"Stand your ground and pour": How Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver saved GABF

GarrettOliverGabf2.jpg
Brooklyn Brewery Flickr page

Fellow Brewers,

"Wow, I can't believe you're actually here pouring your beer!" I hear that every year. This week will mark my 21st year judging the Great American Beer Festival. It will also be my 21st year pouring my beer at the GABF. After all this time, I know a few things about brewers and about GABF. Frankly, we go mostly to see each other and to taste each other's beer. A lot of us see each other maybe twice a year, and that can make it hard to spend hours stuck behind your booth, saying the same thing over and over again.

But let me tell you all something. Getting to be a craft brewer, today, at the most exciting time for beer that the world has ever seen, is a true privilege. The people who gave you that privilege are the people who come to GABF. They come to GABF not just for tiny sips of tasty beers -- they are there to see YOU. Yes, you. They are there to ask you questions, to tell you, you things, to have their pictures taken with their favorite brewers, maybe even to tell you that you inspired them to get into brewing. When they come to see you, WILL YOU BE THERE?

In my 21 years, I have worked my booth for hours of every single session of GABF. I'm older than most of you, and I'll be honest -- this doesn't get any easier. At the end of each session, I know that my knees are going to hurt and my voice is going to be shot, and I'm going to be starving. That's the way it is. It's once a year, people, for a few hours. It's time for you to pay back the devotion that's given you the opportunity to do the very best thing in the world, in the very best place, and at the very best time. SO PLEASE STAND YOUR GROUND AND POUR.

I'm not saying that we all have to martyr ourselves. I want dinner too, I want to come by your booth and taste your beer, and I'll see you later down at Falling Rock. The volunteers are wonderful, but if you walk away from your booth and leave it without a brewer all evening, it's just plain wrong. So don't be a wuss. Stand proud behind your beer and do what we came to do. And when your knees start to hurt, remember how damned lucky you are to be here.

See you on the floor,
Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster


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22 comments
Michael564
Michael564

This year was an incredibly different experience than any of the previous 8 that I've attended GABF. Working behind the tables as a "Beer Geek", I met with every brewer and bewery rep in my aisle. Great people, all of them, and they enjoyed taking the time to instruct me about their beers and anything else they thought special about their breweries. I carried a notebook and pen, took notes, and then passed those notes on to the volunteers pouring, so they were informed as well. We rarely had an instance where 'customers' came up with general questions about the beers that we, the volunteers, were not able to answer.So, thank you Mr. Oliver, for rallying the troops and helping change the atmosphere of GABF from Frat Party to Beer Tasting. And maybe, just maybe, after meeting 10 times over 8 years, you'll remember me next time.  But maybe not... :-)

 

Lumbergs_lackey
Lumbergs_lackey

I was so thrilled to meet Garrett Oliver and have him pour me some of my favorite beers. Great piece of writing by Mr Shikes and great interview. I couldn't agree with the points any more. While many are attending GABF to drink as much beer as possible and enjoy the friends and revelry, there is also a huge contingent of beer geeks who are there to try unavailable-in-their-hometown beers and learn about their favorite breweries. I cant tell you how disappointing it is to arrive at one of your favorite brewery's tables only to find a clueless volunteer who knows nothing about the beers they're pouring.

ladybeerlover
ladybeerlover

Also - might I suggest to Mr. Oliver that when pouring he try some of those gel kitchen mats.  My knees and back kill me standing in my kitchen, but those gel mats help tremendously. 

 

He should think about buying some and using them when he is pouring.  I think you can even get them at Costco now.

ladybeerlover
ladybeerlover

Thank you Mr. Oliver!!  I haven't been able to attend the GABF since 2010, but it was awful.  So many people at the booths who knew absolutely nothing about the beer.  Nothing worse than asking a question and getting a vacant stare and "uhhhhhhh" in return. 

