Home Brewing Businesses

Yesterday I received an email from an editor at Thomson Reuters asking me to evaluate the business model of Brooklyn Brew Shop. They have a video pitch that I looked at.

Brooklyn Brew Shop’s business idea, a small one gallon home brewing starter kit, is a good. It is small enough with a low cost to be appealing to first time home brewers, particularly those who live in apartments.  Erica, one of the-owners, talked about the cost savings of home brewing, especially if you want to brew higher alcohol content beer. This is one of their main selling points. You also avoid taxes as a home brewer, which further lowers your costs. I thought the beer prices in New York were astoundingly high.

The appeal of home brewing is getting exactly the taste you want. This is something that Brooklyn Brew Shop should stress more in their promotions.  Home brewing also involves creativity and this aspect could be stressed more as well.

Erica is a good spokesperson and she highlights the growing role of women in the brewing industry. Traditionally women did the brewing at home in their kitchens and this is something that could be mentioned as well.

I am not sure about going into retail as their next step. I would continue to try to build the business online and at festivals and fairs before going retail. What retail avenues do they have in mind? I am not sure about package stores or other home brewing supply stores. They probably need a broader brand identity before they can approach places like Target and Wal-Mart. They could try to sell the kits on Amazon.

Tea in Philosophy: Part Two

Philosophy Hall
Philosophy Hall

Yesterday I spent the day at the Columbia University Archives looking at the papers of the Association for University Teas. Afterward we stopped in at Philosophy Hall to see what the 21st century graduate student tea is like.

The room  hasn’t changed that much in over twenty years but it seemed a lot less grand. That is ironic since the Columbia Graduate School website says the lounge was renovated in1992 “to duplicate its earlier splendor.” The room apparently started life as a space for female graduate students; in the 1950’s it became available to all grad students.

I had a nice conversation with the  person sitting there; he has worked there since 1973. The women who poured tea into porcelain cups and placed cookies on real plates were faculty wives. They, however, were not members of the Association for University Teas.  These women were a groups of volunteers that a Graduate Student Advisor kept organized.

Like many of women’s every day activities in many communities, the details of this have been lost. The woman who appeared in the  papers of the Association do not have names. The only identifier is Mrs. Husband’s Name. So  Mrs. Carlton Hayes, Mrs. Allan Nevins, Mrs. John Dewey, Mrs. Rexford Tugwell, among others, belonged to the organization and served tea to alumni, retired faculty and others.

The indispensable yet invisible work these women did deserves to be identified and named.

David Letterman: Victim or Perpetrator?

When the news about David Letterman broke, my first reaction was that it showed how smart he is. Letterman managed to have the story that he was being blackmailed released in a way that he appeared as the victim. As more information came out, however, it  became clear that he, at the very least, had misused his position and at the worst had committed sexual harassment.

Letterman apparently had several affairs with female members of  his staff, while he was in a long-term relationship. He got married in the spring. The fact that he cheated on his partner is their business. Having sexual relations with workers who are your subordinates is sexual harassment. There is no way that there can ever be an equal, truly consensual, relationship. The  worker is potentially subject to negative repercussions whether or not they have sex.

Does CBS have a sexual harassment  policy? I am sure they do and I believe that their biggest star has violated it.


Friday night we went to the Whitney to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit. It was pay-as-you-wish and there was not as big a line to get in as there had been at the Guggenheim.

I like O’Keeffe’s art a lot and I have a copy of one of her paintings in my house. The exhibit was of her abstract work not her more famous flowers and buildings. We went on a tour. The docent was excellent and really gave you a feeling for the work. I got the impression that O’Keeffe always had a sense of herself as a female artist and wanted to do something that would be new and different.

The museum is five floors with impossibly slow elevators and not that amenable to viewing art.  I liked the Guggenheim much more. Today we went to the Metropolitan briefly, mostly to use the facilities. I think  it is better to see the permanent collections of  large museums on a tour or use a guide book. When we were in Paris a few years ago, we used Rick Steves book to tour the Louvre and it really made a difference.

Georgia O'Keeffe Red Canna
Georgia O'Keeffe Red Canna

101 Posts

This is my one hundred and one-blog post if you count the thirty-eight I did before I had a word press blog. If anyone is interested in reading them go to my website, amymittelman.com, and click on archives.

At the panel discussion on Monday about women and blogging, Jenny Davidson said she had started her blog because she wanted to promote her novel. I initiated my website, then the blog in both versions, for the same reasons. Somewhere along the line, however, the blog has become its own entity. I enjoy writing and I think writing more frequently has helped me to become a better writer.

My public online presence or persona has also evolved. In the beginning, I felt it was important to stick to writing about beer and other topics that directly connected to Brewing Battles. I also wanted to sell as many books as possible so I tried not to write anything controversial or potentially offensive. I also tried not to generate controversy, which may have had the unwanted effect of limiting my audience.

I still want to sell books and maintain a professional demeanor but I have relaxed about topics and opinions. Partly I am never sure whom or how large my audience is. This has given me some freedom to express myself since it is entirely possible I am talking to myself.

