Launching a new series today, one inspired by Kim at The Greenery (who writes great profiles), and my friend Jon, who writes the daily newsletter The Daily Quinn and interviews his readers every Friday. My series is called “So What Do You Do Exactly?” and it’s based on the premise that my network is chock full of people who do fascinating/creative/challenging/unique things, and that I know very little about any of it. Today, meet Danica:
It started with a by-the-hour “data monkey” gig, cleaning up thousands of records of distributors, accounts, fans, and press people for a Belgian beer importer. When the web site’s project manager quit mid rehaul, Danica volunteered her services. Her employers realized that in addition to handling web design and database management, she actually knew a thing or two about beer (more than a thing, as you’ll see), Danica slid into an everyman fixer make-things-happen kind of role for the oldest Belgian beer importer in the country.
What’s your actual job title? Marketing and IT Manager
What should your job title be? Belgian Beer Evangelist
What do you do all day? Do you literally spend all your time talking about beer? It’s malleable, but yes. Whatever needs doing, I do it. I do the messaging and segmentation for marketing campaigns to our major constituencies, social media management, graphic design, website management, event planning.
Here’s an example that requires some back story: Philly Beer Week is coming up, and it is the granddaddy of all Beer Weeks, a mecca for beer nerds. One of our breweries, Brasserie Dupont, is doing a special collaboration with an American brewer, Iron Hill. This is a big, a historic marriage of beers, it’s like a magical collaboration… like a Harry Potter release for beer geeks. My company is handling the importing of this magical collaboration for Philly Beer Week.
What does that mean for you? I update the website and social media channels to make sure we have all the information up about the brewing day and market availability. I work with the distributors – the guys whose job it is to negotiate all the intricacies of the fractured liquor laws that the U.S. implemented after Prohibition – to make sure that they are well-equipped with background information on our beers and breweries, as well as making sure they know what beers are coming in when. Accounts are interested in the same beer background and beer purchasing information, as well as information about food and beer pairings. Beer bloggers and journalists, from publications like Draft Magazine or Beer Connoisseur, are kept up to date with the latest company news and when beers will be available for public consumption.
What is this community of beer geeks like? I imagine there aren’t a ton of ladies? Beer still feels like a “man’s industry.” There’s a really great film called “For the Love of Beer” that showcases some of the hurdles women in beer encounter. For instance, the movie cites one female brewer who remembers male co-workers rushing to help her carry a 50 pound bag of malt in fear that she couldn’t handle it herself. It’s not malicious, it’s just that there aren’t a lot of women around. But I think the fact that I’m female helps me do my job; my female boss and I can communicate with other women in the industry and to female fans. In the end, you just have to know your shit to be respected.
What makes Belgian beer so great? I don’t think Belgian beer is necessarily better than any other kind. It has, however, really informed the craft beer scene, and the way beer is understood in the rest of the world. You need it as your foundation. You are not going to have an art student who hasn’t taken color theory, right? You need to know the fundamentals, need to understand the history! Belgian is key.
If I want to try a new beer and I have no idea what I’m doing, what should I do? When you’re brewing a beer, you have two different kind of yeast grains, top-fermenting lager and bottom-fermenting ale and they age at different rates. Technically there’s a third… Wow…This is getting complicated.
Go out with a beer geek friend. Or, if you don’t have a beer geek friend, go out with a bunch of friends and make sure to try their beers. Take notes on the beer’s name, style, aroma, and taste. What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? Then head to a beer site, like Beer Advocate, and read up on similar styles. Drink, read, repeat.
How about this: Recommend a few beers! For a wheat beer, I’d recommend Weisentephaner. It’s a solid, refreshing beer with good body, a nice and frothy top and a lemony spritz. As for a stout, try the Left Hand Milk Stout. It’s basically drinking a chocolate beer milkshake, thick and creamy and smooth. I’m not really an IPA fan, because I don’t like bitter American hops, but I’d suggest the Bear Republic Racer #5. For an ale, go for Bell’s Two Hearted.
Pro tip! I’m a sucker for cask ales, which can sometimes be found at beer nerd hangouts. Cask ales are unfiltered, unpasteurized beers that are served at room temperature. Consequently, the beer contains live yeast and has a richer, fuller taste than other beers. If you’re at a bar with cask ale, try it! If you don’t, you’re missing out.
This conversation has taken my beer knowledge to the next level (an admittedly a still low level). What would you recommend for people that want to educate themselves? Tasting Beer, by Randy Mosher (President of the Chicago Beer Society), Beer Advocate, and Chicago Beer Week, starts May 17th!
Also, you can follow Danica on Twitter!
So what did you learn? I learned that beer sommeliers are called cicerones, that there’s a foursquare for beers (Untapped), and that beer is significantly more complicated than I thought.
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