Getting Hip to Hops

Not that I need any more notoriety — this blog has thousands hundreds tens a few loyal readers — but I managed to get a byline in the April edition of Cincinnati Magazine by writing the text to accompany some really cool photos (by Aaron M. Conway) of a local farm that grows hops.

You can check out the full online version here.

The editor of Cincinnati Magazine, John Fox, is an old friend of mine. When I was working at an alternative music station, he was the editor of an alt-weekly, and the station and the paper would collaborate, cross-pollinate, and co-promote events often due to the large overlap in audiences. John will throw me a magazine assignment every now and then – usually something fairly straightforward and not too time-consuming. I enjoy the challenge, and I always wind up learning something new while doing research and interviews. For the hops farm piece, I got to interview one of the growers and connect with brewers at several local breweries… it’s a really tight-knit community and it was cool to witness the spirit of collaboration among them. I also learned quite a bit about the process of growing hops, and I found it quite fascinating.

“The more you know…”

If you’re keeping score at home, I’ve now done four pieces for Cincinnati Magazine over the past couple of years, and two of them have been beer-centric. I think I’m being typecast. Then again, if the shoe beer mug fits…

The Illustrated Man

John Ham passed away a week ago. No relation to Jon Hamm. But there was a connection.

Jon Hamm, the actor, is best known for playing the character of Don Draper, a cigarette-smoking ad agency man in the 1960s, on Mad Men.

John Ham also was quite the character. He was a cigarette-smoking ad agency man in the 1960s. And the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s, too.

I worked with John from 2000-2005. He was an illustrator, and a damn good one. He did a lot of the packaging artwork for the original line of Star Wars action figures and toys. He created the illustrations for a Cincinnati beer company’s souvenir six-packs of the Reds World Series Championship way back in 1976.

By the time I joined the agency where “Hammy” worked, he was 62 years old… the wise (and wisecracking) elder statesman of the creative team. He didn’t really need the money – he and several friends had broken away from a big agency to form their own small ad agency decades prior. They grew the business, and were eventually bought out by a big national firm. But John was a people person through and through. “Gregarious” is probably the best adjective. He genuinely enjoyed the camaraderie of a creative environment. Always smiling, always generous with his time. He was much older than the rest of the creative team, but it never really felt that way. He was one of us. And when he wasn’t pursuing his art at work, he was engaged in his other passion: playing tennis.

Toward the end of his career, John would often get tapped to create a “farewell” caricature. It was usually for a bigwig who was leaving P&G (our largest client by far). But occasionally he’d create them for co-workers. I was lucky enough to get the Hammy treatment when I left the agency.

When John retired in 2008, Keith Neltner, our mutual friend and co-worker, turned the tables and created a caricature of Hammy in that same style.

The Yoda in the illustration is fitting – not just because of John’s Star Wars experience, but also because he was a lovable, wise mentor to all of us.

I shouldn’t feel so bummed out about the passing of a guy with whom I haven’t worked in 15 years, especially someone who made it to 83 (despite the smoking habit) and lived a very fulfilling life. But that smile, man, it was incandescent. We’ll miss that light.

May the force be with you, Hammy.

Don’t be yourself. Be more.

As someone who prides himself on knowing a little bit about a lot of subjects (some serious, most not-so-serious), this quote really rang true to me:

“You can’t just be you. You have to double yourself. You have to read books on subjects you know nothing about. You have to travel to places you never thought of traveling. You have to meet every kind of person and endlessly stretch what you know.” 

Mary Wells Lawrence, advertising exec in the 60s and the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company

Ms. Wells Lawrence made her mark in the ad world (“plop, plop, fizz, fizz” ring a bell?), but her quote about how to exercise your creative muscles is certainly applicable well beyond the realm of advertising. I think it’s sound advice for any career field… and for life in general. Our brains need stimuli to grow, our souls need enrichment to thrive.

One of my favorite words (yes, I’m a certified WordNerd™) is “polymath.”

I’m more of a poly-dabbler, but you have to start somewhere, right? And I do think learning about new and different things makes it easier to find connections and solve problems.

The world seems more polarized today. Us vs. them. But how much do you really know about “them” when you’re trapped in your own bubble? By reading more, by engaging with more people across the spectrum, we all can grow not just our creativity, but also our empathy.

Hugh MacLeod, from the Gaping Void blog

HT to the Gaping Void blog for putting the Mary Wells Lawrence quote on my radar. If you’re looking for some creative stimulus on a regular basis, that blog is a great way to start to “double yourself.”

Like there’s no Tom Tomorrow

Yes, I’m a 55-year-old man who still loves reading comic strips. And I’m not ashamed of that at all. (Mainly because I don’t read the crappy strips like Marmaduke. I have more discerning tastes.)

