We are More Than Beer, Beer is More Than Us

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There’s an undeniable truth I have needed to come to terms with in recent years, despite what my loving mother and father may tell me otherwise.

I will never be the most famous Bryan Roth, let alone the most famous within a 12-mile radius.

That honor probably goes to Bryan Roth, professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, literally down the road from where I live.

There’s also Bryan Roth, co-founder of Geocaching HQ, which popularized the adventurous activity of finding hidden items placed all over the world.

There is also Bryan Roth, the poetfootball star and highlight reel lacrosse player.

Somewhere along the line, there’s also me, Bryan Roth, the beer lover.

Even through shared name, there is a defining story for every Bryan Roth, highlighted by a passion in our lives that makes each of us different. But unlike the easily descriptive terms that separate us from one another, we are still complicated human beings with depth beyond what the friends, family and the public may initially see.

I thought about this recently when I was told by another, in a moment of anger, “there’s not much to you beyond the beer stuff.” It was a purposeful shot. A claim at my shallowness, as if I am solely driven by a one-track mind of barley, hops and yeast.

These things do take up much of my wandering thoughts each day, but so do other passions, like health and exercise, politics, movies, sports and, of course, reading and writing. I love beer, but I also have other aspirations beyond the sensory impact of a tropical IPA or roasty stout. I want to grow as a human being. Every day.

Which is why I can’t fault the recent deluge of business news in the beer world, as breweries make longterm plans to expand their own horizons – and distribution footprints.

Change is coming to the industry. It always has been.

  • In July 2014, Lagunitas’ Tony Magee said he wanted to build five breweries across the United States
  • In Oct. 2013, Saint Archer made it clear they wanted to scale up – and fast.
  • In 2011, Dogfish Head began a five-year, $45 million expansion to more than double the brewery’s capacity. Now they’re building a $5 million brewpub and expanding their spirits line beyond their Rehoboth Beach brewpub and distillery.

So when each has announced in the past two weeks a change in their business due to outside investment, the knee-jerk reaction may be to chirp away on Twitter, decrying our beloved brands’ fall from grace. But, as many continue to point out, beer is a business and there are other issues at stake, whether that be succession plans or funding or simply a desire to be bigger, better and more efficient.

Beer is an intimate thing. More than a product or good, but a pathway to emotions and memories created and shared with others. We hold our favorite brews almost as dearly as those we share them with, which is why it’s no surprise these changes feel so personal to us.

But we can’t forget the industry is personal to them: the brewers and owners making these decisions.

Ultimately, there is more at stake for these folks than our feelings. They have their own hopes, dreams and aspirations. Maybe money can’t buy happiness, but it certainly can help enhance a business plan, let alone provide security for a person who has put their heart and soul into an industry they love. They want to grow and change just like you and I.

Businesses aren’t people, but they are run by them.

Which is why, during a time of crazy news for us Homebrewers Association card carrying, hop loving beer enthusiasts, I try to keep it all in perspective.

We are more than the beer we love, but the beer we love is more than us, too.

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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