During my tenure as the head of U.S. operations for Warsteiner, the German management team attempted to centralize global marketing and decision making for the brewery. This was a time consuming process which required me to make multiple trips to Germany for face-to-face meetings with the owner and her team. While we disagreed on many issues, at the end of the evening we all congregated at the bar to enjoy a cold Warsteiner. Though the meetings were often contentious, those evenings spent enjoying beers were enjoyed by all and many friendships were made that continue still today.
Simply put, what makes the beer industry special is the beer. Beer is the vehicle by which many extraordinary moments and relationships are created both within and outside the industry. There is not a meeting or a convention that does not end over beers. There was a bar at the U.S. Warsteiner corporate office which enabled us to all enjoy a beer at the end of the day. For many years, wholesalers opened their hospitality rooms for employees to have a cold one after work. Coors Brewery had taps in the lunchroom for employees to enjoy Coors beer. Unfortunately, the days of hospitality rooms are gone, but the relationships are still being created.
It is not uncommon for friendships to develop over a cold beer, whether it is in college, while serving in the military, or working to perfect one’s career, most social events include beer. Beer is often the means by which great friendships are created. I think back to the years and friendships that have come and gone, those made both in the industry and out, and inevitably these friendships were formed over beers.
These posts have highlighted a number of outstanding beer industry heroes who have passed on. The memories of such great beer professionals as: Paul Murray; Albert Cramer; Diane Fall; Pat McEntee; Jim Barrett; Paul Harvey; and Scott DeMartine revolved not so much around their expertise, but around those afternoons and evenings where beers were shared over industry talks. Great times and great memories. These relationships have become more meaningful as the years have passed. Some people leave the beer industry and move on, but often the friendships continue and grow throughout the years. Often when one reconnects with past friends, it is over a cold beer!
The beer industry is changing quickly, more so now than ever before. The magnitude of the seltzer segment is yet to be determined, but rest assured those real, long-term friendships will continue to be created over cold beers. That glue will remain intact.
Remember, the most valuable antiques are dear old friends.
In memory of my close friend, and the one with whom I shared my first beers, Dennis Koustoubardis.