NOTE: When I moved to a new site, this “Beer Wars” series was mangled/destroyed during the move. I’ve reconstructed it by copying/pasting another copy of the original posts. I also lost the comments in their original form. I’ve copied/pasted the comments, but had to do so under my own name. So although it looks as though I’m the only commenter, I’m not. In each case, I’ve identified the original commenter.
Let’s start with the notion that craft brewers are entrepreneurs. They’ve created something from nothing, and they did so because they believe in their work and its value. Charlie Papazian has devoted his adult life to building an organization, and to spreading the gospel of good beer. Todd and Jason Alstrom started with an idea — a website devoted to beer — and they’ve worked their butts off to build that idea into a viable business. Ditto Sam, Greg, and Rhonda. Every single day they’re putting themselves and their families on the line because they want to pursue their passion.
But it’s not clear to me how or why that makes any of them different from any other entrpreneur — or artist or artisan — or, for that matter, any different than someone who works for a for-profit or non-profit company in which they believe.
I say that as an entrepreneur. I’m a self-employed, one-woman operation. Like Sam, Greg, Todd, and Rhonda, I’m out there every day trying to persuade people to consume what I have to offer. (In my case, words rather than beer.) Like them, everyday, I work to create something from nothing, the “something” in my case being, again, a book.
And because I am an entrepreneur, I understand that the world is full of other human beings with goals. Do I agree with all of them? No. Nor do I think some entrepreneurs are more “pure” and “real” than others. That’s not a criticism of the others on the panel. I respect and admire them for their work and their passion. But I don’t think they’re any different from other passionate pursuers of dreams.
But the larger point is this. As a historian, I’ve spent years studying patterns of human behavior from a historical perspective, and here’s one thing I know about humans, success, and money: The more they make, the more they want. Entrepreneurs seek constant challenge, success piled on success.
Think Donald Trump or Bill Gates: They never stopped wanting more. (Gates has stepped down from Microsoft, but only because he’d decided to pursue a new and different set of challenges.)
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: Donald Trump and Bill Gates are nothing like the Sam and Greg. Sam and Greg are good guys. Trump and Gates are Corporate Fat Cats.
Maybe, maybe not. They are all, however, ambitious, smart, talented, hard-driving people who enjoy a challenge and who want more. And historically, human beings who fit that description have demonstrated that they’ll never be satisfied. That’s the nature of the beast. That’s not a value judgment: Donald Trump isn’t a bad guy. Greg Koch isn’t a bad guy. They’re simply motivated, driven, ambitious creatures.
Think about it: During the film, both Greg and Sam talked at length about their plans for expansion: bigger vats, larger bottling lines. Both are constantly expanding their distribution territories. Put bluntly: they’re constantly on the prowl looking for their Next Move, which is always to the larger end of the spectrum. We didn’t see or hear them talking about downsizing. We saw and heard them talking about growing bigger.
In short, they’re behaving in a completely human way, which is to strive, strive, and strive some more. That’s why I said to them “Check back with me in ten years.” I meant “Let’s see in ten years how you feel about “success” and about your desire to satisfy your creative ambitions.”
Next: Historical perspective on “individualism,” and consumer choice