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Foot Meet Mouth

I’ve met Garrett Oliver before and he was quite a nice guy.  He signed my book and a bottle for a friend.  After the event he went to a local bar and sat down and talked with myself and a few friends for at least an hour.  He didn’t have to do that but he did.

But Garrett is a very outspoken person too.  Maybe more so than any other people in the craft beer community.  So it stung me when I heard about the things he said about Cigar City about a year ago by saying that their Maduro Brown tasted like “dime store chocolate” and that their Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Brown Ale was a blatant rip off of Brooklyn’s one time brewed Cookie Jar Porter.  Despite that he was dead wrong on that accusation it didn’t need to be said.  Where is the community in saying something like that?

Now Mr. Oliver has opened his mouth again about things that really didn’t need to be said in this interview with Craft Business Daily.

Conversely, I run into some craft brewers who say, ‘We don’t get respect from the local press.’ And, well, could that be because you’re dressed like a small child? And you’ve been trying to disabuse people of the idea that you’re little kids playing with fun toys? And you’re a professional. Well, all these little things matter. How do you communicate?

This to me is absolutely absurd.  Okay so you want to dress in a suit and straw hat at every engagement you go to, fine.  That’s your choice to do so.  But we all don’t have to follow suit.  Pun intended?

Him being a music fan I would think he would understand that.  Punk rock took the world by storm in the 80s by not conforming and not dressing the part that musicians in the past made it seem you had to do.  They didn’t give a fuck and did what they loved.  They showed their passion and art through the notes that they played.  Not in the threads that they wear.  The same rings true for many craft brewers as they show their passion in the suds that they brew.

I can name numerous craft brewers that I never see in suit and tie at events.  And many of them are from some of the biggest breweries in the country.  So are you saying these people don’t deserve respect for their product just because they want to wear a t-shirt and jeans?  Because they want to wear flip flops instead of loafers?

I’m sorry Garrett but step down off that soap box.  Like I said if you want to wear your suits then go for it.  But don’t for one second think that because other brewers don’t want to that it makes them or their art inferior.

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9 Comments

  • Reply toad squalor

    Brewers do labor intensive work that requires wearing clothes that can handle stains, tears, and the potential for burning; that work doesn’t stop when the brewing is finished, and often these brewers (at least at smaller breweries) are busy at events doing a lot of the back room work. Garrett Oliver may either have staff to do this work for him or feel comfortable having to take care of minor problems that may get messy while wearing a suit, but not many folks have that luxury. I understand both sides of it, but honestly, if the brewer wants to project the image of being down-to-earth and ready for the hard work of brewing and equipment maintenance/troubleshooting on a moment’s notice while at events, that’s fine by me.

    If he were specifically talking about, say, press junkets where the brewers weren’t required to provide any samples or manage staff that are handling product, I could understand the requirement, but a suit isn’t necessary to project an image of professionalism, especially not with craft beer.

    September 22, 2011 at 6:28 am
  • Reply Josh Lazy Magnolia

    Agreed. However we need to keep in mind that in going off and doing its own thing punk rock also alienated allot of people and it didnt get allot of respect from press…not at first. and even still today. I think its great to go and do your own thing (one of our more important fundamental rights and freedoms in the USA)…and yes brewers have work related requirements for dress. But if you want the respect of others in influential positions (like the press) you kinda have to play by their rules, at least a little bit. When I was in college I shaved my hair into a mohawk and died it bright pink…I loved it. But when i graduated I knew I had to shave it or risk not getting the job that I needed. If you need to work with others you have to consider how they will perceive you. Right or wrong its just a fact of society that some will judge you on your appearance. If you want to both do your own thing and work effectively with respect in society you have to actively seek a balance. Im not saying its right for Mr. Oliver to come down so hard on craft beer, or make statements that might be hypocritical. But from a business perspective he has a point. If you want to play the game there are rules to follow…and unfortunately people from outside craft beer (ie press, other businesses) might not understand our ways of doing things.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:47 am
  • Reply Sam

    Mike,

    I see nothing wrong with Oliver’s opinion. As a matter of fact I think he is 100% correct. We live in a world where image plays a big role in life, sounds shallow? Perhaps, but its reality.

    If you are a CEO you have to play the part of such, therefore be prepared to dress/act accordingly. After all you are representing your product and you want to make a good first impression. Sure, no fancy suit is going to make your product (in this case) taste any better when it really tastes like crap.

    But what happens if you really have a good product and decide to launch it to a new audience that has never heard of you before, but you choose to go out and present yourself dressed like a bum? Are people really going to take you seriously or even be willing to drink your stuff after that first impression?

    Like you said, Oliver is outspoken, abd although I’m not really sure to whom that “shot” was intended to anyhow, I read the whole article and he makes some very good points.

    -Cheers.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:35 am
  • Reply Mike

    Toad – Thanks for reading. I can definitely understand under certain situations it may be needed but I do think that more often than not they don’t need to get dressed up like you said.

    Josh – You make some good points. Yes punk was/is never been truly accepted. I’m looking at it more as a thing of doing what you love and not caring if people like it or not. As long as you are happy with what you are doing then why conform. I was the same way when I played in bands.

