Craft beer inspires; how a craft brewery could be inspirational

People have asked me rhetorically, how could beer be inspirational? “You want them to drink your beer and be inspired to do something? To think something? What?” a friend asked perplexed. “How does beer inspire?”

Reaching for the stars by Adi Prabowo on flickr

Reaching for the stars by Adi Prabowo on flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

My driving principles don’t have any order of importance per se. But I do usually list them in this order:

  1. Help
  2. Inspire
  3. Create

Mostly, they’re in that order just because it has a good ring to it.

Anyhow, second on the list is “inspire” and I find it the most difficult to conceptualize for a brewery. So here’s a little bit more about how a brewery can inspire.

Craft beer inspires with the product

A friend told me to look into FiftyFifty Brewing Co. He raved about their imperial stout, aged in bourbon barrels, with a wax seal color-coded to match the logo of the company that made the whiskey in the barrels.

Surprisingly, it was difficult to find much online about this infamous beer. Somehow, I was especially surprised because they come from my home state, California.

Way up at the Nevada border, in a small town near Lake Tahoe, there is FiftyFifty Brewing Co. Each year they take their Imperial Stout and age it for about 200 days in used whiskey barrels. Lots of breweries do this, and more are doing it all of the time.

FiftyFifty has something unique going on. They age the beer in barrels from several different distilleries. Bottles are wax sealed, color-coded to match the distillery. Bottles are numbered by hand.

Studio Brew is another brewery using oak barrels. While most breweries use the oak barrels only for aging, Studio Brew recently fermented an Imperial IPA in a 30-year old tequila barrel. They had some weird things going on with spontaneous fermentation, but they’re really excited for the results. “Every sample we take,” says owner Erich Allen, “it’s just mind blowing.”

Studio Brew’s oak aged Imperial IPA won’t be available in California. I will have to check out FiftyFifty’s Eclipse Imperial Stout. Meanwhile, both of these stories inspire me to go to further lengths in crafting an exceptional product.

Speaking of exceptional product. These days, it’s difficult to talk about great craft beer and not hear something about Pliny The Younger. In 2009 Russian River Brewing Co.’s limited release garnered the title of “best beer” based on user reviews at in 2009.

Pliny the Younger is released for only 2 weeks each February. People wait in line for hours to get a maximum of 2 pints. They travel from around the world.

I don’t know that I would wait 5 hours for 16 ounces of liquid. And it isn’t Pliny’s fame that inspires me. The brewer’s commitment to quality, however, does inspire me.

Russian River could make more batches, or make larger batches to sell more of its star character or other supporting cast. They contend that it’s too expensive to be profitable. Even if they lose money on Pliny The Younger, I’m certain the 2-week frenzy and other associated throngs help Russian River’s bottom line.

Regardless, they limit production to ensure quality. It’ a difficult beer to make, and they don’t want to compromise.

Craft beer inspires with actions

Product isn’t the only way to inspire. Some breweries don’t limit their activities strictly to making beer product.

Nothing is more inspiring than space travel! Ninkasi Space Program sent brewer’s yeast into space with hopes of making beer from it. The first mission resulted in dead yeast. The capsule was lost for a short time, and the yeast died in the desert heat. NSP is not deterred. They will try again. Someday, we will drink space beer.

It’s not so much when the customer feels my product in her hand, or tastes my product in her mouth that I want her to feel inspired, but when she even thinks of the company. When someone thinks of my brewery, I want to her to be inspired to be a better person.

Great companies don’t just make and sell a product, they inspire others to greatness. Apple isn’t just about computers, they’re about challenging the status quo. Nike hardly even talks about shoes. To inspire is to truly connect with someone.

For more about higher aspirations in business, I highly recommend the book: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. It helped to really bring to life and affirm some of my thoughts on my higher aspirations in business.

Am I just delusional, or naïve? What do you think? Leave your comments below.


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    Drinks beer, quit his job, planning to start a brewery. I try to write every week about something in my life relating to my pursuit to start a brewery. Topics include: entrepreneurship, beer, leadership, and productivity.