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Good Beer Hunting

Feb 1, 2020

Welcome to Mother of Invention—a special series of the GBH Podcast made in partnership with Guinness devoted to innovation in the brewing world, both historical and contemporary. In this series, we ask the question: if necessity is the mother of invention, what is the necessity that’s driving people to solve a problem, meet a challenge, or explore a new opportunity—and what are they doing about it?

This series started in collaboration with Guinness, an underwriter for GBH for three years running. Guinness has a reputation for being a technical innovator—whether it’s draft technology, the invention of the nitro widget in the can, training the world how to pour a proper pint, or achieving unprecedented consistency in their breweries around the world. But necessity and innovation come in all sorts of forms for breweries big and small, and are reflected in the cultural influences around them. 

So this year we decided to go to Denver during the Great American Beer Festival, when we knew we’d have a critical mass of influential and hard-working people from across the industry in one place. We set up shop and conducted two full days of interviews. And while the resulting conversations vary widely in terms of topics and experiences, some patterns began to emerge. 

This first episode explores the ways in which people are trying to expand beer’s audience. For some, that means inspiring loyalty with traditional experiences, like going to your neighborhood bar in the age of the brewery taproom. For others, it’s about sending very big, explicit signals that groups that have historically been excluded by the beer world—black people, trans people, the elderly, and beyond—belong and are welcomed into what is so often described in an over-simplified way as the “beer community.” And for others still, it’s about getting these formerly niche beers into the mainstream world, so that people who might be delighted by them have better access to them—without having to “join the club” and travel to breweries in industrial parks in the ’burbs, stand in can release lines for hours, or spend a fortune on the latest hyped-up Hazy IPA. 

Each of these scenarios involves paying attention, being empathetic, and taking risks with your product, brand, or personhood. It’s a kind of innovation through vulnerability. Or innovation through humanity. And it’s resulting in people doing a lot of new things, in new ways, that benefit others. 

This is Mother of Invention. Listen in.