So, How Was Your Day?
Shake with frozen blueberries, a banana, water and a scoop of The Ultimate Meal. Two cups of Ipsento’s Kenyan roast.
Cuban sandwich on sweet bread with plantain chips at 90 Miles. Iced tea.
Coriander roasted prawns and kohlrabi som tum, with pink grapefruit and herbs at Trencherman. 3 Floyds, Mikkeller, and Off Colors Beer Geek Mus (a 3.5% Russian Imperial Stout). Summer sausage sandwich and some slices of ham.
It’s Thursday, I’m up at my usual 6am to start the pot of decaf coffee for Hillary and import photos from the last shoot. I spent the evening at The Beer Temple documenting and participating in a sour mixing class. So this morning, I’m revisiting what I captured and starting to write about the experience for my site, Good Beer Hunting. We’re in the middle of Chicago Craft Beer Week, so it’s been like this for days. John Barley of Solemn Oath Brewery texts me a few more versions of an opening line for a TEDx speech I’m helping him write about craft beer culture. John andy I are both early-morning thinkers, so it typically starts like this around 7am, and always over text. This morning, I have to load up for a shoot at DryHop Brewers, a new brewpub opening in Lakeview in mid-June. Batteries charged, lenses packed, flash cards emptied. Time to roll. But this time, I also have to put on my “TV shirt” because a film crew from Michigan is driving down to meet me and grab some footage for their documentary MI Beer Film. After they capture me capturing the DryHop “mash in” process (when they make the giant vat of oatmeal that becomes the sugary water that yeast turn into beer), we head back to my studio and set up to shoot some more footage there. We’re announcing the official launch date for the brewery this morning and people will be waking up to this exciting news.
I say goodbye to the film crew, hop in the car again and head to lunch. Today I’m meeting a brewery owner to talk about a project for his new space. We’re looking to turn an entire wall into a photo story about the ingredients and process of beer making, including hop fields, grain malsters and the likes. Right after, I head to a freelance gig at a friend’s design firm. I’m helping them develop a brand and product portfolio strategy for an office supply manufacturer. This is the kind of work I’ve done for over six years as an innovation consultant, but only recently have I left the day job and started doing freelance. Their office space is one of Chicago’s last remaining bath houses converted into a massive house, and then used for a design space. Oh, the natural light here is amazing. After getting together a “sharpie deck”, we take a break from the work and I respond to emails. Ed Marszewski is calling me “cholo” to get my attention and asking for hi-res images for Mash Tun, his craft beer journal. Twice a year I unlock my Flickr account and let Ed and his design team loot the place for an hour, grabbing any images they want for the layout and design of the journal. By two, Ed has what he needs and I lock the account again. In a month, I’ll see what they took when a box of the journals show up at my door to sell on my site.
Tonight I shoot a Chicago Craft Beer week story from another angle, the kitchen. Trenchermen is partnering up with breweries for a beer pairing menu by Chef Patrick Sheenin. Mikkeller, 3 Floyds and Off Color are providing a few beers each for the event. My goal is always to put people at ease around the camera and establish my reason for being. “I’m going to be in your way all night. It’ll be a little annoying, but I promise, if you say move, I’ll move.” After explaining how much I love the kitchen, and that I’ve worked in a number of them growing up, the staff loosen, smile, and start making fun of each other like I was never there. Jackpot. All night I float between the kitchen and the bar. I chatted up Ria, the beer buyer for Trenchermen and Bangers & Lace. I got her backstory on being a homebrewer and how she stumbled in to the beer businesses with nothing more than a great palate and enough naivety to endear herself to the reps at Windy City who helped her build two of the cities’ best beer menus. I watch as patrons’ hands grasp a tulip glass and ready myself for a shot of them sipping a beer that inevitably comes about three seconds later. And I eat. I eat whatever the chef puts in front of me. I’m home by 11pm, exhausted but full of stories to tell Hillary. We both chat, let the cats burrow in to the blankets, and catch up on Instagram. Just before lights out, tell Hillary, “before you leave for work tomorrow, I need to get the keys out of the car in the garage. I locked them in again.” Eyes closed and with a smile, “you’re impossible,” she says.
Three Last Things…
1. What’s up with that beer on your bed. The label is pretty
It’s actually not a beer at all, it’s a cider. It’s a naturally fermented cider from the Basque region of Spain that’s bottled still (no carbonation) so it drinks more like a tart, farm-yardy juice. Saison beers are my favorite style with their funky, wild fermentation style, and these ciders are in a similar vein. My favorite cider maker friend, Ryan from Virtue Cider, also makes this style, and he always hands me a glass and says “here, this is great, it smells like a horse’s ass.”
2. How did you go from being just a dude that knew a whole bunch of nerdy facts about beer to being a major expert on the topic?
I’ve always believed that a real expert is someone who can translate those nerdy facts into a point of view, or guidance for a casual, but curious audience. So I do a ton of work and research to further my own knowledge — I take classes, reside in breweries for days on end, homebrew with more knowledgable friends, and drink…a lot. But what does all that knowledge mean if you can help others along on their own journey? I think it’s my ability and desire to connect with new people through beer that make Good Beer Hunting such a unique and sought-after publication. And of course, I try to make it look and feel as inspiring as it is to me and that connects with audiences at every level. No one cares that I went to such-and-such brewery and tried such-and-such beer. They want to feel it and re-live it themselves.
3. So, it’s the morning and you need to get your keys out of the car. Did you A. Grab a coat hanger and do it DIY or B. Call a locksmith?
I either wake Hillary up and borrow her keys to get into the garage. Or, if I’m ashamed of a particularly forgetful week, I wait for the upstairs neighbor to go to work and open the garage himself. He knows the drill.
Michael lives in Chicago with his wife Hillary Schuster and their two cats Tony and Duck. He is the writer and photographer behind Good Beer Hunting, a site devoted to the story of craft beer from around the world. goodbeerhunting.com