When evangelism pays off: A Convert!

I evangelize a great amount when I get right down to it, Congregants. My blog is but one facet of my evangelism, the Twitter another. I’ve begun to pay attention to the way I shape conversations, and the topics to which my conversations naturally gravitate towards. I’ve found that craft beer takes up much of my focus, and it’s interesting to see the way people react. Sometimes, people say, “Wow, you really like beer, don’t you?”  This is said in the same tone of voice as they might say, “Wow, you’re a raging drunk, aren’t you?” Sometimes, it’s more positive, such as, “Wow, I had no idea there was so much to beer.”  Etc. Because I evangelize in all I do, sort of a “pull the pin and chuck it” kind of approach, I savor the moments when it “clicks” for someone.  What, exactly does that mean? Hit the jump, and let’s talk about it.

Not all that long ago, I was buying beer for an event. Honestly, I don’t remember what the event was, but the activity surrounding my buying of the beer I recall vivdly. I’m standing in line, with a 4-pack of Maui Brewing Company‘s Coconut Porter sitting on the counter (among many other selections) waiting to be lovingly scanned by the attentive BevMo employee. (Honestly, I don’t really know if BevMo employees scan my items lovingly, but since I pick them out lovingly, allow me to continue my illusion.) The man behind me had his selection, a 12-pack of Sol, a mexican lager. This is a style I’m not particularly interested in, of course, but he’s not asking me for my opinion; I look up at his face, smile genuinely, and turn back to see if I can take home my packages of wonderment. The guy behind me says, “Hey, man.” If I looked startled, it’s because I thought our curiosity toward our mutual selections and BevMo smiles had completed our social transaction, and we were free to go on our multicolored beer enjoyment. Such was not to be the case, as the guy followed it up with, “Coconut Beer? Does it taste like coconut?”

Those of us who preach the wonders of broadening one’s beer horizons see this kind of an opportunity as a chance to share some passion with someone who might not have even known such things as beer brewed with coconut actually existed.  I turned my attention from the BevMo employee and smiled again.  “Yup, but not too much…not too sweet.  Just some coconut lingering after each sip.”  Often, when someone encounters a true believer at this point, they smile and return to gazing at their shoes, as if to say, “That’s enough of your excitement.  I wouldn’t want you to make a mess.”  This guy was not of that breed, to my astonishment and happiness.  He asked me what I meant by sweet, what I meant by lingering, and was it any good?  I assured him it was one of my favorites, but couldn’t enjoy it very often, because it was prohibitively expensive. He asks me how much, and with some apprehension, I tell him. “It’s like 12 bucks for a 4-pack.”  Yup, I emphasized the “4”. I wouldn’t want him getting the wrong notion about the cost of each beer. Yeah, dude, each CAN of beer costs $3. His eyes widened, he whistled in astonishment, and then said, “You think I would like it.”

Oh, my tender flock, I experienced exultation. I told him that while I couldn’t give him his opinion, I could certainly influence his expectations. I explained a little about what he could expect a porter to taste like. Explained the use of roasted malts lent some coffee and chocolate flavors to the beer, and that the coconut was just a nice, sweet remembrance on the tongue throughout the finish. I explained that it should NEVER be consumed from the can, and he nodded.  I said that he needed to let it sit on the counter so it wasn’t too cold, or he’d miss out on all the wonderful malty sweetness, and he said, “Oh, ok.”  He was with me the whole way. Moreover, he seemed to get more excited with each adjective and warning, and then said, “can you keep an eye on my beer? I’m going to go get some…where is it?”  I gave him directions, and soon he returned with the aforementioned 4-pack and a smile on his face.  I paid for my selections and stepped back to wait for the Minister of Mixology, who was agonizing over some spirits selections.  The guy paid for his beer, thanked me for the recommendation and left with one of the finest examples of the porter style money can buy…and a box of some other crap. (I kid, to each their own, but once you’ve had something like Maui’s Coconut Porter, I can’t imagine a Mexican-style lager tastes like much other than club soda, with or without a lime.)

This was a most happy story, but my congregants, it is not without a sense of the cliffhanger about it.  Did he like the beer? Did he take my recommendations into account when serving this wonderful nectar? Or did he instead serve it straight from the freezer in the can, or into a chilled mug? Did he, (shudder), pour it down the sink? (A wretched fate which such a noble porter does not deserve.) While this story is certainly happy, it does not contain the payoff, the lifting of the scales from the eyes…the conversion. It’s a great encounter, and I hope for many more. But it does not constitute the payoff for the hard work and evangelism.

