Beer. Some people say it is the oldest alcoholic beverage on earth. Some attribute the very existence of civilization to the organized planting of grain to use in beer, and then later, bread. And where those people of Samaria may or may not have gathered around a vessel of some version of fermented delight and wondered why their heads got silly, it is clear to me that beer has been and continues to be a direct link to a hub of community.
I have the great privilege to be a part of that community. But I didn't always know that that was a possibility. I had no idea when opening Green Frog Café Acoustic Tavern that I was embarking on a much larger journey than that of just pouring beer and putting cash in the till. I had no idea what I was doing and so I was able to create an environment from scratch.
Those folks out there who regularly come to the Green Frog often tell me that it is "their bar" because of the feeling of community that exists. But that happens in every bar where someone feels at home. I said a long time ago that I am not a bartender at all, but a smile broker. Maybe it's an observation that I can make that lets someone know I am paying attention to them, or maybe it's just the beer itself that makes their lips pull back in some small display of joy, but whatever it is, I absolutely love the smiles.
Sometimes I will stand at the end of the bar and just look at the people. I watch them converse and gesture, debate and discuss, and more often than not they smile. I don't have to observe for long, usually just a few moments and it makes everything worth it.
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This community extends much farther than the walls of my own business. I travel around the state, and sometimes farther, in search of new and exciting beer and no matter where I go I meet great people. Because beer is just the byproduct of passionate brewers. They love what they do. They have complete control over their product and it is bound only by depth of imagination. And they all have stories to tell.
It is not uncommon to have another bar owner tell me that I'm crazy for driving around to pick up my own beer. But I find that the folks who don't understand also don't have the full story behind what they are pouring. I have an intangible amount of fun relaying the stories behind each of the brews. I get to know the brewers, where they came from, where they want to go, and what their hopes are for the beer. There are always stories and more often than not, if you order a beer from me, you are going to hear it.
I really feel that I am "living the dream." It wasn't necessarily my dream before I started this adventure, but it shows itself with increasing regularity. I have never before been in a situation where I could meet so many people I consider friends. I serve the people, but they contribute every bit as much to my world as I do theirs. I am surrounded by the best beers I can find and some of the greatest live music that I could possibly hear. I have immersed myself in two very different but equally rewarding and tight-knit communities.
I am asked fairly often how I keep up with all of it. How I can spend upwards of 80 hours a week, every week, finding beer, pouring beer, booking the acts, running the sound, and doing all of the other tasks necessary to keep this business alive. And I'm fairly certain that the only reason is because I listened to the words of my grandfather, Jim, a long time ago. He told me, "You should never work for a living." And now, with this community of friends and musicians, beer geeks and beginners, brewers and musicians, and fellow operators of beer establishments, I can honestly say that I don't work for a living. I live.