What’s with the Beards? The Link Between Facial Hair and Brewing
By now they’ve become too prominent to ignore. Moustaches across America are finally getting to the point of full whiskers, not patchy wisps. November isn’t just the penultimate month of the year anymore. Now it’s Movember, or No-Shave November, two awareness campaigns that have been largely embraced by the brewing community around the country.
Visit a brewery this month, and there’s a good chance you’ll see one or both campaigns in action. Proceeds from Movember—according to Movember Foundation, a non-profit organization that has promoted the event since 2003—fund programs that focus on testicular and prostate cancers, mental health, and physical activity. The idea is to encourage men to get involved by working out and getting active.
With No-Shave November, the goal is to grow a moustache for charity. You can get people to sponsor your (or a group’s) facial hair growth efforts with the proceeds going to a good cause. Or you can simply send a donation yourself to various men’s health charities.
For many in the brewing industry every month is a no-shave month. Brewery employees, especially brewers, are largely unshaven. There’s a joke about how the Great American Beer Festival could also double as the Great American Beard Festival, to the point where a shaving company has set up shop over the last few years at the Colorado Convention Center during the festival to offer trims and shaves in between the beer samples.
Curious as to why so many brewers forego the razor, this reporter recently asked the collective hive mind on Facebook for their thoughts. After sifting through the joke answers a consensus emerged, summed up by Ohio-based beer blogger Tom Streeter.
“I think a lot of brewers come out of some buttoned-down disciplines: engineering, finance, corporate labs,” he wrote. “A beard is a great way to demonstrate there’s not a dress code anymore. Then it becomes a contest.”
Dan Valas, owner and brewer at Indiana’s Great Crescent Brewery, jumped in to concur.
“I had a beard off and on when I worked in my previous field—but it got some negative comments from executives—so I think Tom Streeter is probably right, at least in my case. It’s good to grow the hair and beard just to say F-it.”
Most answers settled around the idea that creative types have long sported facial hair, and beer, a creative concept and industry, breeds beards well.
Whatever the reason, when visiting a brewery you’re more likely to find a bearded brewer than not—the brewery itself might even be named after a beard (a quick search reveals 3 Beards Brewing, Long Beard Brewing, Beards Brewing and Moustache Brewing). If that’s not enough, it’s not hard to find beards on a beer label or beer name.
Those angles are covered in a book called Craft Beards that highlights the art and inspiration behind the bearded and facial hair figures found on bottles and cans across the country. Written by Fred Abercrombie with photography by Tyler Warrender, it features a “well groomed” collection of labels that have beards, moustaches and sideburns. There’s more than one might expect.
Finally, the main fusion of beer and facial hair is likely the Beard Beer from Rogue Ales in Oregon. It’s an American wild ale made with Sterling hops, Munich, C15, and Pilsner malts, and yeast harvested from the beard of brew master John Maier.
Yes, you read that right. The yeast used to ferment the beer was plucked right out of the beard of the man who brews it. Maier’s beard dates back to 1978, according to Rogue.
On the bottle, which prominently features a drawing of Maier’s face (and beard) the brewery doesn’t give much in flavor descriptions, encouraging people to “try it, we think you’ll be surprised…”
Challenge accepted. I poured the beard beer into a tulip glass and was intrigued by its light bronze color and moderate white head. Orange blossom and honey aromas emerge from the glass, I’m now wondering if Maier uses a special shampoo. I take a sip—taking care not to douse my own moustache—and I’m met with a full-bodied slightly spicy, tangy brew with pronounced citrus and a bit of honey-like viscosity. I take a few more sips, enjoying the flavors, and trying not to think about the source of fermentation on this beer.
As the glass drains and the oddity fades, it becomes clear that great things can come from unexpected flavors.
John Holl is the editor of All About Beer Magazine. He looks forward to shaving again in December.