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June Guides of the Month

The Live Homebrew Experience
These past few months have been extraordinary.

Earlier this year, stay-at-home orders were issued across the nation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of businesses were forced to close their doors, and the economy ground to a near halt. Some industries were hit harder than others, including the two City Brew Tours straddles: tourism and food and beverage. Suddenly it was illegal for us to run tours. Like so many other small business owners, Chad Brodsky and Barry Hansen were forced to lay off their staff.

But times of hardship often lead to innovation, and that’s exactly what CBT did. In just a couple weeks, Chad and Barry rolled out two brand new, online craft beer activities: The Live Homebrew Experience and Beer & Cheese Happy Hours.

These new offerings required hundreds of hours of behind-the-scenes preparation as well as beer guides to run them – beer guides who signed on to give in-person brewery tours – not virtual events.

Turns out, our beer guides are just as extraordinary as the situation they found themselves in.

Seven of our beer guides went completely above and beyond as we pivoted our business toward online experiences. They rolled with the punches, taking crash courses in the history of cheese, learning to love Zoom, and devoting their home kitchens to homebrew instruction. We couldn’t have done it without them.

 

Meet Our Guides

 

beer guide clayton

Clayton

What was going through your head when the pandemic hit and everything, including tours, was shut down?

Ha, it seems so long ago now. I remember just kind of how fast it all happened. I thought initially a few weeks would be doable, but as it dragged on I think we all felt the anxiety. I was worried for my friends at CBT and in the local, craft beer industry. I knew this was going to hit them hard, but I am also proud of how they responded. Coming up with creative and safe ways to provide great beer and cool experiences when we all needed a little distraction.

Is there a single moment from an online experience you hosted that sticks out?

One of the coolest moments was during a huge Homebrew where an extended family decided to do a brew together. They wanted to be able to spend time with one another while they had to be apart. So, the whole experience was filled with grandparents fussing over grand kids and cousins who hadn’t seen each other in months. Their plan was to get together and share the final product once they were able to safely see each other again. I just thought it was a neat way to enjoy time together and something to look forward it.

Read More From Clayton

What made you want to jump onboard as a guide for the new online experiences?

I am a passionate and enthusiastic homebrewer. I was brewing a lot on my own during quarantine and I thought it was such a great idea to do these home brew events at home. In a time where people were discovering new hobbies, I was thrilled to help people find their love of brewing. Also when I started, having an experienced friend there with me while I did my first brew was incredibly helpful. I am happy to share all the tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.

Online and in-person activities are obviously very different. What have been some challenges you’ve faced or adaptations you’ve made along the way?

I’ve used Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Teams, Facetime, etc more in the past 3 months than I have in my entire life combined. While not anyone’s preferred method of communication, I’ve gotten used to talking to people via video. I do miss face to face interaction, but it became the next best thing while we had to be apart.

What has changed about your craft beer life since the pandemic hit and shut down bars and taprooms?

Ha, drinking a lot more beer in cans. During the height of the lockdown I’d venture out for beer and groceries once a week or so. All the local breweries had difference processes, but I appreciated them still cranking out great beers and getting them to us safely. However, I have missed the taprooms. A draft beer in one of your favorite spots just hits different, you know?

What have you been drinking lately, and what do you suggest the rest of us try?

The weather is warming up so I find myself reaching for (and brewing) light, sessions beers. Golden ales, bitters, and pilsners have been my go to. However, Brew Gentlemen released their flagship NEIPA, General Braddock’s, in cans for the first time ever. That’s been a game changer these past few weeks.

Do you see virtual events like the Beer & Cheese Happy Hour and The Live Homebrew Experience sticking around after the pandemic is over? 

I see the homebrew instruction sticking around for sure. On top of being a really good value, I haven’t seen anything else like it before. I was lucky enough to have some friends who were brewers to show me the ropes. But I’m sure there are a lot of people who want to brew, but have no idea where to start. CBT provides the equipment, ingredients, and knowledge all in one place. Plus there is also option to get more advanced instruction and more challenging recipes.

Which one of the City Brew Tours values do you connect with the most and why?

Community, most definitely. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life all over the world, but Pittsburgh is my home. And I’ve forged many friendships over a pint at a number of Pittsburgh’s many breweries. I’ve met a lot of great people and want nothing more than to see the Pittsburgh beer industry flourish. Nothing will make me happier than to see taprooms full of friends and strangers sharing locally made beer again


 

beer guide mike

Mike

What was going through your head when the pandemic hit and everything, including tours, was shut down?

“Should have ordered that extra pint at Heavy Seas last weekend.”

What made you want to jump onboard as a guide for the new online events?

