KY attending a writing conference focusing on craft beer. We did the Cincy Winter Beerfest Friday night, then got up Saturday to drive down to the UK Student Center to spend the day listening to an amazing lineup of speakers (shown here as listed in the program):

As if this wasn’t good enough — and a conference would do well to have any of these folks be the keynote speaker — the organizers decided to pile on and have Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewing, editor of The Oxford Companion to Beer and author of The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food as the actual keynote speaker.

Yeah, it was a pretty good conference.

It was actually pretty intense. So much so that when the day was over I didn’t really want to socialize. Or I did and I didn’t. People came in from all over the country to be there for it. Really interesting, fun people. The opportunity was there to hang out afterwards: a pub crawl was organized. But I couldn’t do it. I wanted to think about what I heard. It needed some time to sink in. I wanted to have a beer. So Carla and I went over to Blue Stallion Brewing and had dinner, then went back to the hotel. I’m an introvert at heart. Big crowds drain me. We’d just finished out Cincinnati Beer Week and the Cincy Winter Beerfest. We both needed the quiet, but I did especially.

We swung by West Sixth Brewing on the way out of town and, besides having a nice lunch and some tasty beer samples, we talked a lot about the conference and about what we heard. We talked about the 5B Conference we didn’t have this year and what we might want to do with it in the future. The genesis of this post (and another one) came along and I was so moved to take action on it I went out to the car and grabbed my laptop to start writing it. I wrote maybe a half-dozen dozen sentences and realized that writing a blog post at a bar while eating lunch and drinking a beer was a much better idea in theory than in practice. So we finished up and drove back to Cincinnati.

I took more than a little bit away from each speaker. Given my former life as an academic (and still involved in education and training), that’s a batting average that never happens. I’m lucky in my day job if a meeting with six speakers has one intro worth listening to (and there’d better be donuts). This lineup? Amazing.

If there was a patron saint of this gathering it was Michael Jackson. He’ll always be the gold standard of beer writers and I believe everyone on the panel knew him personally to one degree or another. They shared stories and more than one of them got choked up in the process. I’m sorry to say that my serious beer journey began after his death, but his words live on, so he does as well. He’s still teaching, and it’s a better world as a result.

Another theme that I think every speaker spent considerable time on was storytelling. Stories have beginnings, middles and endings. Some attempt to illustrate a truth through the progression of dramatic theses, antitheses, and syntheses. Stories have characters, plot, structure and voice. Beer writing? Recipes and technical discussions for the most part. A typical beer review or blog post (and Hoperatives is not excused from this) reads an awful lot like a press release or a freshman chemistry paper gone very wrong. Just last week Chris over at Queen City Fresh wrote a really nice piece that I think does a lot of what the panelists were saying ought to be done. It told a story and painted a picture of someone important to beer in this town who doesn’t make beer. You should go read it.

Stan Hieronymus talked to us about taking a journalistic approach to beer writing and a fair bit about the writing market (punchline:  don’t quit your day job). He cautioned about becoming so close to the business as a writer that you become gun-shy about describing things with some detachment. Julie Johnston spoke about the early days of All About Beer magazine and some of the early stories it covered (including reporting on a rumor that a brewery called Sierra Nevada was in the planning stages). She talked about how the beer scene, such as it was at the time, was comprised of brewery ephemera collectors, homebrewers, and who she could only describe as the “beer guys.”  The latter were mostly folks who loved imports and (where still possible at the time) regional styles of beer. She talked about how the magazine helped build a vocabulary and common point of reference for people all over the country that turned the “beer guy” into the beer connoisseurs and beer geeks we have today.

Garrett Oliver would return to talking about the power of language in his keynote by decrying the use of over-technical language in everyday beer discussions and the misuse of language among professionals who ought to know better. He set the tone for the first part by showing the now-classic video Shit Beer Geeks Say: “I can really taste the contract in this.” “This beer is really infected.  Unless it’s a lambic … in which case it’s fantastic.” We’ve all been there. On the other hand, one of the most tweeted comments he made was “Black IPAs are bullshit.” Not the style, not the beers themselves, but the name. The GABF had changed the name to “American-style Black Ale” for its competition, and that’s a good thing. If words can mean anything, then they mean nothing and point to nothing worthwhile. That’s true in wine and in food and most every sphere of human activity people really care about. It ought to be true of beer.

Teri Farhendorf told us her story of being a longtime brewmaster who left her job and trekked across the country sleeping in her camper outside breweries all across the country.  She’d stay the night so she could brew with friends she’d made over the years the next day, then move along. She documented it in her blog that steadily grew in readership as the her trip continued. She encountered women at different breweries who gravitated to her because they’d been working in isolation and thinking they were the only woman in a male-dominated business. They were, to a degree, but not to the degree they thought they were. There was no master plan from the way she describes it, but her use of online technologies to build a community of women with whom she shared her passion led directly to the founding of what became the Pink Boots Society. If ever there were a case study on how online communication media form vibrant communities, this is it.

