The lineup was like any other to sit in front of a panel of the nation’s elected officials. Men and women in suits and ties, powerful people representing national and global businesses and organizations about to be peppered with questions during a Senate hearing.
Not just anyone ends up in this spot.
The group gathered in December for the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights to discuss a proposed merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller. The names and titles represented a who’s who of power players you’d expect: Carlos Brito, CEO of AB InBev; Bob Pease, president and CEO of the Brewers Association; Craig Purser, president and CEO of the National Beer Wholesalers Association; and J. Wilson … Minister of Iowa Beer?
“I certainly looked like the low guy on the totem pole, but I’ve got a good sense of humor,” said Wilson, head of the Iowa Brewers Guild. “Here I was shaking hands with Carlos Brito and introducing myself with this smile on my face, but it’s an icebreaker that can break down defenses and can be kind of fun.”
How does one join this sacred clergy? Turns out Wilson got something of a “promotion,” as the title was inspired by a “Minister of Sales” title he previously held at Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery in Farmville, North Carolina.
But to be fair, Wilson’s title is rather tame when it comes to the beer industry, which prides itself on not being a suit and tie kind of workplace—literally and figuratively. The creativity that goes into something like creating a beer recipe can extend to the title on a business card.
Twisted Pine Brewing Co. has Justin Tilotta, the S&M Coordinator. There’s Ross Welbon, Little Harpeth Brewing’s “Santa to the Thirsty.” Bell’s Brewery even hired its own “*.” That’s the real job title for Andrew Koehring, who works to improve the flow and analysis of data related to raw materials, production, logistics and quality.
“You want to create a memorable customer experience that extends from the product to all interactions with the company,” said Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist, professional speaker and author of the book, Stand Out. “If you work for a company that wants to be known for irreverence, creativity and doing things in a fun or different way, christening yourself with a funky title is a good way to demonstrate that.”
It’s hard to miss with the staff of San Diego’s Societe Brewing Co., who hand out square and semicircle business cards displaying titles like Master of Communal Amalgamation, Schmaltz-of-All-Trades and Slayer of Dragons.
Mike Sardina might appreciate it most. Out of law school, he toiled away for an international law firm doing intellectual property litigation. He was an “associate” whose title opportunities would have peaked at “partner.” Now he’s Societe’s Ruler of the Underworld, lording over the brewery’s legal, human resources and marketing operations.
“I get to tell people this cool, badass title, which makes me feel respected, appreciated and not some cog in a wheel,” Sardina said. “This industry is the complete opposite of where I came from.”
Even beer’s biggest companies are in on the act. Anheuser-Busch’s Rashmi Patel may have “vice president of marketing” on her LinkedIn page, but her real title is a bit more fun. She’s actually the vice president of AB’s “Share of Throat” team, which oversees marketing for the Ritas family of malt beverages, Oculto beer and hard sodas.
“I came from the food industry where we talk about ‘share of stomach,’ so the title speaks to the mission of my team,” Patel said. “It’s about what’s going down your throat, for lack of a better word.”
If a literal take on job responsibilities helps determine a title, then Kim Kavulak is an example of finding a happy medium between fact and fiction.
“I make all kinds of shit happen,” Kavulak says proudly with a chuckle, noting that supervising bodily functions do not, in fact, fall under her responsibilities.
Rather, she’s the Chick Who Makes S#*t Happen for Nebraska Brewing Co., hashtag, asterisk and all. As vice president and co-founder of the brewery, Kavulak has overseen operations for Nebraska Brewing’s brewpub, company payroll, scheduling and just about anything else a growing business might need. Lucky for her, she now delegates some responsibilities to others, like her Connoisseur of Cash Flow (office manager) and Headmistress of Cat Herding and Craft Projects (social media and events).
“I was a little concerned people would be offended by it,” Kavulak said of her title, “but mostly people say they wish they could have something cool like that.”
But not everyone at Nebraska Brewing is rushing to share a sense of humor on their business card. Kavulak admits she’s still trying to convince her husband, Paul, to take on something more adventurous than just “president and co-founder.”
“One day he came out into our office space and was spewing all these ideas to people, saying ‘we need this and this and this,’ and I said to him, ‘stop raining shit on us,’” Kim said. “That’s when we figured if I’m the chick who makes shit happen, he should be the man who rains shit. I’m confident that in the future we’ll get him to put that on his business card.”
Bryan Roth is a North Carolina-based writer. Find him tweeting about beer at @bryandroth.