One could describe Good Beer Hunting as a simply a “beer blog”—but that would not only undervalue the quality of storytelling that Michael creates for the craft beer industry, but also understate the unique point-of-view that GBH is shaping. Instead of writing about beer as a consumer—from the outside in—Michael is standing at the center of the movement as a beer-lover and also as a strategist, photographer, event planner, reporter, and creative director. GBH is truly telling a story of craft in modern America, through the lens of the people in the craft beer movement.
Michael spends a lot of time thinking, writing, consulting, photographing, and drinking beer. But that said, he’s also voraciously curious and knows that inspiration usually comes from outside the expected. So it came as no surprise a few years ago when I noticed we were talking more and more about coffee. The next thing I knew he was collaborating with Intelligentsia—one of the leaders of the specialty coffee industry—on a series of beer & coffee events called Uppers & Downers. He just dove right in.
Michael is also a synthesizer of concepts—he’s always looking for similarities between disparate ideas. So in the case of coffee and beer, he’s looking for ways to link the industries and enable inspiration to be transferred from one to another. We’ve had countless discussions (read as: debates) on how the world of specialty coffee and craft beer overlap and how they are polar opposites. They differ in a lot of interesting ways—craft beer is often a consumer product; people buy bottles, drink them, and move on. Craft coffee requires a daily ritual of preparation of the raw ingredients. The term “home brewing” means something different in each space. The coffee supply chain is long; coffee exists as agriculture thousands of mile away from where its consumed. Breweries on the other hand have been opening tap rooms in their facilities, sharing the process and bringing it to the consumer. And then there’s the obvious difference: the stereotypes say beer is how we unwind, and coffee is how we focus.
But both specialty coffee and craft beer offer opportunities to learn about flavor and your palette. (In fact this same topic is explored in this week’s Good Beer Hunting podcast with Collin Moody of Intelligentsia). And both industries represent modern points-of-view in food and craft, which come to form entire lifestyles.
So when it came time to launch Manual, Michael was exactly the right person to help me tell the lifestyle story of Manual through photography. Good Beer Hunting’s photo documentaries of breweries go beyond merely capturing process—they tell stories of ethos and intent. I was thrilled to have the same eye bring to life my brand and the products I so passionately believe in.
In addition to photography, GBH & Manual collaborated on the second day of THIS IS NOT A COFFEE SHOP—the pop-up coffee bar we ran out of the studio space we share. Located just West of Chicago’s Wicker Park—a neighborhood with many of the best coffee shops in town—the storefront gallery was home to the intersection of coffee and beer.
I set up a coffee bar to demo Manual—and poured over a hundred cups of Gaslight Colombian in 4 hours. Michael sourced an amazing coffee milk stout from Solemn Oath brewery—dubbed “The Most Important Beverage of the Day”. This beer featured not one but two types of Intelligentsia coffee; a Zambian for bright, acidic notes and a French Roast for the deeper coffee elements. And of course nothing pairs better with a coffee inspired menu than donuts, especially fancy ones that have bacon on them.
The pop-up was a great success, well over a hundred people came by to indulge in some uppers & downers in the 4 hours we were open for business. It was also an honor to have folks from the coffee industry drop by too; Intelligentsia, Passion House,Gaslight, La Colombe, Whole Foods, and more. Coffee, beer, donuts, conversation, and good vibes. Thanks to those who came—hope we can take the pop-up on the road some day soon.
As a brand, Manual is hoping to go beyond just producing great products that balance form and function—we also want to be a critical voice in the conversation around food and craft. Having a point-of-view is what makes ideas more meaningful, and we’re inspired by the path that Good Beer Hunting takes to tell stories that both reflect what is happening now, and also open questions for what could be in the future.