I was a home brewer for many years. I did all-grain brewing, created my own recipes, bought Maris Otter by the sackful, had a grain mill and a custom-made counterflow chiller, even grew my own Cascade hops — the whole nine yards. So, I cannot tell you how thrilled I am by the explosion of the craft brewing industry here in the Twin Cities.
The passage of the “Surly Law” in 2011 opened the way for what has been an amazing outpouring of entrepreneurial and fermentational creativity. In my opinion, you should all have a framed picture of Omar Ansari on the wall of your establishments.
Most of you brew very good beers. Some of them are downright spectacular. You are also tutoring new generations of craft beer enthusiasts who will create ongoing demand for your products. Your passion and risk-taking have ensured that we will have great beer to drink here in the land of sky-blue waters for a long time. From the bottom of my hops-loving heart, I thank you.
However, while traveling from one of your establishments to another, I have come to a discouraging realization: As much as I love your beer, I equally hate the acoustical environments in which you serve it.
There are many reasons for both the choice and design of the industrial spaces most of you occupy. There are zoning laws; the vibe is cool; there is parking; you’re on a tight budget, and the rent is affordable — understood.
But seriously, dudes, your spaces are deafeningly loud. The high ceilings; the huge rooms; the brick and concrete, glass, steel and wood — all these reflective surfaces — make the experience pretty excruciating for me.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m 54 years old, no spring chicken. My friends would be quick to tell you that I am also somewhat curmudgeonly. On the other hand, I have a pretty sophisticated palate and plenty of beer money in my pocket.
So I’m hoping it matters to you that, when I walk into your taprooms, I usually want to turn around and run. Let me put it this way: It has been a very long time since I’ve said to my friends, “You know what would be fun? Let’s go somewhere and yell at each other for a couple of hours!” I don’t use hearing aids (yet), but you can definitely cross that demographic off your target market.
While struggling to survive the sonic assault of your places of business, it has occurred to me that, perhaps this is what hell is like. You’re standing eight deep in front of the bar for what seems like an eternity, surrounded by 20-somethings who still haven’t learned to use their inside voices. In hell, of course, when you finally get to the front of the line, there would be no beer and you’d just go back and repeat the process all over again until your ears bleed.
I don’t write this just to be critical (although I do enjoy that quite a bit). I want to offer some positive suggestions. Remember, I want to drink your beer!
My first idea is that you could create a special room for people like me. There are precedents for this kind of thing. The library would be one example. Come to think of it, I’d probably go to the library more often if they had beer there. Naptime at preschool might be another example, although not closely correlated.
I suppose you could even make it a kind of club. There could be a card reader at the entrance to the room where we’d have to swipe our AARP membership cards. Think of it as a sort of senior drinking facility. Inside, that peaceful bier garten would be a place of solace to me and my friends the way the supper club was to my parents’ generation. Early-bird special, anyone?
My other idea may be more broadly applicable. There are some ways to treat your rooms acoustically that are not exceedingly expensive. For a thousand dollars or less in materials, you could make a huge difference in the acoustical signature of most of your rooms. That may not be your priority, but it’s mine, and I’m not alone. My previously mentioned friends and I are good customers whom you’re losing right now.
OK, I don’t actually have any friends. But if I did, I’m pretty sure they’d agree with me.
I’m really happy for your success, and I want you to thrive for as long as you can read a hydrometer. I’d just like to be a companion on that journey without being completely miserable.
Jay Beech lives in Minneapolis.