The internet and web have changed ideas and expectations of privacy. Because I have consciously sought a public identity, I have to expect that when I Google my name various things come up. I live in a small town so car accidents and the like are news in a way that they would not be here in Manhattan.  Because all newspapers have an online version, news items wind up being readily available.

The discussion on Monday touched on some of these privacy issues and Alexandra’s comments about the racial nature of disclosure are troubling. The real life consequences for someone’s risky behavior coming back to bite them later in life are very sobering.

Realizing this makes me more determined to behave online in an appropriate and professional way.  My blog persona is therefore close to my real life persona but not necessary how I am in the safety and security of my home and family.

This is a little more serious than I initially planned to commemorate my 101 posts. I will keep posting about beer, politics, women, and any other subjects that interest me. If you have been reading, I hope you stay around. If you are new, welcome and cheers!

Tea in Philosophy

Part of the reason for our stay in New York is that my husband has research to do here. For the last week or so he has been going to Columbia University and looking at materials in Special Collections. Both he and I have Ph.D’s in history from Columbia so it has been a bit like old home week to go back. When I was in my first year of graduate school, I  often went to Philosophy Hall and had tea and cookies in the afternoon. I remember being served by older women.  This is a pleasant memory and actually relates to my own research for my new book. I am working on a social history of academia and want to focus on faculty wives.  Columbia and other colleges and universities had faculty wives organizations whose activities often included  holding teas. The Columbia Association of University Teas dates back to 1898.

Women, Blogging, and Academia: Part Two

After each of the woman had give short description of how and why they began blogging (see Part 1), Jenny Davidson asked a few questions and then there were also questions from the audience. Much of the discussion focused on pseudonymity versus anonymity, as well as issues of creating characters and naming people. Both Claire and Tedra used pseudonyms but are now out. Tedra misplaced where she was writing from and created some amalgam characters.

On the other hand Jenny always used her real name since her blog was linked to her publishing a novel. She feels that there are other issues connected to this concerning how you talk about other people. She used the example of being on a job search committee and how it would be inappropriate to blog in a negative fashion about the meetings since the job candidate could read it.

Eva started her blog as a graduate student which she described as being a cheap lab employee. She used her first name only but on other more serious blogs she uses her full name.

The issue of how fully you disclose your identity when blogging is connected to the potential risk of blogging for graduate students and nontenured professors. None of the panelists felt that they had suffered in their careers because of blogging but they all agreed that it is a personal decision. People should use common sense. Alexandra did say that “being public about being wrong can be a racialized privilege.”

Although the panelists did not really discuss in any depth issues of class and race in blogging,  Alexandra’s  comment reveals some of the issues inherent in writing in a public forum. Tedra see blogging as primarily social media and therefore likes the comments. All of the panelists delete obnoxious and offensive comments.

One of the questions from the audience was about blogging counting as publications for tenure. Both Jenny and Tedra felt that if anything it would be counted as service. Claire pointed out that there is still not agreement about how to handle publications from online journals, even if they are refereed. Thus she feels that counting blogging as writing is far down the line. Tedra said that blogging is “raw” writing while published works are “cooked.”

The panelists pay some attention to the news cycle and the immediacy of blogging about events as they happen. However they are not journalists and don’t claim to be.

The discussion made me think a lot about my own blogging and on-line persona. I will say more about that tomorrow.

Women, Blogging, and Academia: Part One

Today I attended, A Blog of Her Own: Scholarly Women on the Web, a round-table discussion held at Columbia University. Jenny Davidson, an English professor at Columbia and a novelist, chaired the session. The panelists were Eva Amsen, who  has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Toronto  and blogs at easternblot; Tedra Osell who has a Ph.D in English literature from the University of Washington, was an assistant professor at the University of Guelph, Ontario, and blogs at BitchPh.D., Claire Potter, who is a professor of history and American Studies at Wesleyan University and blogs at Tenured Radical, and Alexandra T. Vazquez, who is an assistant professor at the Center for African American Studies and in the Department of English at Princeton University and is one of three  bloggers at Oh! Industry.

Eva began blogging to talk more about science. Her experiences blogging have made her want to do more with science writing rather than using her Ph.D. to do lab research.

Tedra started  blogging while she was on the job market. Her initial posts were about motherhood. She then gravitated to writing more about the process of  job searches and other issues in academia. Her Ph.D. was  on 18th Century English Essay Periodicals and issues of authorship.  She co-blogs with other people.

Claire believes that blogging is about writing; blogging has changed both her and her writing. Blogging puts”play” in the forefront and is different from more serious academic writing. Blogging also enables her to think about contemporary history.

Alexandra and her colleagues blog about music and other aspects of popular culture. They are three assistant (nontenured) professors from Filipino and Cuban backgrounds. They do not follow a strict schedule of blogging; posts can sometimes be a month apart.  She sees blogging as part of having a life outside of academia.

