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Letter from the President
By Chris White

I think most of us joined the business of brewing for the same general reason ó we were intrigued and motivated by the idea of turning a hobby into a profession.

Indeed there are few brewers or others in the business who havenít had at least some experience as a homebrewer. I, for one, started toying with yeast while homebrewing in college.

When working in the laboratory environment, I saw an opportunity to make better yeast, and thus turn what was then a weekend hobby into the business we have today.

But again, it all started out as fun. I wonder sometimes if we have lost track of that singular reason for involvement in this business, as evidenced by the occasional disputes.

Well, I think we may have come up with something to return a little bit of the fun to this great hobby. I have co-designed, along with my brother, a game about the brewing industry called BrewMaster: The Craft Beer Game. We introduced it at the Great American Beer Festival in September (for more about the GABF, turn to page 1).

The idea came about some four years ago, when I and several other White Labs associates and friends got together in the Napa Valley to create it. By the end of the weekend, everyone came up with some great ideas. It was a traditional board game, and surely would have met with success in the marketplace.

But it did lack something, and at the time it was hard to pinpoint. Looking back now, it seemed that while the ideas were interesting the game did not really make you feel like a brewer.

We went back to the drawing board. We borrowed some ideas from the strategy gaming world, both here and in Germany, including the trend toward combining card and board games into one package.

Cards worked well for us because they helped us tell the story of brewing without a lot of rules or complexity. Indeed, the finished game can be played in less than an hour and includes plenty of strategy and the things gamers love. For us, we are pleased because in the process it also teaches something about beer.

The gameís 90 cards include ingredient cards like malt, hops and yeast (you combine these cards much like you do in rummy). When you play a hand (i.e. brew beer) you place chips (representing beer drinkers, or crowds) down on one of six different beer styles including ale, stout and Belgian.

The game also includes event cards, which you play after brewing beer. The event cards help paint an interesting picture of craft brewing here and abroad.

The strategy comes when you decide which beers you want to make. Often when you make beer, you hurt another player. The player with the most combined crowd markers and awards wins the game.

We played with a number of brewers throughout the development process, including Vinnie Cilurzo, head brewer at Korbelís Russian River Brewery in Northern California. Vinnie kept trying to make a Belgian, which is one of the most difficult beers to make not only in the real world but also in the game. Though he couldnít brew beer, he refused to fire his brewer. He ended up with no medals and, sadly, lost the game. Even this prize winning brewer learned a little something about running a brewery through this game, it seems.

We also had experienced brewers examine the ingredient cards to make sure they matched reality. People will disagree with some of the card combinations, but that was inevitable. The bottom line is that for every possible combination in the game, there are brewers who swear by the recipes.

Almost everyone who has played has been enthusiastic. It has sold extremely well so far not only to those who love beer but also to those who know someone who loves beer. And almost everyone knows just such a person, making for a potentially huge market for the game.

As for me, the development process relieved a little of the stress from my regular job.

And it was also brought back a little of the fun.

To learn more about the game, including retailer terms and prices, visit www.brewmastergame.com or call 1-888-593-2785.

Chris White is President of White Labs Inc. and is a chemistry and biochemistry lecturer at the University of California, San Diego. He has a Ph.D in biochemistry.