I’m baaaack! ***
The past couple days have been challenging for a lot of people. One of the things I double down on whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or sad or bewildered or [enter predicate adjective of your choice here] is gratitude. Some days, I may only manage to be grateful for beer (or running water)! The past month or so, I’ve had a great number of people, businesses, organizations and things for which to be grateful, but not a lot of time to share with you, my loyal readers!
So, take a break from the “noise” and please allow me to thank a few folks.
PBS exists to support women in beer; more specifically, they provide educational opportunities for women in beer through seminars, peer-support, mentoring and scholarships. About two months ago, I saw a post for one of their more audacious scholarships called Beer, Bratwurst & Beyond: a trip to Bavaria/Germany with most expenses paid, including airfare. I plan at some point to write more in detail about the application process, but I submitted the day the application was due and gave no more thought about it. Typically, the PBS scholarships I have considered were a few hundred dollars (keep in mind that as a writer, I wouldn’t typically qualify for their advanced brewing programs), so I truly doubted I would ever receive a scholarship worth several thousand dollars. However, a few weeks after the submission deadline, I received a call from Kris at PBS letting me know I had been selected alongside five other amazing women! We have a “pay it forward” component, and I hope to be working on a piece for publication along with sister scholarship recipient Monica Mondragon (a laboratory/QC manager and assistant barrel manager at Santa Fe Brewing Co.), whose technical expertise I will heavily lean on in the article we’re writing together.
But I never would have undertaken this trip without the underwriting of PBS. So thanks to these women, and look for a NYC chapter launched by yours truly in the coming weeks/months! (If you are a woman in beer, please become a member here; dues are only $35/year or $25 if you’re still a student.)
#2. Tom Conrad and Treasures of Europe Tours
While the tour itself was, in fact, open to men, the only males on the trip turned out to be our German-speaking bus driver, Karl-Heinz, and our tour guide, Tom Conrad. Tom was affable and unflappable. He really went over and beyond to make this a great tour. While there were a few hitches, he was flexible enough to make allowances for a group of women who didn’t always want to stick to the letter of the tour’s itinerary. Without expressly asking him, I got the sense that Tom is a one-man show (or nearly) at his company, and I am all about supporting the independent business person, especially now that our political climate is bound to shift in favor of ever larger corporate entities! Please please please… if you are looking to do a tour (he has what appears to be an awesome Christmas markets tour—
Side note: I visited a German Christmas market many moons ago and its beauty literally made me cry in ecstasy… full disclosure: I had just returned from living in the Soviet Union for four months, so my emotions were highly charged for any stimuli!
—so even if beer is not your object, there’s plenty more adventure that awaits you), hit him up!
This quaint village in Bavaria pulled out all the stops for us… they even threw a parade! No, not really. I mean, the parade was real but it was for their yearly Kirchweih festival, an annual celebration of the town’s church raising (that feels more like an autumnal May Day, replete with music and maypole!). However, they put us up front and made us the signature guests so that it did truly feel as though the parade had been created just for us.
Spalt mayor Udo Weingart and deputy mayor Alfred Zottmann were a delight as our self-appointed ambassadors. While the parade was for the town, they made us guests of honor (of which not the least benefit was we received the first pours from their ultra-fresh—and freshly made—Saumarkt Bier). We were also given a private tour of the Spalt Hops Museum, a lovely German dinner and access to a rockabilly-style concert in the beer hall later that evening. All-in-all, the city set the bar high on what to expect from German hospitality.
Who knew a lesser-known founding father could have such an impact on the larger beer world! The makers of Sam Adams have an on-going relationship with one of the largest hops farms in the Hallertau region, and the folks at Stanglmair family farm offered up one of the best—and least expected—visits of the entire trip when on a drizzly post-harvest day, Stefan Stanglmair (a 21st-generation hops farmer; yes! you read that right: his family has been farming hops since 1722!) gave us a rousing tour followed up by a to-die-for food-and-beer-pairing dinner that capped off a week of already over-the-top-amazing experiences. It’s wonderful that a company, which has grown so dramatically over the decades that the Brewers Association has had to change its own definition of “craft beer,” gives back to the community that loves beer so much.
As Germany’s Barth-Haas Group sponsored the outing and dinner, I thank them heartily for what was possibly the highlight of my trip. (And as I plan to write more on this topic with Monica, I’ll just leave it at that!)
#5. Various German Trade Organizations
While the list of breweries we visited is too extensive for the purposes of this article, I would be remiss if I didn’t single out two of Germany’s trade organizations that generously gave of their time (and possibly monetary support, a rare overture towards Americans from the heart of Europe): Private Brauereien Bayern (Bavarian Association of Private Breweries) and Managing Director Oliver Dawid, who helped lead an animated discussion over lunch at Pyraser Bier (note: German website); and Bierland Oberfranken (Association of Breweries in Upper Franconia) and Managing Director Bernhard Sauer. Vielen Dank!
#6. Various American Beer-Related Businesses
Finally, last but not least, are a trio of other breweries that helped support the tour and a three more businesses that work with brewers to get the beer made, stored, delivered or otherwise served up to a loving beer public. They include:
- BSG Craft Brewing
- Craft Beer Importers Canada Inc.
- Lagunitas Brewing Co.
- Oskar Blues Brewery (North Carolina)
- Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
- Thielmann – The Container Company
If you’ve read thus far, you may wonder if I’m being paid to mention any of these folks. I am not. I am under no obligation to them whatsoever. But at a time when there’s a lot of anger and finger-pointing going on, it’s important to remember to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. That’s the kind of debt that takes nothing from the recipient in terms of payback: A little time, a little open-heartedness, a hand held out to shake in earnest. And a robust, “Thank you. Thank you very much.” (Cue Elvis, as I’m leaving the building.)
Please check back (or subscribe by email at left—scroll down for mobile—so I pop up in your inbox to notify you of my infrequent updates!) for more on my German adventure.
*** So, here’s the thing about being a freelancer: You have to work to get paid. I take some umbrage at being called a “blogger,” because the reality is this is my blog. Look how often I am here, which is not a lot. I have other blogs, too, and I’m not there much either. I don’t have the luxury to be a blogger very often, as I am working as a beer journalist. Sometimes I have a bit of time to jot down some notes, but if I have a great idea for a beer-related article, I’m trying to pitch it to a publication that nets me more than this humble blog ever could. But I have missed you all, and I continue to be grateful for your attention and support!