I’m an avid homebrewer and my wife is a Special Education Teacher.  Seeing the way that she adapted to the challenges of teaching online during the pandemic was very inspiring, and once the online events were launched I saw a great opportunity to do the same with brewing.

Do you see virtual events like the Beer & Cheese Happy Hour and The Live Homebrew Experience sticking around after the pandemic is over? 

Absolutely!  I don’t think our new virtual experiences need to be relegated to a socially distant world –  They’re a great way to share an experience with friends or family that live far away – and for aspiring brewers and cicerones to learn more about craft beer from the comforts of home!

Read More From Mike

Online and in-person activities are obviously very different. What have been some challenges you’ve faced or adaptations you’ve made along the way?

Upgrading my home office to be more ‘Zoom’ friendly was a great first step.  Now I just need to stop wearing sweatpants every hour of every day….

What types of online events have you worked on? Is there a single moment that sticks out from one of your events?

I’ve been focused on the Live Homebrew Experiences and the moment where our guests first get a taste of the malted barley we provide always stands out to me.  While beer is an enormously popular beverage – the vast majority of people only have a vague idea of what the fermentables actually taste like, and the reactions are priceless!

What has changed about your craft beer life since the pandemic hit and shut down bars and taprooms?

Not sure about the rest of the country – but some breweries in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area have been able to ship beer straight to your door! Other than that lots of curbside pickup and trying to figure out this sourdough bread thing.

What have you been drinking lately, and what do you suggest the rest of us try?

BARLEYWINE

Which one of the City Brew Tours values do you connect with the most and why? 

Ambassadorship for sure.  For many of our tour guests City Brew Tours is their authentic craft beer experience that goes beyond simply drinking the beer.  It’s our duty as guides to not only represent our local affiliates, but craft beer and its culture as a whole – certainly a privilege for us as guides and certified beer nerds!


 

guide ethan

Ethan

Online and in-person activities are obviously very different. What have been some challenges you’ve faced or adaptations you’ve made along the way?

On a live tour, I can easily check in on a quieter guest, and get a feel for the group. In a Zoom call, with a shared screen and everyone on mute… sometimes it feels like I am talking to a wall. Thankfully, a few sips of beer gets everyone chatty, and the more comfortable folks have gotten with the platforms, the more they’re willing to engage with me. I’ve gotten much better at gently calling folks in, and making sure that everyone has a chance to stay involved.

What types of online experiences have you worked on? Is there a single moment that sticks out from one of your events?

Beer & Cheese Happy Hour for life! The event that sticks out was a graduation party I joined in Michigan. The graduate (also named Ethan) was going to have a huge party, which got cancelled because of COVID-19. He was bummed, so his parents surprised him with a beer tasting. Ethan is a huge beer nerd, and his excitement – and solid craft brew cred – totally made my day. The best part, though, was that the family was recommended to City Brew Tours to another graduation party that I hosted, and they virtually joined it – so we got to see each other again! Hats off to you, Ethan! Hit me up when you’re in NYC – your first beer is on me.

Read More From Ethan

What was going through your head when the pandemic hit and everything, including tours, was shut down?

I work in the live engagement space (museum consulting, zoos and aquariums, team building, tour guiding, communications training etc.), and every job/gig/project I had going shut down on the same day, including City Brew Tours. Imagine getting “fired” from 12 jobs, all at once! That, mixed with New York City becoming the epicenter of the pandemic, was pretty mind-boggling. It’s possible I had one of my fanciest beers that night.

What made you want to jump onboard as a guide for the new online experiences?

I missed giving tours and drinking beer with people! The minute City Brew Tours opened the doors, I jumped at the chance to join the online ranks. Nothing makes me happier than getting to share something I love with people who are just as excited about it as I am.

Do you see virtual events like the Beer & Cheese Happy Hour and The Live Homebrew Experience sticking around after the pandemic is over?

I think, initially, everyone is going to want to be with people, in places. Which I totally get (and, trust me, I want to as well!) But, ultimately, as we have gotten more creative with virtual experiences, I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see opportunities to connect with each other moving online. Of course, nothing compares to visiting a brewery and tasting their beers with friends. But I’m excited that we’re finding a new way to have a drink together – especially with folks that we care about who live far away – and I hope that isn’t going to disappear.

What has changed about your craft beer life since the pandemic hit and shut down bars and taprooms?

Thankfully, I live within walking distance of a brewery (hey Randolph!), so their to-go window guys know me a bit too well. And many of the other breweries in NYC are making home deliveries, which has been wonderful. I also asked my neighborhood grocery store about stocking more local beers, and they happily obliged. Support your local breweries, folks! We want them here once we’re done with this.

What have you been drinking lately, and what do you suggest the rest of us try?

