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Customer Profile

Name: Robert Christian
Organization: The Beer Essentials
Title: Owner
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 brewers/winemakers.

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 training.

What do think about the state of the brewing industry?

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.