Well, we made it through the holidays and unsurprisingly got very little accomplished in December with the 5 or so Christmases we attended. But it's been an interesting January. Without going in to too much detail and without being too long winded, an opportunity has been presented to us that if taken, would set us on a trajectory that would get our brewpub open faster than we could have previously imagined. That opportunity has led to several weeks of consultation to determine the best way to do things here. What it has led us to is that we want to brew the beer we want to drink.
In BeerAdvocate Magazine, every month there is an article titled "9 Steps to Beerdom" in which a different brewery owner or brewmaster is interviewed each month. And through the over 3 years I've been reading this magazine, you see a pattern emerge. These brewers aren't brewing what they think other people will like, they are brewing what they will like. And on its face this may seem a little selfish and a poor business model. But time and time again, it works because this is how innovation happens, and it turns out people buy into it and support it.
So the way I see it, you can have a beer list that looks one of two ways. You can run down the Beer Judge Certificate Program style guidelines and brew a beer to exact spec for all the classic styles in that guide, and that's fine. Good beer will be made. But people have already had that beer. It's the industry standard for a reason (I should be fair here and state that the BJCP has come a long way in the past 7 years and currently reflects both classic and modern interpretations of style, but allow me to continue). This menu will likely feature an Irish Red Ale, a Hefeweizen, a Brown Ale, a Blond Ale, and maybe a conservative IPA. This is the list that is brewed for other people. Beer that a brewer thinks the consumer wants.
Or we can do it the second way. We can brew the beer we want to drink. Some of these beers may fall in line with the BJCP guidelines; many will likely not. This menu has two pale ales that are nothing alike; two IPAs, one of which will make you question why you haven't been drinking IPAs; a couple of interpretations of farmhouse ale; a fruited blond ale for the ladies; and a big ol' stout. And that's this month, who knows what's on tap next month. This is aggressive beer list. You're not going to find any beers like this at Chili's. But that's the point. We brew the beers we want to drink because deep down we know that people are going to try them, and they are going to like them. And it's going to keep them coming back for more.
I think as a society, we are kind of over the national chains. Living in Bloomington-Normal, you might not be able to see that. But there are waves of change coming that shun the formulaic and embrace the original. This is evident more than anywhere in the brewing industry. Breweries in the United States now number over 4,000, the vast majority of these being locally owned and operated never-seen-before entities. This country is embracing craft beer. It harkens back to a time when things were actually made with quality in the US. We want to make something with our hands and this really seems like the best way to do it. We want to bring more good beer to our community, so we want to do so in the most original way possible. By making it ourselves.
Brewing the beer we want to drink is about more than the beer though. It's about the concept as a whole, how we think it should be developed and executed. These are things like what colors the walls are going to be, the type of tables and chairs we have, what our draft tower looks like, what is on our dining menu, what type of music we play, the art we feature. I guess you could describe the larger vision for all of these things as "trendy," but I think that is the direction the larger food and beverage industry is heading. The brewpub segment within that industry is already there. That's where we need to be. I think there are people out there who think that a brewpub is meant to be a high-end sports bar with a brewery attached. We are meant to be a brewery with a kitchen attached. A place where people can come and have a few awesome beers with family and friends, and talk about those beers and how awesome or crappy their day was and they forget that the Chilis' of the world exist.
We have a great opportunity in front of us, and if we go for it, we are going to make sure that we do this the way we want to do it. It's cheesy, but we are chasing the American Dream here. We are a couple of people who don't have deep pockets but we have a vision that we believe is going to make this community a better place. And by bringing the right people together under the right circumstances we are going to make it happen. But we aren't going to compromise ourselves to the point that Blue Tape Brewing becomes something we had never intended it to be. It's going to be something we are proud of, something our kids (later than sooner hopefully) can be proud of, something this community can be proud of. We are going to brew the beer we want to drink.