The Three IPA Lunch: Turning Pro Part 23

As a kid, back in the 1970s, I remember hearing about the “three martini lunch” for the first time. I couldn’t imagine how drinking could be part of a business meeting. How could you keep your head and make rational business decisions if you were half in the bag? By the time I was an adult in corporate America, there was more of a stigma against drinking during the business day and we never did. Drinking during the day was forbidden, and that was fine with me. I can’t do a lot of quality work when I’ve been drinking and I doubt others can either.

Now, here I am in the craft beer industry and it seems to follow its own set of rules on alcohol consumption. I can’t seem to get through a meeting with distributors, retailers, media, or consumers without drinking at least one beer. There are times when you are encouraged or even pressed to “have
another.” Heck, when I attend events, I don’t buy any beer, but the beer just keeps showing up. As part of the craft beer industry, I sometimes feel pressured to drink even when I don’t want to.

To be fair, there are times during the day when you “have to” consume alcohol. Sampling product for quality is one of those. That is understandable, as is enjoying a pint or two at the end of the day after all
the hard, dangerous work or driving is done. Consuming beer in moderation can be part of a healthy, rich lifestyle, but it can also easily drift into abuse, destroying your quality of life.

The weird thing is that everyone in the industry knows of at least one person working in some brewery that they would consider a “functioning alcoholic.” (I must admit, when I do the shows on The Brewing Network, sometimes I feel more like a functioning alcoholic than I do a professional radio host.) Like the weird uncle in your family nobody wants to talk about, alcoholism in brewing seems like one of those things that isn’t discussed out in the open. It is a shame, because I think the majority of brewers prefer that their consumers and staff enjoy alcohol responsibly. In fact, I would say that alcoholics make up a smaller percentage of craft beer sales than they do of just about any other alcohol segment. Why in the world would you buy high priced, often very filling, beer if your goal was to get drunk?

So why is there any alcoholism in the brewing industry? Well, the reality is that there are alcoholics in every segment of society, from doctors to ditch diggers. (Sorry, Excavation Engineers.) While I think more alcoholics might be attracted to working at a brewery, I think it may be that we are more aware of the problem when we see it. Maybe, because of our tolerance of alcohol consumption during work hours we are just more conscious that it is a potential problem, so we look for it more.

We have an inside joke at Heretic Brewing Company, “We can drink less than any other brewery.” By choice, we don’t drink during the day, we don’t drink during lunch, and we certainly don’t drink when there is work to do. Sure, we love beer, but in the proper place, time, and quantity. I’d say I am the company “lush,” but those people that know me, know that I moderate my consumption. There are no three IPA lunches at Heretic, but we do have a happy hour now and then.

Issue: MyBlog