When at a brewery’s beer release it’s hard to know what to expect – to me it’s still a new experience. Even so, I was genuinely astonished when I ended up in a shiny black SUV with three large bearded men. No, it wasn’t the government. Although, when I first became aware of this trio of burley whiskers, it must be said that I never saw all three of them in the same place together. So, for a while I was convinced that one of them was locked away … sweltering in an undisclosed bunker, wearing a tin foil hat and ready to assume command should anything happened to the other two members.
From the moment I arrived at the brewery I felt I was being watched. Did someone take my photo through the window as I walked to the entrance? Still, I casually meandered to my seat and relaxed to sip on my beer. Halfway through I was told it was time … I needed to leave immediately.
I was given instructions to head to an empty parking lot. As soon as I arrived I was told to get in the SUV. Having no idea where I was going – I was told only that our destination was close – I tried to settle in and relax like I belonged in this situation. True to their word, the trip was short, we arrived and I was escorted inside an ordinary looking house. The caged animal surrounded by war memorabilia might have startled me if it weren’t for the two police style German Shepherds ready to pounce.
I was led in to a dark room, it might have been a bunker, I couldn’t be sure. What was certain is that there was something wrong with the refrigerator against the wall. There was something inside. I couldn’t determine what. As I continued to stare it dawned on me … that was a tap hanging off the ice-box … excitedly I deduced what was inside.
It was beer!
Now most of that story is true, except the bunker and tin foil hat part. Actually, I’m sure they all wear tin foil hats on a daily basis. Who is this mysterious group?
It’s the Hoppy Craftsmen, of course.
If you’ve been to any beer releases in the Phoenix area, a local beer festival or in a park late at night you’ve probably seen and hopefully met at least one member of the Hoppy Craftsmen podcast triad. There is rumor of a fourth but you’ll have to wait for VH1 to come back with Behind the Music for that story. Or perhaps they’re more suited for a Pop Up Video! Hop Up Video? I’ll stop while I’m ahead.
I’m relatively new the digital media scene but sometimes it’s about luck and timing. Soon after I started this blog I was able to attend a social media event called The Blogger’s Lager at Goldwater Brewing Co. Good thing they didn’t ask for proof as I didn’t have any. I felt lost among all the other content creators in that room! Everyone had a sticker, a business card or some sort of fancy camera. I had no idea what I was doing and none of the appropriate trappings, but, I had my social anxiety so I brought that instead.
The first thing that got my attention at this event was a sticker. Check out my Instagram – it’s clear I’m a sucker for a sticker! What really caught my eye was the color. Craft brewing merch, especially the stickers, seem to be going through an emo phase. Everything is black, white and bold. For me, anything with color really catches my eye. I approached the two gentlemen (yes, I’m talking about the Craftsmen – stop laughing) and asked for a sticker. I ended up in a 20-minute conversation with them as if I was catching up with old friends I hadn’t seen in a few years. Immediately I went home, started listening to their podcast and over the next few weeks I caught up on past episodes.
After I started stalk … following them on social media I finally met the third member at a Wren House beer release. No! The meeting had nothing to do with him trying to figure out who the hell was in the background of all his pictures. With a feeling of déjà vu – here I was in another long conversation that felt like I was catching up with an old friend.
Finally, at the Real Wild & Woody beer festival I ran into all three in the same place at the same time. I enjoyed another conversation that was comfortable and natural which felt like I had known these men for years. Again, I was impressed.
These guys give a shit!
The Hoppy Craftsmen aren’t in it for the sweet, sweet podcast money. They love beer and they enjoy interacting with the beer community on a personal level. All three will talk to someone like me with just as much enthusiasm as they would have talking to the Head Brewer at Wilderness while drinking free beer.
What makes their podcast notable is that it’s genuinely authentic conversation. It’s a talk amongst friends – they just decided to record it.
Arizona craft beer has exploded in the last few years but the digital media hasn’t kept pace. It’s growing but it still needs work. There are a few breweries who realize this and are actively looking to work with members of the digital media community like the Hoppy Craftsmen. This makes them extremely important and a vital part of our Arizona craft brew culture. I know! It’s a scary thought, our fate in their hands. Just think of them as Randy Quaid in Independence Day – it will be ok.
This was supposed to be short, I’m going on vacation.
Now for the real story … I was at Wren House for the release of Spellbinder and guess who was first in line, the Hoppy Craftsmen. I chatted with them for a few minutes then headed to the back of the line before it got any longer. As I was waiting to enter the brewery they did decide to take my picture through the window; that part of the story is true. I’m still not sure why but they found it hilarious. Hey, I said the conversations were great I never said anything about being mature. They were planning on going to Wilderness to get the newly released 16 oz. cans of Watermelon Gose. I was halfway through my beer when as they were leaving I heard, “Hurry up! Let’s go to Wilderness.”
Apparently, this day I was part of the crew. When we got to Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. it was closed. Have you ever see their parking lot empty? It’s a bit unnerving. We had mistakenly assumed they would be open early for the Watermelon Gose release. Good thing one of them lives close – we had a place to pass the time waiting for the brewery to open. The German Shepherds were sweet and playful and an adorable beagle was just hanging out in the kennel. I got to try one of their well-crafted home brews off a tap retrofitted to the side of the fridge in the garage. It’s good to know these guys have options if the podcast thing doesn’t work out. We finally could head back to Wilderness where we enjoyed a couple more beers over brew-infused conversation. It felt like I was on one of their podcasts. This spontaneous and fun day was much better than the yard work my wife had planned for me.
Nate, Jeff and Chris are the Hoppy Craftsmen. They support craft beer and are a great source for all things related to Arizona craft beer. Listen to their podcast and if you see them around town introduce yourself, you won’t regret it.
By the way I may have inadvertently joined a rugby team, but, that’s a story for another day.