Friday, September 3, 2010

Invite a New Kid to Sit at Your Lunch Table.

I bumped into Sam Eslinger last week at the Harvest organic food store in Winston, Oregon. It might have been chance, but Harvest--among its other strengths--has the best beer fridge in that little town and is the only homebrew shop. Thus it is part of the Beer World, and we all know the Beer World is disproportionately small.

As it happens, Sam is one of the new kids in school, trying to make friends. Friends who buy beer. You see, Sam recently started up a real honest-to-goodness one-barrel nanobrewery. That was his word for it. I told him one definition floating around for nanobrewery is one whose production is so small that it's not possible to make a living off it. The look on his face told me what he thought of that definition. "No day job," he said. "This is it."

His brewing resume includes work at the B.J.'s brewpub chain and, more recently, Lost Coast. He said he felt the need to grow and do his own thing. "I just got tired of brewing for bosses. ... It's like being a really good chef and cooking at Applebee's."

With apologies to Applebee's, I suspect Sam may be a very good chef.

A few places in the Winston-Roseburg area are selling his Draper Brewing beers, made in nearby Tenmile. I got to taste a few of them at Harvest--a cream ale, an IPA, and a chocolate stout. Hard to evaluate fully on a few ounces each, but I'll say that all were well above average. Dryish and well attenuated. Plenty of character. Drinkable. And those are always the main items on my checklist.

It occurs to me that an independent craft brewer--especially a nanobrewer--needs more than a good set of chops to make it. He or she also needs some luck. Marketing. Distribution. Hype.

In short: Lots of new friends. Everyone, meet Sam. Don't worry. He's cool.

This post is my contribution to the Session. Go read more.

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