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