I wanted to share the small epiphany that caused me to become one of the many corporate refugees flowing into the wonderful community of craft brewing.
First, you must know one of my deep, dark secrets: I was born without the shame gene and suffer from an overactive curiosity – two prerequisites to both ask and attempt to answer the question…’Where did Root Beer come from?’
As can be the case, the answer is the journey. No one in the last 100 years had attempted to create the answer in a glass. Why sleep when you can research old botanic recipes, plants, tree, roots, and spices to derive the ideal flavor and aroma? We found that our quest, like many, actually had roots in a prior path – one of botanic brewing, with a history recorded since the beginning of man’s fermenting.
I have rediscovered a world and a way to invite others in to enjoy with us. Color me Wonka, but I’m having the time of my life, foraging spice markets all over the world to see what we can do next. I can share the story of how Forbidden Root came into being in another musing, but I will say that we have no Oompa Loompas mixing our ingredients... our process is more like Breaking Bad: one where we jumped in the RV once a week for 18 months and now the first batch of recipes, the good stuff, is ready. We have some of the same key ingredients - an obsessive quest for perfection, with a Walt, a Jesse, and a Mike. More on that anon.
Second, I have always fashioned myself the rugged individualist, needing no one else’s approval to feel satisfied. So it came as a shocking surprise, several years ago to discovered that I am an off the charts pleaser. Not only do I care what other people think about me, but I care a lot… about people. It made sense when I connected the dots. I take great pride in recommending restaurants; I spend hours selecting the perfect gift for staff; plan every detail of every family trip; and I always delight in providing matchmaking services. The question for me was…how do pleasers ply their trade? As an accomplished pleaser of my own palate; my lingering curiosity about the beer in root beer had to be sated - - so I followed the path less traveled, or at least other than the 1500 new breweries last year.
Our first festival behind a booth, pouring our beer was last summer in Naperville. Every time the spigot reduced the beer’s flow into drops to signal the pour was done, a neurotic coveting I had never experienced overtook me. It was a mashup of Silence of the Lambs and a Coke vs. Pepsi consumer taste test "...tell me about the bubbles, Clarrise." Each pour, I waited and stared (the stare that puts people on ‘lists’), to see and hear people’s reactions. The more specific, the more animated, the better. This rush of voyeuristic pleasure -- watching reactions was addicting. Apparently, not only was I a pleaser, but had so much pent up pleasing to do, that I actually was a little mad at ‘The Turners’—those selfish sippers who turn their bodies completely and deny me the experience of their honest reaction. This obsession now afflicts me at each and every festival… it’s a little disturbing to know that I place so much self-validation on the sip of a stranger, but I do.
Yet doing anything truly new and worthwhile should disturb. It should wake you up from within so you can wake others.
My name is Robert and I am a pleaser. I was born a curious child, and harbor no fear of experimenting with unique flavor experiences. I lead a team whose high personal standards and pride fuel our attempts re-invent botanic craft beer. I now aspire and work every day to earn the title of Rootmaster.