 

And aside, the BB Chocolate Stout is very, very tasty.  One of the first that I could easily get in the area I lived in pre-2000. 

cerna348
cerna348

LOVE IT! Thank you so much Garrett Oliver. I found that to be not just the biggest difference, but also a huge improvement from last years GABF. Last year I saw Jim Koch walking around and of course Sam Calagione, but I only talked to two owners and I left a little disappointed at the end of the night last year from so little interaction from brewery representatives. This year I met many many more owners, brewers, and general brewery representatives. I love the ability to not just receive a pour but interact and talk to brewery representatives. I feel much more connected with many of those beers and breweries because they advocated to me. That connection is much more valuable than any advertising. 

Reinkster
Reinkster

@CharliePapazian He makes a good argument, but that makes it difficult for brewers to taste other brewers beers!

EZembeck
EZembeck

@adamnason Yah I agree GO can b a pretentious self-serving prick...but I agree with him here. Premier fest in the US needs more brewer rep

craftbeercoach
craftbeercoach

Garrett mentioned "The Purpose of Beer is People" back in July at the US Beer Bloggers and I set out to get him to explain that further here- http://craftbeercoach.com/?p=456.

 

As for the message, I wholeheartedly agree. Craft beer is more than beer. It is community and the people that make up the community. Without the people bringing the innovation, passion, self sacrifice, and tireless energy beer would be stuck where it was about 20 years ago.

 

Personally, the hands-down best beer festival experience I have had was The Festival US this past June. 300 brewers came from all over the world to personally man their table for much of 3 sessions. If they were not at their own table, you could find them sampling beers at other brewer's tables in a rather intimate venue, or hang with many of them at after parties. I talked directly to dozens of brewers over the course of 2 days. I really hope it becomes a repeat festival but I can imagine how hard it was to coordinate 300 brewers being in the same place.

 

There will always be a need for primarily drinking oriented events but I hope we keep adding more intimate, interactive, and educational events directly involving brewery staff.

beermamaC
beermamaC

@ColoBeerMan @brooklynbrewery this was a fantastic change to see this year! I loved talking to so many people directly related to the beer!

millerjam1
millerjam1

I agree with this man totally. As a beer geek myself, I didn't enjoy going last year and not getting to talk with any brewers themselves. Wasn't really a fun time. But this year was totally different. I was able to talk geek to the folks that made the beer and listen to their passions around their product. Thanks to this man for sending this letter!

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

A great brewer and a great writer. Check out "The Brewmaster's Table" for a great book about beer and food.

 

Next year, I plan to wear a t-shirt that says "Stand your ground and drink."

milleralexjames
milleralexjames

Great article, and very cool of Mr. Oliver to be there for his beer - I'm bummed I didn't make it by BB's booth, but I have been lucky enough to get to the actual brewery in Brookyln before, they make a great beer!

Brews_Up
Brews_Up

@ColoBeerMan @brooklynbrewery @craftbeer Great article. Thx for posting. Garrett is great example for all brewers and drinkers alike.

NJBeerNerd
NJBeerNerd

@ColoBeerMan @BrooklynBrewery thats' awesome. It was pretty impressive seeing Sam @dogfishbeer w/ a sign saying "Lost my voice"

joshmishell
joshmishell

@ColoBeerMan It's stilly that a long letter should make people pour beer. When I worked at a brewery, we had it staffed the whole time!

adamnason
adamnason

@EZembeck think you misread my tweet. not calling Garrett anything. just think headline claiming he "saved" fest is overkill.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

 @millerjam1 Mr. Oliver can perhaps take credit for getting brewers to spend more time at their booths, but I think I remember reading that this is also the first year that the BA required breweries to have representatives at the booths for a minimum of an hour for each of the four sessions.

ColoBeerMan
ColoBeerMan

@NJBeerNerd @brews_up @exposurebrewing Thanks for reading!

EZembeck
EZembeck

@adamnason True. Tho GO can b a polarizing figure. I like half his views & hate half of them myself.

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