The Short Story – by Scott Duncan

It has been more than fifteen years since I was first introduced the craft beer world. It was 1996 and I was working in a small retail liquor store in the town that I grew up in. Wine was the hot ticket at the time and most of the store was devoted to the sale of the latest and greatest grape juice available. There was, however, the slightest of disturbances in the beer force.

It started with beer suppliers bringing in samples made by small, unknown breweries from towns that had us pulling out the atlas to figure out where they were. Before we knew it, there was some new brew being offered from every salesman we dealt with. Beer, wine, liquor and even our cigarette supplier had a “microbrew “(which is what we called them back then) for us to try.

Just when we thought we had seen it all, we were visited by a salesman who we had never seen before. Clean-cut, khakis and a polo shirt, he was carrying a pen, a yellow legal pad and a six pack of, you guessed it, a microbrew. The beer was called Jersey Shore Gold. The package left a lot to be desired and the beer itself was palatable at best. We took ten cases. Perhaps the beer buyer felt a little sorry for him, but the story behind the beer is what sold us. The purveyor told us how he was a local who had grown tired of the corporate rat race and decided to pursue a career in what had been a passion of his since his college days, craft beer. He said we would get our delivery within the week and left.

The next day there was a knock at the back door. It was the Jersey Shore Gold guy. Dressed in similar garb, but shirt not tucked, pants filthy and hair in disarray, he had our delivery and unwittingly, our attention. He returned two weeks later, armed with the same pen and yellow legal pad, but this time with a different product. It probably would have been easier to leave a sample and move along, but there was a story behind this product too and he made sure we knew it.

This pattern continued, and we looked forward to his arrival every other week. What great beer and what crazy story would he have this time? In turn, I passed the stories to my customers. Comical, historical or just plain nutty, these stories were the link that facilitated our inclusion to the fraternity. Talking frogs and field goal kicking clydesdales were funny, but knowing that a beer is named after a family pet, or that a style was the recreation of a recipe that was retired after the brewery was destroyed during WWII, or that the first delivery from a brewery to the state arrived in a rowboat captained by the brewery owner himself, made us feel as though we had a connection to the people behind the liquid.

I have worked for the Jersey Shore Gold guy for almost twelve years now and I have told his story hundreds of times. Although the liquid in the bottle is the ultimate reward, the tales are what keep this industry close-knit and most interesting. Please keep the stories coming. As my colleagues will attest, I am not done talking!

Cheers!

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