Finally we heard from two brewery owners, one a philosopher, the other a jester. Their messages were at the same time thought-provoking and, dare I say it, entertaining. I’d nominate Roger Baylor of New Albanian Brewery in New Albany, IN to be brewing’s Philosopher-King, but then he’d just ignore the philosophy part and spend all his time plotting his own overthrow as king. That’s just the way he rolls. He spoke briefly about his concern that the danger of the craft beer revolution is that the revolutions tend to lead to new orthodoxies and codifications which, eventually, need to be overturned by revolution. It’s a horrible oversimplification, and you can read more of what he actually means here.

Jeremy Cowan is the comedy genius who brought us He’Brew: The Chosen Beer. Finally entering the promised land of Kentucky this week (it’s long been available to those exiled across the Ohio), there’s no doubt that an important part of Shmaltz Brewing’s marketing strategy has been to suck up to beer writers. That’s not deep analysis on my part: Cowan said those exact words multiple times during his presentation. I believe he actually wrote it on one of his PowerPoint slides. His reason for being at the conference, besides trying to sell his beer, was to also talk about his book Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah. And urging us to buy it. It was downloading onto my Kindle before he was even done speaking and you can bet I’m going to write more about it. It’s a self-produced book through a very small press, and the trials and tribulations of getting that done while moving the company’s operations across the country into a new brewery were the backbone of his talk.

I’ve probably not done any of the talks any justice with my thumbnail sketches, but I hope, if nothing else, you get a sense of why it’s taken a while to sink in. The heart and soul of Hoperatives will always be the event listings and information about what’s happening in the Cincinnati beer scene. It’s why so many of you come up to us when you see us and thank us for the site. What you don’t know is that when you do that we both just want to throw our arms around you and thank you for reading. But that would just be weird and uncomfortable for everyone, so we don’t do it. But we really want to. Hope that doesn’t creep you out. Much.

Anyway, what I’ve taken away from this conference is a desire to tell more stories. They’ll be about beer and they’ll be here on Hoperatives. I have a couple of ideas and as I write them I know I’ll get others. That’s the way it works. I know I’m never going to make a living doing this, but that’s OK. It’s a pretty good thing having a place to tell stories about the things you love.

I hope you like them.

Pints for Paws event at Flipdaddy’s Union – Feb. 13th

As part of Cincinnati Beer Week, Flipdaddy’s Burgers & Beers in Union, KY is hosting a Pints for Paws event next Thursday, February 13th. For every pint of Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. Emancipator Dopplebock sold that day, they will be giving a $1 to the Boone County Animal Shelter. They will also be giving away pint glasses while supplies last. You may recall that Moerlein Emancipator won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival this past year.

Pints for Paws - Bock

This event was inspired by our cat Bock who we recently lost. We got Bock and his brother Porter about a year and a half ago and they’ve been a wonderful addition to our household. We forgot to get them any cat toys when we first got them so Tom threw out some Beer Savers for them to play with. Bock loved them! So much so he used to retrieve them like a dog. Every morning when we first got up, Carla would have to throw the Beer Saver so Bock could retrieve it. Over and over.

Unfortunately, Bock had heart disease. We didn’t know it until a blood clot suddenly blocked the flow to his back legs and he couldn’t move his hindquarters. We rushed him to the Hebron Animal Hospital, but there was nothing they could do. The staff there was so great during this horrible time, especially Dr. Hale and Tish. We missed Bock so much, but his brother Porter missed him even more.

We first learned about the Boone County Animal Shelter when they had a small fire back in December. We sent them a donation then and had already talked about becoming volunteers. We knew that our new cat had to come from there. The folks at the shelter helped us find the best match – a six-month-old tabby kitten we named Dunkel. He and Porter have bonded and we knew we wanted to help the shelter out for all of their hard work. The folks at Flipdaddy’s (especially Joshua Baughan) embraced the idea when I suggested it at a Cincinnati Beer Week meeting a couple of weeks ago. Through our work at Hoperatives, we’ve always known that beer people are good people and this is yet another example of it.

Please join us on the 13th and raise a glass of Emancipator in memory of Bock. We may be a bit misty eyed that night, but knowing that we’re helping the amazing work of the Boone County Animal Shelter makes things just a little bit better.

— Carla and Tom

Local Beer Blog Spotlight: Dec. 19, 2013

Local Beer Blog Spotlight

With the holiday upon us, there tends to be less blog posts since bloggers are busy celebrating rather than writing. (At least, I know that’s the case with us.) With that in mind, we’re going to skip next week and pick up the Local Beer Blog Spotlight again in the new year.

BeerQuest ABV – Review: Jackie O’s Mystic Mama

Love Beer Love Food – On beer, women, and the continuing need for advocacy

Queen City Beer Nerd – Review: Ridgeway Lump of Coal and How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Queen City Drinks – Learning About Beer Allocations (AKA 5 Steps to Buying Zombie Dust)

Queen City Fresh – New Opening: The Eagle, Food & Beer Hall