    Sam – I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this. I certainly do not believe a CEO has to play the game by presenting themselves in any fancy fashion. Many CEOs (even of huge companies now) don’t do this and never have. Steve Jobs comes to mind. That guy never conformed to what people wanted in the tech industry and he did just fine looking like a “bum.” This is a choice. You can choose to run your company that way (not even Garrett’s company also) but you don’t have to. Is it easier? Maybe but others would rather live their lives easier than having to put on a suit and smile and pretend to be something they are not.

    If you want to play the “game” of conforming than go for it. I for one never have and never will and I know there are many brewers that feel the same way. My point is not to tell others what to do with their dreams and passions. I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if I told you how to write your blog. And I won’t. It’s yours to do as you see fit. I want to have fun, say fuck from time to time and be me. No one has the right to tell me how to do my business. It’s my choice and my choice alone.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:53 am
  • Reply Billy Broas

    I don’t think brewers should have to dress like Garrett and I don’t think they’re expected to. They’re brewers after all, not investment bankers.

    That said, if they show up for an interview with the media or meet with a potential partner to discuss a deal, they shouldn’t show up covered in yeast cake and reeking of dried beer. You simply won’t be taken seriously or respected. “The Garrett” shouldn’t be the standard though.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:33 am
    • Reply Mike

      Billy – I know what you mean. I’m not expecting them to be dressed like they are when they are actually brewing. Sweating, covering in crushed grain dust, etc. I’m just talking when they are out and about.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:58 am
  • Reply Sam

    Mike,

    A suit and tie is not what I’m referring to, and I really doubt that’s what Oliver meant either. It’s about appearance in general, especially at a public event, tasting, or press release. It’s beyond ridiculous to think you are expected to have that kind of dress code in the business of craft beer.

    You mention Steve Jobs, which I had a feeling you would, but he has been wearing a black turtle neck and jeans for pretty much his later years in Apple, and it has become his trademark. In the case of Jobs he’s already reached “icon” status with Apple and I seriously doubt somebody cares what he wears anymore. The Apple brand it’s already established and so is he.

    I’m not about conforming either, its good to break the rules and be different but craft beer is a business after all and appearances play an important role in the way your product is presented to the public. Nowhere in that article was there mentioned how/what to do, he simply talked about how some other breweries have expressed the lack of press they are getting and he simply stated his opinion as to why, although I can see how it can rub people the wrong way. My point wasn’t to prove you wrong, just to side with Oliver’s opinion since I happen to agree with what he is saying.

    Anyway, everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, and in this case we have to agree to disagree. Thanks for replying, I got my dose of quarrel for the day.

    -Cheers.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:17 pm
  • Reply Rob

    I don’t know about him dissing Cigar City’s beers, but it sounds like he was abusing his power and influence even if he hated those beers. As for copying, what’s wrong with that? The best brewers just do it better even with similar products and styles and ingredients. I mean, I love their Black Chocolate Stout, but even when Garrett made it over a decade ago, someone else was prob already doing it. He just did it better. He should feel flattered.

    Back to the abusing his power a little bit. In August last year I published the nutritional content of Brooklyn’s beers here http://www.dailybeerreview.com/2010/08/brooklyn-brewery-beer-nutritionall.html I published it to help them out since I could tell from my Google Analytics that tons of people wanted to know. that post still gets over 100 hits per month.

    But in February of this year, I couldn’t understand why that post was getting a lot of attention from Facebook (Since I don’t really Facebook). Enter the post by the brewery’s Operations Manager… He basically reposted from my blog with a link. Garrett took the time to comment, be sarcastic, suggest my info was incorrect and not complete, put it down, make me look stupid and then use some unknown phrase “fish detector” The operations manager then got a chuckle at my expense too.

    So two executives from a powerful brewery attacking me for helping them out. With their exact data that I received directly from the brewery. When I told the operations manager that, I basically got an apology and some covering up for Garrett. He also removed the post but not before I took a picture. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-za575JDczps/ToSHHyGkyFI/AAAAAAAAC3E/kgjZJA3ahTQ/s1600/Brooklyn+Brewery+Facebook.jpg

    Anyway, Mike, I met Garrett the same day as you did and I thought it was awesome. It bothered me to feel belittled by an important guy for no reason. I’d have preferred he put me down and challenged me after I said Brooklyn Black Ops sucks donkey balls.

    Later.

    September 29, 2011 at 11:12 am
  • Reply Mike

    Rob – As for the copying he is just plain wrong. Cigar City release Oatmeal Raisin Cookie months before Cookie Jar Porter was even announced. Wayne from Cigar City proved that in an open letter to Garrett on RateBeer.

    I really don’t get why they were bashing that if it is information directly from them. So they are maybe not happy with what the lab found out, but why bash you? That’s like shooting the messenger.

    I’m pretty sure the fish detector comment is directed towards the beers being vegan. Isinglass is commonly used in brewing to help the clarity of beers and comes from fish swim bladders. So any beer using that is technically not vegan.

    Again it just seems like he wants everyone to do what he thinks is the right thing instead of everyone making their own decision what is right and wrong for themselves because they aren’t always the same from one person to another.

    Good rant Rob.

    September 29, 2011 at 11:34 am
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