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
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.