It seems too good to be true: a small Birmingham craft brewery looking to make it big moves to an out of the way warehouse in Alabama, a state peculiarly unfriendly to beer makers and just downright rude to beer drinkers. Before them obstacles fall and opportunities arise. The City of Birmingham green lights a plan to build a new 8,500 seat stadium for AA baseball’s Birmingham Barons directly across the street from them. The pro-beer organization Free The Hops successfully lobbies the state legislature to pass The Brewery Modernization Act allowing them to open a tasting room bar in the brewery itself. Luck? Insider knowledge? Well placed bribes? Shrewd business sense? On condition of anonymity, a Good People Brewery employee gives mightstainyourshirt.com a glimpse of those behind an ambitious brewery on the cusp of realizing their dreams.
“It has to be about the beer,” says our insider, Qfwfq (not his real name). “The beer has to come first. If you skimp on ingredients, if you take shortcuts, you fail yourself and you fail your customers. Early on… we were learning as we went so, sure, we played up the Good People ethos,” he continued. “Not exactly ‘oh shucks’ or anything like that, but we knew there would be mistakes in the beginning so we adopted an attitude that said to our customers ‘Look, we make great beer, but the scope of this thing is new to us. We will fuck something up, but we are on the lookout and whatever mistakes we make, we’ll fix.’ People understand that. If you let them know where you are headed and demonstrate that you are on the path, they forgive the occasional foamy keg or sour ale.” He pulled on his cigarette and looked at me with earnest eyes. “We made it this far and can see even brighter days coming. We have a product we are really excited about, experience, and a tried and true process that consistently scores us high caliber brews. We are where we want to be now, but I really feel like it was our ability to convey our goals to our customers that kept us afloat in the early days. As a back up, we sold our souls to Satan, our Dark Lord and Master.”
If there is a regret, Qfwfq says, it is that they were not terribly specific in their dealings with the Host of the Hoary Nether Regions. “The baseball thing wasn’t our idea. We kind of just left it up to the Beast himself to come up with something beneficial. Don’t get me wrong,” he says, “a baseball park is great. I doubt we would have come up with anything better if his Pointy Goatee put the question to us. We’d have wasted our immortality on a fleet of trucks or a high speed canner or some other dumb ass shit. But a baseball park, especially a minor league park. That thing is gonna seat what, almost nine thousand people, almost none of whom really give a shit about the teams playing but just want a cool way to spend an afternoon.” He starts to get animated, his hands working in concert with his mouth. “If even one percent of a half full stadium gets bored by the third inning and bag it for a bar, and they will, we have a shot at forty-five patrons in the middle of a fucking weekday afternoon. And that’s thinking small. The night games! Holy Shit!”
Qfwfq pauses, calms, and gets back to his point. “I think that if we could do it all over again we would just outright ask for a baseball stadium because I feel like if we just had that idea to toss around somebody would have had the sense to ask for concession rights inside the place too, but that’s hindsight for you. Fucking Birmingham Budweiser.” He runs his fingernails through a few days worth of beard scraggle. “I guess that bird has flown, though. We already sold all of our souls and it’s not like we can renegotiate.” A shake of the head and minute of contemplative shoe gazing follow. “On an unrelated note, we are taking applications for an as yet undetermined position.”
Nearby competitors Avondale Brewing and Cahaba Brewing Company had mixed reactions to Good People’s recent fortunes and how to plot the road ahead.
Dismissive of the waning influence of Judeo-Christian demonic influence in America, Avondale Brewing stresses smart marketing: triangulation, demographic studies, social media, and product placement. When asked if they could place their product more
advantageously than across from a baseball stadium their advertising executive mumbled something about local history and their informative website and excused himself.
Cahaba Brewing Company is focusing on word of mouth and strong grassroots appeal, although that was not their initial response. “We tossed around the idea of going on some kind of epic quest in service of a deity in exchange for divine favor, but there’s no defined quid pro quo on these things,” said a Cahaba employee who also, conveniently, asked to remain anonymous. “Google ‘epic quest rewards’ and you get page after page of World of Warcraft walk-throughs. There are almost no contemporary comps on this. Our lawyers spent two months trying to get Loki’s people to sign off on a definition of ‘boon’.” He leans back, tie loose and sleeves rolled to mid forearm. “In the end we walked away with nothing to show but thousands of dollars in legal bills.” He would neither confirm nor deny reports that Cahaba representatives have reached out to Shiva’s people.
It seems that Good People sits squarely in the driver’s seat for the time being. Was it wise to relinquish their immortal souls for market share? Would it have been more beneficial to take the Trappist tact? Only time will tell. Speaking of time, Regions Field construction is scheduled to be complete this April for the beginning of the new season. Good People looks to stand astride a great confluence of Americana: beer, baseball, and free market capitalism. It bears witnessing.