Anytime I do an interview the same question always gets asked. “You guys all seem like friends in the beer industry, even though you are technically in competing businesses. What’s that all about?”
As I’m writing this it’s been just 20 hours since I received the news that our Head Brewer Eric was hit by a semi truck while cycling in Portland with his girlfriend. Eric is okay (as is his girlfriend Andrea). I always hate writing a lead in sentence like that knowing that people’s hearts might sink a touch before realizing that the worst case scenario didn’t happen, but I really didn’t know how else to put it. Apologies.
Eric was airlifted to a hospital in Portland (I’m not sure which one) but never lost consciousness. From chatting with Andrea (I haven’t spoked to Eric yet) he has “messy breaks in his leg” and will need multiple surgeries as well as skin grafts. But he’s okay. He’s alive. Which is something you don’t get to say a lot when you hear “semi truck” and “bicycle” in the same sentence.
Luckily we have 2 incredibly well trained and talented brewers that will pick up the slack. For those of you not in the biz a Head Brewer’s job is less hands on and more management; ingredient ordering, scheduling, budgeting and other long term items rather than the day to day process of making the beer. On the outside you won’t notice a difference, Steel & Oak’s beers won’t change while Eric recovers. My admin workload is now a lot heavier but hey that’s what owning a small business is all about.
But back to the original point of this post. Since Eric’s accident I’ve received numerous emails from craft breweries around the lower mainland asking how they can help. “Can we send you a brewer to take some of the workload off?” “Do you want me to swing by on the weekend and clean your kegs so your brewers don’t have to work 6 days a week?” “How can we support you?” I bet there isn’t one craft brewery in BC that wouldn’t offer up help of some sort when another brewery is in need.
And that’s what I love the most about this industry. We are all running small businesses where little things have a larger impact on us than at Molson or Labatts. There is a camaraderie around that. We want to see our friends succeed. We hurt when they hurt, we feel joy when they do. That’s what it’s like when you are part of something bigger than a bunch of small businesses working independently. That’s what it’s like when you are part of a family. And that’s one thing the macro breweries will never have on us. They spend time trying to figure out how to beat each other while we spend time helping and encouraging each other so that we can grow our industry collectively.
I want to thank all the breweries that have already offered us their support. I’m so happy to be in an industry with such fantastic and kind people who would work an 80 hour week (at another business!) if it meant helping a friend in need, and I’m thankful that our Head Brewer will eventually get to create beer again.
Hug a brewer today.