Writing for me is sometimes cathartic, but that doesn’t make this interesting. For anyone reading, you could ask why I wouldn’t just continue on various social media networks. There, I’m well connected to the craft beer and firefighting worlds that I live in but generally it doesn’t lend itself to big ideas. Social media, with its instant connections and constant cacophony of noise, doesn’t offer the outlet that actually writing like this does.
Why does that matter for a reader of my own web site? Perhaps it doesn’t – but I wanted a creative outlet outside of the brewery and slightly disconnected from the “networks” of social media to at least write and share some thoughts I’ve learned over the past years as a career fire officer; craft beer entrepreneur and brewer; recovering web developer; and general troublemaker where that definition fits me.
I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter.Blaise Pascal
I’ve started and stopped my own blogging efforts more times than I can count and generally always ended up using my domain as a playground for whatever new technology was going to be filtered out to projects or the web site for the brewery. Countless articles or pieces discussing some important topic have met digital demises as I abandoned platforms or tested new ideas.
In a way, I’m still guilty of the same crime – this site started as a test for the new editor concepts coming in WordPress that I’ll inevitably have to learn both for the brewery and for the people for whom I still develop web sites. But does a long form blog post convey these thoughts better than the frequent posts on any social media network?
It’s impossible to tell where this may go, but I feel like I may have made enough mistakes along the way to finally have something useful to share with anyone who has wandered into this domain. If nothing else, my vanity might demand that I share something – and I can easily laugh at myself when I read this in the future and wonder what I was thinking.
Bad decisions make great stories.
In the headline, I promised a little bit about myself – which, let’s face it, is probably the only reason you’ve read this far in my initial post. I’m a career fire officer who got started in this field “by accident” after being a victim in a residential fire. At the time, I was dating a wonderful girl and crashed on a couch to wake up in the dead of the night to (what I now know) a “fully involved” room… connected to a house fire that ended up requiring three alarms (a large number of fire companies and resources) before it was controlled. In a strange way, I became a volunteer firefighter to prove to myself that I didn’t have to be afraid of fire – and somehow that became the path I ended up walking.
That girl? She may have changed my path as well, I married her and found that the best thing in life may be sitting with her and our three kids doing absolutely nothing productive. Abbie is the creative yin to my technical yang, finding the time between family and making sure I stay in one piece to have a successful studio and perform as a musician with the South Jersey Pops. She also opened the other door in my life by purchasing my first home brewing kit in 2003.
I never imagined myself as a craft beer brewer, or owning a brewery until recently. With New Jersey’s craft beer scene exploding, it seems like many home brewers see an easy path to “going pro” and somehow I fell into this sideways. I started home brewing as stress relief from a combination of the “joy” of being an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and a web development entrepreneur.
The smallest brewery can sit alongside the largest beer brands when social media and their online presence are executed correctly.
In 1996, I started working on computers and web sites as a nice side income during school that provided for a few textbooks and expenses. As the dot-com boom began, web development and hosting infrastructure were blazing hot – and offered quick, easy money to any of us diving into the market. The problem, as we all learned within a decade, is that this white hot market was completely unsustainable and collapsed not long after the turn of the millennium. Like many in the field, I suddenly found myself with obligations (office, hardware, expenses, etc.) that could not be answered as client-dot-com after client-dot-com defaulted on their payments. I should count myself lucky, our family studio survived and continues to serve a handful of clients today including the brewery. That expertise is priceless in a world where businesses like the brewery now develop relationships through social media and their web site before a customer even steps into the door. The smallest brewery can present itself alongside the largest multi-nationals when this is executed correctly.
Back to that home brewing kit, the first beers I made were awful, truly awful – but they warn you that home brewing is addictive. Before long, I tried to create recipes that ranged from delicious to strange (sage beer?) but enjoyed taking the time to slow down and craft these brews. Watching friends try them was always fun, but I ended up enjoying the craft beer brands on the shelf more – knowing what went into each bottle or can.
After the “great recession” of the late 2000s, I found my adopted hometown in an unusual place. The historic downtown neighborhood that I fervently adopted as my home since leaving Philadelphia in the 90s was half vacant and turning from a darling to something resembling a bad dream. I ended up working with a local government advisory board as their “beer guy” to help attract a regional brewpub chain to the neighborhood.
The idea may have fallen through, but it made sense, and by 2013 I was started to lobby our township to make the local law changes to enable a brewery opening in our downtown. By 2014, I started talking with friends and family about how we could pool our money to finance the equipment needed – and before Christmas that year we had leased the space that would be Lower Forge.
I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.Oscar Wilde
It was a long journey – as an accidental firefighter turned career officer, a developer who survived the dot-com implosion, and now a brewer who originally thought he’d be helping attract someone else – but somehow we made it. Maybe I have something to share after all, something from this long path that will help someone move in to the still-vacant building near me and open the next great business to grace Medford’s Main Street. Or…
Maybe I’ve finally figured out how to blog by creating some content from those streams of thought.
Maybe I’ve finally figured out how to use this domain to properly test WordPress by creating some content from that long stream of thought.