Friday, September 12, 2014

Jen Price {A Lady Who Loves Beer}

While her brick and mortar might still be a ways off, she says she's gone to bed dreaming of the customers who frequent her "beer boutique" every night for two years. And she's recently taken a huge step forward in making that dream--reality.

A transportation planner by day, this Lady has led a not-so-secret life as a craft beer evangelist in her off hours, and is hoping to one day make it a full-time affair.

Already up and running with a mobile craft beer education venue called Atlanta Beer Boutique, she's partnered with businesses in the Atlanta area to make use of their space, and is spreading "the good word" through events featuring craft beer cocktails and food pairings located throughout the city.

With a series of 'Perfect Pairings' on the calendar in coming months--she's focused on bringing non-beer drinkers who have been turned away in the past--to the gospel of craft beer.

I had a chance to sit down with Jen last week (over some beers of course) and chat about her first loves and future plans.

Meet Jen Price: a lady who loves beer.  

Have you always been into beer? How did you get interested in it?
I think my earliest memory of drinking beer is with my Dad. Probably at 5, maybe. He used to drink High Life. The champagne of beers. I would prepare his beer, when I knew he was coming home. Pour it for him into his glass, and he would let me drink the foam off the top.

It’s my first choice. Next to that might be liquor, and if nothing else is available then I might drink wine. I would probably have water before I drink wine.

I am not a wine drinker, but I am trying to learn. I have a really good friend who is studying now to be a Sommelier, and is very educated, and so she and I share. We swap adventures together. She’ll go with me to a brewery and I’ll go with her to a winery. I’m trying to learn more about it because there are so many similarities. I think people who really follow wine, can really appreciate beer. It’s not as much of a departure as people might think. 
But I don’t think I really got an appreciation for the diversity that beer had to offer until probably in College. I went to school in Florida, but I found a fantastic program in atmospheric science. I went on some internships in Boulder, Colorado, where the beer scene in the 90’s was poppin’. Where we are now, they were there in the 90’s. The vibe is awesome. The summers are beautiful. The most beautiful summer you could ever imagine is in Boulder Colorado. But the beer is fantastic there.

I had been drinking crappy beer before that--whatever you could get in Tallahassee where I was going to school. I didn’t fall in love with the internship, but I did fall in love with Boulder and with good beer.
So where are you from? Are you an Atlanta native?
Pretty much. I’ve been here since I was 2 years old. My friends who are native consider me a native, so I consider myself a native. If they say so, I say so. I was born in Illinois, but have no memory of it at all. I grew up in South Dekalb/Decatur. I’m in East Atlanta now--I love it.

So how did the idea for Atlanta Beer Boutique come about?
I realized that all I wanted to do was beer. I’m a transportation planner during the weekday, which entails doing studies and analysis for local municipal governments planning road expansions and other projects for the city or the county. So during the week that’s what I do. It pays my bills but, I love beer. And so I’m always dreaming about how I can make my passion, pay. 
Right now Atlanta Beer Boutique is a mobile thing. We do parties and tastings and workshops for people all over the place, but my goal is to have a shop. I just want to sell six packs--all day. But I call it a boutique for a reason. I want to know enough about you, about what you like, what you’ve tried, to be able to tailor those six packs to you specifically. To make it special. The goal is to have a shop and sell fantastic craft beer, and do workshops and tastings and pairings there as well. 
 So I saw you had an event recently. Tell me about that.
I did. I partnered with Just Add Honey, my girlfriend Brandi’s tea company in the Sweet Auburn District. Central Atlanta Progress did these pop up shops along the streetcar route--she’s one of the pop up shops. Her company is really busy during the day on Saturdays but at night she didn’t have a lot going on, and I said let’s do a cocktail workshop and pairing event. So it was in her space--and that’s how we operate because we don’t have a space currently. 
The first hour was like a cocktail hour--a social hour. People could mix their own drinks and we used some of the tea. The second half was a pairing. We did three different local beers and three different bites. 
The first bite was Jekyll’s Blonde Session Ale with meat and cheese. Their summer session blonde is really light and it’s under 5% so it’s a really good drink to start your night off with. You can have it with an appetizer and not be lit. The second pairing was 3 Taverns White Hops with a salad dressed in a vinaigrette that was made using the beer--which went really well together. And the third was Monday Night Brewing’s Scotch Ale, Drafty Kilt, which we did with chocolates. We had some salted caramel and some really dark chocolate and smoked almonds. It was delicious. 
Did you find that a lot of the people who came to the event were new to beer? And did you get a positive response?
Absolutely. I’d say 75%. Most people were either liquor drinkers or wine drinkers. But I did get a positive response. I did a little survey at the end which I emailed out to people, asking them to tell us what they thought and a lot of the feedback was, “I didn’t expect to like beer,” or “I don’t like beer--but I liked what you did.”

