In searching looking for something else before heading to the Craft Brewers Conference today, I ended up reading most of an interview conducted with Saint Arnold Brewing co-founder Brock Wagner more than two years ago. The resulting story was for craft beer industry members, and mostly about business, but this short exchange is relative to the ongoing conversation here.
BW: We’re trying to add 10 customers at a time. The big brewers are trying to add a million.
We’re in different businesses. We both make something called beer, but they don’t really taste much alike. The big brewers are of a completely different mindset. A-B has more in common with Coca-Cola than they do with us. That’s not to say their beer is bad. It’s just different from what we make. If you look at their advertising you see they are trying to sell lifestyle.
And what are you selling?
BW: I think we’re selling a really good beer. We want you to think about what you are drinking. I’ll think about the beer when I first taste it. After that I’m sitting there with my wife and with friends shooting the breeze and it becomes background. But periodically I will think about the beer again.
In case you don’t know, Wagner gave up a career in investment banking to help start Saint Arnold, then bought out his original partner when they figured out the brewery was not going to be big enough to support both of them.
“I ran the numbers and figured I could keep a roof over my head, have a house, some kids, retire at 65 and take a vacation every year,” he said. “In investment banking, it’s all about money. I realized that money wasn’t what motivated me in life.”
I’m looking forward to the rest of a week in which I get to have conversations with Wagner and a lot of other brewers like him, artisans driven by the desire to create something special. And I’m looking forward to drinking their beer, shooting the breeze as beer drifts into the background, then thinking about it again.
Good idea, Brock.