If you think comics are for kids, I suggest you read the book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.

This Modern World, a weekly political comic strip by Tom Tomorrow (a.k.a. Dan Perkins), is consistently funny and thought-provoking — a tough combo to pull off.

I used to read This Modern World in the local alternative weekly until budget cuts caused the paper to drop it. Now I subscribe to Sparky’s List, Tom Tomorrow’s subscription-based weekly email that includes the weekly strip as well as some notes about the work and other musings on life. It’s $10 for six months – a bargain at twice the price. If you don’t care to spare the ten spot, you can check out each week’s strip Mondays on the Daily Kos or Tuesdays on The Nib.

Make fun of me all you want for reading the funny papers. I don’t care, I’m still gonna read ’em. You may think it’s a waste of time, but I sure don’t.

This ad is a bit too lively

OK, time for a guessing game – if you saw this photo in the Sunday newspaper (anyone under 40: you’ll have to Google “newspaper” first), what sort of business or service do you think it would be advertising?

Airline perhaps? Vacation destination? Megachurch? Political ad?

If you guessed “cemetery” go to the head of the class… and then walk out of the class and immediately schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist, because clearly you have issues if you see a family jumping for joy on a sunshine-drenched beach and think of death.

But yes, it’s true, that photo was part of an ad for a “burial package” at a couple of Cincinnati-area cemeteries.

Help me understand how you can make a connection between that happy family and a burial package.

The “WE STAND WITH YOU!” line is creating some cognitive dissonance too… no one in the photo is actually standing.

I guess they’re going with the “sell the sizzle” approach. It reminds me of those old print ads for Newport cigarettes.

The headline was “Alive with pleasure!” because that sounds so much more appealing than “Dying of Lung Cancer.”

The cemetery ad has ruined things for me. I love the beach, but now when my kids ask if they can bury me in the sand, I’ll get scared that they really want to bury me.

Beer. Here.

The Over-the-Rhine area of Cincinnati, just north of downtown, has a rich tradition of brewing beer. The neighborhood got its name from the heavy influx of hard-working German immigrants who started arriving in the mid-1800s. And Germans like their beer.

The neighborhood’s distinctive name comes from the predominantly German mid-19th century immigrants who developed the area and became its early residents. Many walked to work across bridges over the Miami and Erie Canal, which separated the area from downtown Cincinnati. The canal was nicknamed “the Rhine” in reference to the river Rhine in Germany, and the newly settled area north of the canal as “Over the Rhine”.[3][4] In German, the district was called über den Rhein.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Over-the-Rhine

Prohibition killed off dozens of breweries in the area. But a few survived. And one of those old breweries is getting a major expansion, thanks to a Cincinnati kid who made his mark selling Boston Lager.

Here’s info from the press release a couple of weeks ago:

The Boston Beer Company and Samuel Adams Cincinnati Brewery announced plans for a significant expansion of the brewery located on Cincinnati’s Central Parkway. The project will be the largest brewery investment in the long and storied history of brewing in Cincinnati.

The substantial brewery enhancement will support the growing demand for products across the Boston Beer portfolio, bringing additional production capabilities to the site, including two highly anticipated canning lines and innovative packing equipment to support brands like Samuel Adams, Angry Orchard, Twisted Tea and Truly Hard Seltzer. Once completed, the brewery will be able to quadruple production in Cincinnati. The project will also add more than one hundred new jobs.

Jim Koch, the founder of The Boston Beer Company, grew up in Cincinnati. His father worked at the Schoenling Brewing Co. building that now houses part of Boston Beer’s local operations. The recipe for Samuel Adams Boston Lager came from Jim’s great-great-grandfather. Now his business is adding more than 100 local jobs.

He (Koch) said the 107 jobs created by the expansion will be the kind of well-paying blue-collar jobs that made up the backbone of Cincinnati’s economy in the days when manufacturing was king.

“When I grew up there were a lot of blue-collar craftsman jobs in Cincinnati, like tool and die at Cincinnati Milacron or General Motors in Norwood,” Koch said. “There were once well-paying union craftsman jobs in Cincinnati, and a lot of them have gone away.”

Koch said he worked with the Teamsters union and the median income of the new jobs being created will be $70,000 a year. The contract covering those jobs is being extended to the 130 existing brewery workers as well.

Text in italics above from this Cincinnati Business Courier article

We need all the positive economic news we can get these days, and this Sam Adams expansion is great news. The supply chain challenges of the pandemic (turns out most PPE is made in China – who knew?) have also made more people realize that we need to make more stuff right here in America. And we as consumers need to “shop local” and spend our cash on those products. Including beer. Cheers to that!

This four-minute TV news feature from 2011 gives a nice overview of Jim Koch’s back story.

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