What I really want to do is bring people to beer who are kind of on the outskirts or who have had a bad experience--who have the opinion that “beer is gross; it all tastes the same”--through a new experience that allows them to taste beer in a way they haven’t before.

Was this your first event?
I’ve done some fundraising events and in-home tasting events, but yes this was my first one--officially. My second one will be October 4th. I’d love for you to come. It’s going to be at Just Add Honey again.

My idea for the ‘Perfect Pairing’--and I’m going to make it a whole series--is to pair beer with different things. So we’re doing tea for these first two. But beer can pair with so many different things. I want to do something with a cigar shop, music, with art … I can see it pairing with anything. I hope to make it an experience that is unique enough for people who may not be naturally drawn to beer to say that… Oh, well that sounds unique enough for me to come to... 
In Atlanta, the beer scene is growing, but people who already know about beer are the only folks who are a part of it. The beer dinners and the beer brunches--they’re not attracting anyone who doesn’t already know about beer--so my goal is to be an evangelist. Spreading the good news and bringing people to the world of beer.  
And it’s fun. So much fun. And I’m still learning--I don’t at all purport to be an expert.

So what are you doing to educate yourself, besides drinking beer?
Drinking beer, yes. Because that’s an education--truly. I also read a lot. I’m studying for the first level of the Cicerone program. I would love to be a beer judge for homebrew competitions. I also homebrew, with another group of friends called Legends. We just finished a cream ale. Our first time--so we’ll see how it turns out. 
For me, I’m kinda nerdy like that, I think certifications are important. I think it matters. Especially if you want to have investors. My goal is to have a shop--that has walls and a door and stuff to sell--and I think that for people who want to invest in that, it’s really important to have some sort of credentials. I think it matters more to them than to those folks who are just loving beer and appreciate it.

Yeah. I think it can open a lot of doors when you can say: I have credentials--official ones--other than the empty bottles in my kitchen.
And my vase full of beer bottle caps that I collect [laughs]. So that’s what I’m doing, and I’m open to learning from wherever and whoever. Like I said, I’m trying to learn more about wine because I think it’ll help me be more effective. Knowing more about the beverage business in general will be really helpful to me.

So you love IPAs. Are there any IPAs that you’d say are your go-to, that you really love?
Ya know what, I love Sweetwater. I love anything Sweetwater does. Sweetwater’s always there, and New Belgium is also my other favorite. They’re always in my fridge. They’re at the Shell gas station by my house, so if I didn’t have time to stop at a beer shop, I know they’re there. And I love them.

But I drink whatever is available. I just bought a something from Southern Tier that I hadn’t had in a while that I really enjoyed--their Double IPA. And I picked up an Andygator, from Abita--which is not an IPA but I thought was awesome. But I’ll drink almost anything. 
Is there anything new that’s come out that you’ve been surprised by, or that you really liked?
I had a sour plum... where was it from… Orpheus! I did not expect to like that. Because I don’t like fruit normally in my beer, unless it’s from a fruity-hop. I was very surprised that I liked that beer. You have to love the name: Atalanta. That’s probably the most recent surprise.

And then I usually end by asking this desert island beer question--if you could have a beer with anyone, what would it be and who would you share it with (anyone alive or dead)?
Oh, 420. Sweetwater’s 420. I could drink that with anything. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It goes good with omelets. A pasta dish. Maybe because it’s local, and I’ve just always loved them. I’ll follow Sweetwater forever.

And who would I share it with… Probably my best friend Rashan. She’s loved beer for as long as I’ve loved beer. Outside of my job as a transportation planner, I’m also the director of a non-profit called Sporty Girls Inc. We do camps for minority girls in golf, soccer, swimming, and tennis--and we also do free clinics in those sports. Our goal is to get girls active, and girls who are already active and competing, we want to help them get scholarships to college, so we have a couple different programs that we do. But Rashan’s the founder of it; she swam her whole life and when she needed an Executive Director, of course I volunteered.

We do a lot together. I know she would appreciate my showing up with a beer if we were stranded. Jen! Beer!


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