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Cottage Industry

a brewing adventure by donavan hall

Once upon a time...

… there were three guys: Mike, Yuri, and Donavan. And these three guys liked to brew beer…

Wednesday, 22 October 2014. The beer of the people. When Mike asked me if I wanted to joining him on his commercial brewing adventure, I thought, Cool, I'll write a book about the experience. That was five years ago. Where's the book? I have a pile of notes that I've written in the past years, and it's been my intention to one day pull out those notes and write the grand brewing adventure that I imagined. Now, I'm glad I waited to accumulate some experience and knowledge about the subject of running a commercial brewery, albeit and small one. Initially, I thought I would be writing a blow by blow account of how we became professional brewers and perhaps even provide a guide or template for how others could join along in the adventure. At this point though, a different sort of book / account is needed.

Recently, I started posting new entries to my blog, entries that pertain to craft brewing, but what I really what to do is start bringing together many different subject threads to weave together a tapestry that is more rich and varied than the story of three guys making beer in a converted garage. First and foremost, I am a writer. I'm writer who likes beer. I like it so much that I'm willing to make it myself, and contribute to a collective effort to make enough for my friends to enjoy as well. But in addition to being a writer and a brewer of beer, I'm a soccer coach, a physicist, a reader, a dad, a husband, a son, etc. In short, I'm like you; I'm a complex mixture of roles and interests. What I am not is a consumer.

I've selected the title for this collection of writings deliberately: Cottage Industry. When we started brewing together and we were learning about the nanobrewery movement (and it is a movement), one of our colleagues, Paul of Blind Bat Brewery, the original Long Island nanobrewery, called his operation a cottage brewery. I like the term cottage brewery better than nanobrewery since it sounds more homey. Nanobrewery is all sciencey sounding, which I suppose is alright, but while we cottage brewers know quite a bit about the science of brewing, we regard what we do as an art.

Also, the "industry" part of the title suggests a reference to our production-oriented capitalist society. A business is a collective venture which operates inside a capitalist structure. Our small brewery, our cottage brewery, being small in scale and production being a function of the labor of a few and most definitely in the hands of the workers, we act more like a collective, a commune if you will. Our labor and our activity is fundamental social, that is we brew beer because we wish to be social. Perhaps that makes us socialists. We are instinctive socialists.

Even though we are in our third year of business and have brewed together for more than a decade, this is the beginning of a story. It's a contemporary story that is relevant to our times and not just a story for craftbrewers, it's a story for anyone who is a person who asks fundamental questions like "Why is society structured the way it is?" and "Why is wealth concentrated in the hands of the few even though the rest of us work so hard?" This is a story about a brewery, but it's also a story about the diverse people who have come together to do something worthwhile. It's the story of a writer. It's the story of a physicist. It's the story of humans, of social beings, of people who are more interested in the good life than money.