Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Barons Craft Beer Dream Jobs: Beer Educator

Chances are if you're a beer geek, you've thought of working in the industry as a brewer, bottle shop owner, rare beer taster, etc. Being that I'm in the market for a new job and am waiting anxiously to hear back about a couple of opportunities, I've spent a lot of time contemplating my future and what my options are. This has led my mind to wander to the "what if" of what my craft beer dream job would be. Over the next few weeks some of the Beer Barons will talk about what they would want to do, if given the opportunity.

Since my dream job doesn't necessarily exist (at least locally), I want to demonstrate its need by providing an analogy.

Imagine that you're a kid again and you've never been to the library (maybe the latter isn't too hard to imagine). Up until now you've only "read" picture books, but one of your friends says there's all these books filled with awesome stories, characters, places, and knowledge; the catch is that you have to go to this library to check them out (literally). So you go to this place and you're immediately overwhelmed by all the books. Being new to this you have no clue what authors or genres you like, so you start picking things off the shelf randomly because the covers and blurb on the back look and sound interesting. You take them home, read them a bit, and discover you don't like them, so you go back. Again you sift through all the books blindly. Luckily this time another patron walks by and notices your perplexed look and offers some reading recommendations. While this is helpful, they can't tell you why they liked those books, they "just do." With no other options you take them home, but again the books aren't doing it for you and you're tempted to go back to picture books. You start to think "wouldn't it be great if the librarian, book publishers, or even the authors were around to help educate me on the different genres, writing styles, and authors I might like?"

To the uninitiated, this is what entering the craft beer world can be like. There's a lot to take in and without guidance it can be too much. If you haven't figured it out yet the library is the bar, bottle shop, etc.; the books are beers; the librarian is your server or clerk; the publisher are your local distributors; and finally the authors are the breweries.

In a lot of craft beer communities the librarians, publishers, and authors are in the "libraries" constantly educating people, but in my opinion this is an area where the Indy craft beer industry needs work. I've felt for awhile that education is one of the keys to growing a healthy craft beer community. Outside of the great events our friends at Girl's Pint Out do and the handful of obscure events that happen locally, I struggle to recall any regularly scheduled "beer education" events. There's a wealth of expertise in this community, but it largely stays locked in those individual's brains or internally with the organization they represent. If you're lucky you'll get to hear some of it during a tour or at a homebrew class. If you look around the country, breweries and bars regularly put on events educating about beer styles, pairing foods with beer, glassware, and a whole host of other topics. People that are educated on something are less likely to be scared of it, more likely to be engaged with the community, and will explore more. My point is that the local industry needs to be more involved with the local community's craft beer education.

I'd love to be that person that helps coordinate, develop, and deliver beer education. Not only is my craft beer dream job something I'd enjoy doing, it's something I'm qualified to do (you listening industry professionals?). I've done science education research and training for the last 8-9 years, so why not switch out the "science" for "beer"? What I would like to do is help find out what the local community knows and doesn't know (research and assessment!), what they want to know (or should know), and figure out the best and most exciting ways to deliver the education. There's a lot that can be done in that space and I think this community really needs it.

So if there's anyone out there that wants to hire me as a "beer education/outreach specialist" I'm your guy!

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