Vail Ale with Altitude column: Craft beer camaraderie
Ryan Summerlin February 5, 2013
Small breweries make beer drinking a personal experience. Whether it’s at the nano brewery down the street, or in a brewpub in a favorite mountain town, people can enjoy craft beer on a level of intimacy not afforded by multinational and mass-marketed brands. Craft brewers have the opportunity to connect with customers on a one-on-one basis. It could happen at the tasting room, a beer festival, or simply by answering an email from an inquisitive home brewer seeking advice.Relationships matter in the craft brewing world. Maintaining good relations with customers and accounts is crucial to sales and growth, certainly, but that is a rather dry way of looking at it. The bottom line is that people who have good experiences are likely to share their feelings with others, and are even more likely to share bad experiences. Craft brewers have a chance to really make an immediate and personal impact when it comes to their customers, rather than leaving things to mass media blitzes, concert tour sponsorship and stadium naming rights.Tommyknocker Brewery is proud of the lasting relationships it has established over the years. We have been fortunate to create unique beers for special accounts in Colorado and even in other states. One of the beers in our yearround portfolio, Hop Strike Black IPA, began as a one-off creation for Alabama Beer Week, for instance. After receiving rave reviews both there and at our pub in Idaho Springs, Hop Strike became a mainstay. The brewery also strives to maintain friendly rapport with other breweries in the area. We share knowledge and expertise with each other, and even trade ingredients if another establishment is in need. Our house yeast is used by several smaller breweries that lack the ability to propagate their own yeast. The amicable association brewers have with each other is one of the aspects of the profession that is the most rewarding.Where would we be without personal relationships in this industry? If craft brewers remain accessible, friendly, and open, we won’t ever have to ponder that scenario.Eric Rode has been with Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs since 1998, having worked previously at New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, and the Big Horn Brewery locations in Fort Collins, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. In addition to his head brewer duties, he is also responsible for lab work, trucking logistics, brewery record-keeping, and keeping track of assorted minutiae. Eric holds brewing certificates from the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, and University of California-Davis. Rode became an avid home brewer after graduating from college.