—–=====@=====—–

Cut to my new job with my new co-workers. One of them does not drink by choice, and the other…well…he has a less discerning palate than I think is proper. I think he has the skills and the joie de vivre to appreciate good beer. It is obvious to me that he has never been educated as to the sheer scope of what is possible with the four noble ingredients of barley, water, hops, and yeast. What does he know? 1) Craft Beer is highly alcoholic. (A misconception, though not without a kernel of truth.) 2) Craft Beer is expensive. (Compared to Blue Moon, and Coors Light, yeah….it is.)  But I see promise, my gentle readers, I see promise.  So I begin lightly mocking his beer choices. (Friendly banter, you see. It is a tactic.  I am giving him grief over beverages he knows I consider inferior. We laugh afterwards, but I can see he knows I feel there is another nugget of truth involved here.)  He knows that there is a world of beer he has not seen. He has never even been to BevMo! I am creating tension for the moment of the reveal.  Also, I’m talking up the awesome beers I’ve tasted lately. I explain what I liked about them, so he can see the wide variety of flavors and aromas that is craft beer. Meanwhile, I plot.

Yes, I plot. Is Stone’s Arrogant Bastard a fine ale? CERTAINLY! Does Hopsickle from Moylan’s Brewing contain a great appeal? MOST DEFINITELY! But these beers are not “beginner beers”, in my opinion. It is the rare individual who can appreciate the bitterness of hops, let alone the baseball bat of hops to the face that are these fine craft brews.  For my co-worker’s taste, I needed to find a beer that would stun him. It would certainly be beer, no wine coolers for this gentleman. But I wanted something that would “wow” him. I felt that something diametrically opposed from Blue Moon, his beer of choice, would give him the oomph he needed. It shouldn’t be too much in the ABV% category. I don’t want to reinforce his perception that all the beer I drink is high-octane. One Sunday, when some extremely large lads were beating up some gents who have a great love of their country, I ended up with 3 spare cans of Maui’s Coconut Porter.

Ah…this might be the one. With the memory of the Sol Encounter so fresh in my mind, it could be a sign that this could be the moment when the clouds break, the sun shines afresh upon his brow, and a chorus of drunken brewmasters sing the Hallelujah Chorus while he stands with his arms outstretched, gazing into the brilliance of BEER AWESOMENESS! What’s more, I could stress the expense of this beer. It is, as I mentioned before, a $3 can of beer. Such generosity ought to go some distance to show my dedication, as well as the earnest nature of my convictions. Friends, Romans, Beer Aficionados, I did it. I brought this beer to work. I did not do this without conditions. I gave him 3 conditions, and they ought not surprise you: 1) Do NOT drink this beer from the can. You’ll miss out on the wonderful aromas it has to offer. 2) Also, try to get about 1.5 to 2 fingers of head in your pour. Here’s how to do that. (explanation follows.) And 3) Let it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes after removing it from the fridge. PLEASE do not drink it too cold, or you might as well not drink it at ALL! The malty sweetness that ought to underlay a good porter is GONE if the beer is too cold. Furthermore, I made him read my review of the beer.

It immediately began to work its magic when he caught a gleaming glimpse of it on his desk, bright and early at 8am. “Oh, is this that beer?”  “Yup. I hope you enjoy it.” Then, the anticipation began to gnaw, quite impossible to ignore.

9:30am – “Looking forward to that beer, man. Thanks again.” (He just brings it up.)
11am – “Even the can just looks cool!” (…out of the blue.)
1pm – “Man, I wish I could open it right now.”
3pm – “I don’t think I can wait…think anyone would notice if I opened it right now?”
5pm – “Have a good evening, man. Thanks again for the beer, I can’t wait to get home.”

He tried it that night. The next day, his report was pretty good.

A.E. – How was that Coconut Porter?
Co-Worker (C.W.) – It was good man. I mean, it was really good. My wife even liked it.
A.E. – I’m glad, man, really glad.
C.W. – Yeah, thanks a lot, man.

Ok, so it wasn’t the epiphany I’d hoped for, but I had no idea what I’d unleashed.  Later that week, he made a passing comment to another co-worker that he ought to talk to me about awesome beer.  He mentioned it a couple times again, thanking me for sharing it.  I thought it all polite courtesy. You see, my co-worker is an understated kind of guy. Today, however, was the big payoff; the point at which I knew my evangelism was worth it. Today, he said this as I talked about my brew day this upcoming Saturday:

C.W. – You know, your plan to get me addicted to expensive, fattening beers is working. We keep our cans on the counter until we have enough to take them outside. Yesterday I saw the Coconut Porter can from last week. I picked it up just to smell how good it was, and it still smelled good enough for me to consider pouring any lingering drops into my mouth…

KERBLAM!, as I am fond of saying. The craft beer thunderbolt has struck, and it was a solid hit. He’s hooked. He’s going on a vacation this weekend, and he and I are going to BevMo to pick out some excellent craft beer for him to take to the cabin and share. I’m more excited than I’ve been in awhile for this trip on Thursday.

So keep preaching the good news of good booze, my friends. The payoff, when it comes, is well worth it.

~A.E.

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