Anything from Randolph Brewing Company in DUMBO, Brooklyn! Literally anything and everything! Their crowler selection is spectacular and their brewer hasn’t let up. For folks in New York State, I also can’t recommend the Tiny Juicy IPA and Gose from 5 Boroughs Brewing Company highly enough. Now that the weather is nice, those are my go-to rooftop beers

Which one of the City Brew Tours values do you connect with the most and why? 

I live my professional life by a motto: “Create unique experiences, over short periods of time, that educate, entertain and change.” 


 

guide gabi

Gabi

What was going through your head when the pandemic hit and everything, including tours, was shut down?

I was really anxious leading up to everything shutting down….shutting down seemed like the appropriate step so I was just waiting for it to happen. I gave a private tour the second weekend in March and the whole city of Boston just had this weird vibe of everyone going out for the last time.

What types of online events have you worked on? Is there a single moment that sticks out from one of your events?

I’ve mostly been packing and delivering beer and cheese tasting boxes for our private online events but I have also lead some of those events online. Once I move I’m looking forward to leading the home-brew classes!

What made you want to jump onboard as a guide for the new online experiences?

I like to be busy – so the stay at home order was tough for me. The school I teach at was remote and asynchronous and tours were cancelled so I really jumped at the opportunity to do deliveries just to get up and out of the house.

Read More from Gabi

Do you see virtual events like the Beer & Cheese Happy Hour and The Live Homebrew Experience sticking around after the pandemic is over? 

Definitely! The events are affordable and fun and have gotten really popular really fast, so I definitely see them sticking around….plus this virus doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon…

Online and in-person activities are obviously very different. What have been some challenges you’ve faced or adaptations you’ve made along the way?

I’m way more self conscious while talking to my computer screen.

What has changed about your craft beer life since the pandemic hit and shut down bars and taprooms?

I really miss trivia nights!!! But I’ve been taking advantage of to-go sales at local breweries and really digging the produce boxes that some are offering.

What have you been drinking lately, and what do you suggest the rest of us try?

Trillium Fort Point, Barrelhouse Z Guava Pale Ale, Dorchester Brewing Punch Bowl Sour – all so good!

Which one of the City Brew Tours values do you connect with the most and why? 

I like the ambassadorship value quite a bit. I love getting to rep our awesome local brews and breweries to our guests and connect with the staff at our affiliates.


 

guide jonathan

Jonathan

What was going through your head when the pandemic hit and everything, including tours, was shut down?

At first, it was a “let’s just wait it out” thought, but as things progressed I realized there was going to be a new normal, and that nothing was going to be the same.

What made you want to jump onboard as a guide for the new online experiences?

I wanted to find a way to uplift people’s spirits during this time, and the online events were a perfect way to do that, and to help me stay fresh with my beer knowledge.

Do you see virtual events like the Beer & Cheese Happy Hour and The Live Homebrew Experience sticking around after the pandemic is over?

Yes I do see them staying around. These events give people an additional way to experience and learn about craft beer especially when families are spread out around the country.

Read More from Jonathan

Online and in-person activities are obviously very different. What have been some challenges you’ve faced or adaptations you’ve made along the way?

Online events can be a little challenging with gauging the interest of the groups as you’re talking, but I have noticed that doing online events for 50 plus people is way easier than a tour of 50 people, since I don’t have to worry about them wandering off in the brewery.

What types of online events have you worked on? Is there a single moment that sticks out from one of your events?

I have been doing the Beer and Cheese Happy Hours, especially for large corporate gatherings. I did have a person dipping their cheese into their beer like a cookie, and asking if that’s the best way to get a full balance of the beer and cheese.

What has changed about your craft beer life since the pandemic hit and shut down bars and taprooms?

I have been drinking bodega beer more than craft beer, but I have also had to find new ways to support the local breweries since getting to them was not feasible for most of quarantine.

What have you been drinking lately, and what do you suggest the rest of us try?

Luckily, I found a local company that delivers local breweries, so I can still get beer from some of our affiliates. I have been drinking a lot of Mexican style lagers, Lemon Drop pilsners, and Fruited IPAs, but the best was a Farmhouse IPA from 18th Ward Brewing.

Which one of the City Brew Tours values do you connect with the most and why?

Shareable Experiences, because sometimes the few hours we have with guests is their first exposure to craft beer, as well a time for them to connect with friends and family. I always know it’s been a good experience when I see their face smiling at the end of a tour or online event, and that is a success in my book.


 

beer guide brent

Brent

What made you want to jump onboard as a guide for the new online experiences?

A combination of things: boredom, commitment to the company, and the urge to spread the good word of craft beer!