Tomorrow: The discussion

Women in the Beer Industry: Part Two

The panel discussion on Tuesday was very engaging and went past two hours. Each of the speakers provided details about how they got into the industry. Carol Stout was an educator but got interested in beer through her husband who loved good beer. They travelled to Germany. On their return, Carol wondered why they could not have the same quality of beer at their restaurant in Adamstown, PA. She does not feel that being a woman hindered her career in brewing and credits two men, Karl Strauss and Greg Noonan, with helping her.

Carol, along with the other panelists, felt that it was mainly a myth that woman do not like beer as much as men and that they liked to drink “fruity” beers more often. She blamed much of this perception on marketing and media. Carol also believes that women brewing beer has long historical roots and that there are now many places in the world where women are returning to this practice. In particular, she mentioned Ethiopia.

Jennifer Schwertman, the bartender, felt it was a matter of educating women about beer and having better bartenders to help with this process. She believes it is a partnership between brewers and the community palate. Jen loves the community around craft brewing as much as she loves the beer.

Sarah Beach is from Belgium and has worked for Duvel Moorgat/Ommegang for four years. She is in sales and said when she goes into a retail establishment for the first time they often asked her if she is old enough to drink beer. I thought it was interesting that she was included on the panel since Ommegang is a craft brewery that a larger company owns.

Susan Greene, from Global Brewers Guild, is involved in sales and marketing and has worked for the company for over six years. Prior to her working in the beer industry, she was involved with restaurants. Susan feels that although New York has numerous excellent restaurants, the establishments often have poor beer lists.  In this area, she feels other cities are better.

A common theme among many of the panelists was that the craft beer scene is more vibrant in other parts of the country, particularly the Pacific Northwest. All are committed to making craft beers a thriving presence in New York City.

Debbie Boening stated that her family company had been involved, along with the Van Munching’s in importing and distributing Heineken in America. When Heineken took back distribution, it left a big gap in  Boening’s portfolio. It as at this point that she started looking at craft beers.

In the early 1980s, Jin Koch (Boston Beer) had to make several repeat visits before she would agree to sell Sam Adams. One of her sales reps was in the audience and told of going to various stores and bars saying, “I have Stoudt’s for you.” The other person would reply, “We have Guinness.” Sales Rep:  “It’s Carol Stoudt.” “You want me to buy a woman’s beer?” However, the distinctiveness of a woman making Stoudt’s did provide entry. Debbie said that, despite having many excellent craft beers in her portfolio, Colt 45 was still her top seller.

None of the panelists really felt that being a woman in the beer industry had made their path more difficult. All felt that the craft beer industry is very welcoming and supportive. The audience was overwhelmingly female so there may be a completely new group of women anxious to enter the industry.

Women in the Beer Industry:Part One

Last night I went to the French Culinary Institute, heard a panel discussion about women in the beer industry, and sampled beer, bread and cheese. All of the beers related in some way to the speakers. There were beers from Stoudt’s, Ommegang and Dogfish Head.

I had a Stoudt’s Pils which was very refreshing and had a good  taste and color, unlike the Heineken I had a few days ago. My husband had a Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady ESB which he liked very much. We both tried the Dogfish Head Punkin which, for me, was surprisingly good, not too sweet and just a hint of pumpkin taste.  My favorite was the Ommegang Abbey Ale which was delicious, a beautiful ruby brown color, and very smooth. It is 7% abv. It would go well at any meal at which you would consider serving wine.

Two nights ago we went to the Blind Tiger Ale House which is a very well-known beer bar with an overwhelmingly selection of both draft and bottled beers. It reminded me of a smaller Moan and Dove (my local bar) with more beers, food but no peanuts. We had Blue Point Cask IPA which I did not like. It was very still and tasted like a stout. I liked the Cigar City Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale though.

The women on the panel represented various aspects of the brewing industry, from production to retail. Maggie Fuller, founder of Beer  Ethos moderated the discussion. Maggie has a degree in brewing science from UCDavis and founded Beer Ethos to promote” the appreciation and enjoyment of beer through drinking and discourse.”* She plans on opening a beer store in the near future.

The women on the panel were: Carol Stoudt, President and Brewmaster, Stoudt’s Brewery. Carol was the first American woman to “oversee the design and development of a craft brewery from start to finish.”

Susan Greene, General Sales Manager Global Brewers Guild,”which represents a dozen domestic and imported beers throughout the East Coast.” (I couldn’t find a website)

Jennifer Schwertman, a bartender at the Blind Tiger.

Sarah Lescrauwart Beach, Ommegang Brewery, Market Manager. Duvel Moortgat, a publicly owned and traded Belgium company that brews Duvel, owns Ommegang.

Debbie Boening, Oak Beverages, President and Chief Executive Officer. Oak Beverage is  a “leading New York Metropolitan are beer wholesale distributor and part of the 107 -year old, fourth generation Boeing beer distribution group.” She is the only woman.

Tomorrow: Part Two: What they said.

* All the text in quotes is from the handout at the talk.

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