Name: Robert Christian
Organization: The Beer Essentials
Whatís in your fridge? A Christmas Ale and a Saison
Describe your company:
We opened The Beer Essentials in October 1994 in
Spanaway, Washington in a 960 sq. ft. store front. We have continued to
grow our business since its inception and two years later we purchased
one of the areaís oldest beer and wine making stores ó The Lil Brown
Jug ó in Tacoma. Since that time we have consolidated the two stores
into one 3600 sq. ft. central location in Lakewood, Washington.
In early 1999 we added a website to our business and
in late 1999 we added a Wine on Premise. We firmly believe that by
providing our customers with quality ingredients, fair prices,
exceptional service and knowledgable staff we can pass along the great
art of home brewing and wine making to our customers, helping them
become more proficient and thus happier, more satisfied
Describe your role with the company:
As the owner of the company I have worked full time +
since its opening. Responsibilities include opening to closing and
everything in between. Now that we have two full time employees and my
wife working full time at the store, it has given me more time to check
out new products and equipment.
Are there any new trends that you can tell us about?
The latest trends to hit the Industry are the home
coffee roasters and the green coffee beans, some of the freshest tasting
coffee I have ever tasted. Coffee being one my other favorite brewed
beverages, it just seemed to go along with the hobby beverage concept.
What do you wish would sell better?
Of course we wish everything would sell better so we
make more money. But the truth of it is everything seems to sell pretty
well. After 8 years in the business we have weeded out a lot of the
items that did not sell well. I would personally like to see our 23
liter wine kits, Mosto Italiano and The French Collection, sell better
since I think that they, along with a White Labs liquid wine yeast, make
the best wine of all the kit wines.
What do you like about your job?
Everything, being that I am into all aspects of the
hobby myself, brewing, winemaking, soda making, etc. I really enjoy
helping people make their own beverages. Plus the challenge of running a
business. Itís a daily adventure from helping customers create a new
recipe to troubleshooting problems, to checking out new products or
experimenting with a new piece of equipment. We get a lot of customers
in saying "Itís like a kid in a candy store." I just think
to myself "Iím the kid and itís my candy store, yes!"
Why do you work with beer?
Being half Belgium, I grew up with great beers and as
I became of age in the Northwest there were few good beers to be had. I
shared a place with a friend who brewed and he taught me.
What other kinds of jobs have you had?
Prior to selling brewing supplies I worked as an
aircraft mechanic and flew as a Flight Engineer for the US Air Force
Reserves. I still currently fly for the Air Force Reserves as a
Loadmaster on the C-17 Globemaster.
What do you like about the brewing world in general?
The camaraderie, people who love beer, love to talk
about and share their wares. People want to be here, they want to buy
what weíre selling.
Describe your education:
H.S., plus some Technical Schooling. Everything about
brewing & wine making has been self taught, with lots of hands-on
What do think about the state of the brewing
We feel that we are a reverse-economy business. With
the economy down and people not working as many hours, they have more
time for their hobbies. When the economy is up, people work more hours
so they donít have as much time for their hobbies and besides they
have the money to just buy the good beer. No self-satisfaction of making
it yourself though!
Editorís note: Robert was deployed on Feb 25, and White Labs wishes
him a safe tour of duty.