Do you see virtual events like the Beer & Cheese Happy Hour and The Live Homebrew Experience sticking around after the pandemic is over?

I certainly hope so and believe they will. These two events fill a niche that was currently not covered prior to the pandemic. I’ve been brewing for roughly 10 years now. When I first started all I had were books and the friendly people at the local homebrew shop to ask questions too. With this online format I am able to walk a guest through step by step explaining everything that we are doing and why, all while answering any questions along the way.

Online and in-person activities are obviously very different. What have been some challenges you’ve faced or adaptations you’ve made along the way?

Commanding a crowd in Zoom is not nearly as easy as in real life! On the plus side I don’t have to wear pants in Zoom meetings.

Read More From Brent

What was going through your head when the pandemic hit and everything, including tours, was shut down?

The first few weeks I honestly thought it was all a bit nonsense and that everyone was overreacting. I’ve been in the military for 19 years so it takes a lot to rattle me. Once it sunk in I was more concerned for my parents than anything.

What types of online events have you worked on? Is there a single moment that sticks out from one of your events?

I’ve done both the Beer Cheese Happy hour and Live Homebrew Experience.  Not a specific moment but anytime I can get a guest to enjoy something they never thought they would such as pairing an extra salty Roquefort blue cheese with a Chocolate Porter or the joy of making their first Pale Ale to share with friends.

What has changed about your craft beer life since the pandemic hit and shut down bars and taprooms?

I’d have to say simply the fact that I’ve had to drink a TON of beer by myself which is a bit of a bummer. Alcohol is known as a social lubricant for a reason. I enjoy sitting at a bar or tap room with friends and simply socializing. The upside is that nearly every brewery shifted to canning, even the small guys that were content with taproom sales. This gets more diversity of beer into the local market which I wholeheartedly support.

What have you been drinking lately, and what do you suggest the rest of us try?

What haven’t I been drinking is an easier question. I make sure to support my local breweries by snagging all the latest beer releases. And also to keep on top of things for when tours resume As far suggestions, I suggest always drink local and drink beer that you are excited about. Also don’t ever be afraid to try a beer that you think may not be for you, you may be surprised.

Which one of the City Brew Tours values do you connect with the most and why?

I’d have to say Ambassadorship. I am a representative of City Brew Tours within the breweries but also a champion of craft beer and the individual breweries themselves. Every time I put on my work shirt I know that I am about to teach someone something they never knew about beer.


 

guide zach

Zach

Do you see virtual events like the Beer & Cheese Happy Hour and The Live Homebrew Experience sticking around after the pandemic is over?

I definitely see virtual events continuing, for a couple reasons. First people really enjoy them and a lot of people would definitely rather drink at home then in a bar and this is perfect for that. Second I think it is really good for companies whose employees work remotely, which there will be a lot of even after things return to a sense of normalcy.

Online and in-person activities are obviously very different. What have been some challenges you’ve faced or adaptations you’ve made along the way?

It has been difficult to foster a sense of community with the groups in one over the computer instead of 4 hours together in a van and breweries. The banter back in forth comes a little tougher and that is where I really shine.  It has gotten progressively better though and some online events really hit it off.

What have you been drinking lately, and what do you suggest the rest of us try?

I went out camping last weekend and on my way back to Philly stopped at Workhorse Brewing and Bald Birds Brewing that both had some really good stuff. Especially liked Workhorse’s Baltic Porter and Bald Birds Kenya Dig It Coffee Cream Ale.

Read More from Zach

What types of online events have you worked on? 

I have worked A LOT of Beer and Cheese Happy Hours, public, private and the good ole Air BnBs. I have trained to do Homebrew Experience as well but have not gotten the equipment or the confidence to run one of those yet.

What was going through your head when the pandemic hit and everything, including tours, was shut down?

When the pandemic hit my first reaction was worry cause I thought I would lose all of my income and wouldn’t be able to pay rent. But also it was an excuse to hang inside with my dog more.

What made you want to jump onboard as a guide for the new online experiences?

Honestly, I needed to make some money so I was ready to go for any opportunity. Beer tours from home was something I couldn’t pass up because I also missed doing tours and talking to people.

What have you been drinking lately, and what do you suggest the rest of us try?

I find myself drinking a lot less beer in general, except for some occasions when I will make a trip to my local brewer, either Love City or Tired Hands. Have found myself still finding some inebriation necessary but have been turning mostly to whiskey for that.

Which one of the City Brew Tours values do you connect with the most and why?

My number one value that I stick with is Community. Whether that is on a van full of strangers who are thick as thieves after 5 long hours together or 1 hour on Zoom with some people in your tech company who you have never met before, I try to be the link, just like a glass of beer is, that brings everyone together.


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