Poems, Prayers and Promises
Every Blog needs a title, so kudos to those who recognize the obscure musical reference in the title. It comes from more than a bit of my youth spent watching the Muppets and their most popular musical guest John Denver. The Muppets were one of my favorite shows. How can you not love Fozzie the Bear and his infectious “Wakka Wakka?” These shows still have the ability to illicit a laugh from me every time Kermit tells Fozzie to “turn right at the fork in the road.”
When we were developing many of the foundations for The Lost Abbey, I was constantly reminded that many religions have at the roots in no less than these three elements. So, today I thought I would write about these three elements and their relationship to our brewery.
The first one is Poems. Maybe by now, you have noticed that our labels and our beers tell stories. It is my notion that every beer should tell its’ own story and that the specifics of each beer should be secondary to the experience it provides. In this way, we have deviated from most breweries in the way that our labels are less about the actual beer inside the bottle and more about a back story behind each brew.
In many ways, there is a rhythm to the words and as such they move and function like mini poems on our bottles. As we have started this new brand, each new beer affords me an opportunity to draw upon my creative writing techniques. I had a conversation the other day with one of our customers and I intimated that sometimes, I think (feel) I am a better writer than I am brewer. This surprised him and we talked about the reasoning for this. He thought it was my ego speaking after a three IPA night of working the bar.
I reasoned with him that I have been writing much longer than I have been brewing. I also mentioned that throughout my studies in high school and college, the emphasis was always on writing. During my junior year of college, I began studying Poetry and dabbling in writing it as well. This was a full year before I began home brewing. I spent the next two years writing a lot and brewing at home. I learned over the years that the thing required to be a better than average write is a voice. And in my experience, when I write, my personality and voice come through loud and clear.
As a brewer, I have also spent the last 10+ years working on my voice. I “think” I have found it. But when I think about artists and their expressions, I am reminded that art is in a constant state of evolution. Brush strokes get refined, subject matter improves and the essence of the artist and his perspective is suddenly brought to the front with amazing clarity.
I like to think that as a brewer, I am entering a more golden age for my beers. I believe that I have studied the past masters, I have worked on my brush strokes and it is time to take these essences and meld them together so that lucidity develops and clarity ensues with each and every new release. There have been many moments in the past 7 months where I have seen this at work in our new brewery.
This brings us to the second element: Prayers. I was raised in a Catholic school environment and was taught that “if all else fails, PRAY!” Now I am not going to sit here and suggest that everyday, I come through the front doors at 155 Mata Way light candles and break off some incredibly rich Tibetan Monk Chants. However, there is a certain level of prayer that goes into starting a project like this.
Take an old brewery, revamp it for your needs, open the doors and pray that what you’re doing resonates with enough people enabling you to stay in the business of making great beer. That’s the kind of praying I’ve been doing of late. But in school, they also taught me there are numerous kinds of other prayers. There are prayers for the sick, the invalid, the poor and many others. These are the kinds of prayers that are most often found in churches and religious circles.
But here at 155 Mata Way, we specialize in a whole different kind of prayer. Most mornings, it starts with a simple prayer of “God I hope all of our equipment works today…” Some days, these prayers are answered and sometimes they are not. The days when they are not, I figure we are being punished for our indiscretions of which there are many around here.
Of course, dabbling in the field of Hocus Pocus and experimentation, we often have to pray for things to work out ok. You see, we are in the business of not only making beer but selling beer. What this means is that we are not in the business of selling experiments gone bad. So, we do everything we can in prayer or otherwise to ensure that out “Big” batches of experimental offerings go better than planned.
Thankfully, we have been blessed up until now by copious amounts of “experimental grace.” It seems we have a presence that guides us. Which I am thankful for because as an owner of this brewery, the last thing that I want is to have to go pray to our friends the porcelain gods when we have to pour $10K worth of beer down the drain. Sure, I’ve prayed to them on “other” occasions like the one time I had the Spanish Influenza de Botella complements of mi amigo Don Julio de Jalisco. Those of you who have heard my Spanish know that my prayers in this language aren’t often answered. Yet, I’ve learned the funny thing about most prayers is that they are more often than not accompanied by promises.
It seems that every time we are in a position of “asking for something,” we also feel quite giving. Take for example my good friend Don Julio de Jalisco. When he and I become reacquainted from time to time, I might find myself saying “Dear lord. What was I thinking? I promise if you get me through this, I won’t hang out with him anymore.” Which of course is an out right lie as me and Don have this thing…Somos Amigos. And Amigos never die.
So I wanted to end my blog with this notion of promises. We at the Lost Abbey promise to be lots of things. First and foremost, we promise to be passionate. This will always remain our guiding principle. It is my belief that passion conquers everything if you believe in its’ power. We also promise to continually explore new flavors and boundaries in our beers. This not to say that we will be esoteric for esoteric sake; rather, we will be bold when spicy is what we are after. But perhaps the biggest promise of all is that we won’t lie about our beers.
If we make something that isn’t up to our standards, we’ll tell you. We believe this is a big part of the crusade of good beer vs evil beer. You had better tell the truth. So here goes. We’ve been open a few months now and, not every batch of beer that we have made has been the cats meow. Is this our fault? You bet. Did we notice? Damn skippy we did. Yet, we are not sitting on our sugar sacks drinking instead of working on these problems.
Ours is an evolving business- one that is based upon time and energy. We’re working hard and our promise to you is that we will continue to work hard each and every day at what we do. This will enable us at the end of each day to look across our bar and tell you in good conscience that business is good, the beers are great and it’s only getting better.
Our relationship with you the customer is where each day begins and ends. You may start your day with one of our beers or you may end it that way. Either way, we’re thankful you find enough reason to make us part of your day. That alone speaks volumes about what we are doing.
With this in mind, I am returning to the first element in the title today. Over the years, I have written many poems along the way and lately, I have been inspired to write more. I find inspiration in many things we do and lately with all the writing I have been doing, it translate into thoughts and new ideas. Beer can be many things to many people. Often, ours is called liquid art. We like to think of it this way as well. As such, I am going to use this space from time to time to share some art of a different kind.
So, since they gave me a blog with no restrictions, I have decided to invoke my creative right and share some of these things with you. If you don’t want to read feel free to jump ship right now. You are also forewarned that in the future this space may even include the creative right of my 6 month old daughter who someday may be an amazing artist in her own right.
The first poem I have decided to share with The Lost Abbey blog audience is one of my favorites. AND, since it has a decidedly libation evoking subject matter, I felt it most appropriate. My only hope is that you enjoy it with a glass of one of our beers in your hand. If not, any beer from San Diego will do. If none of these are available, please knock the dust off your favorite 40 ounce tall boy and spill some for me… Su Amigo.