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108. More Beer Tarot and Much-Needed Celebration
Some exciting things in beer; the beer Tarot trend grows in a very big way; an exciting launch; Tarot for emotional balance; and more.
Good Things of Late in Beer: Awards and Celebrations
Two major things have happened since last issue. One: the North American Guild of Beer Writers awards were announced. Two: I got to drink Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale straight from the source and pull bottles right off the packaging line. Those two are of equal importance, right?
The NAGBW award winners are listed here. Some of my very favorite stories are represented here, and lots of very brilliant people I really admire. Congratulations to all the winners!
As far as this, frankly, career milestone vis-à-vis Celebration—talk about ways to remind yourself what you love about craft beer. I was lucky enough to be invited on a small press trip with a few very rad writers, one where we were given very rad behind-the-scenes access at Sierra Nevada’s Asheville location. I had been there before—it’s technically in Mills River—and found it pretty special even just as a patron. You can find sparks of craft beer love, pride, and excitement in the tiniest taprooms all the way up to a sort of palace of beer like this; it’s all about the vibes (and, obviously, the beer they’re making). And the vibes are immaculate at Sierra Nevada.
You could say I drank the Kool-Aid—or the Celebration—but A, everyone who works there seems so genuinely happy, that when you prioritize culture and how employees are treated in your craft beer exploration, this is very cool and very important to see; and B, the entire day was like this immersive back-to-basics journey. Yes, Sierra Nevada is innovating and certainly keeping up with current trends. But they’re also one of the very few breweries in today’s current scene maintaining a strong grasp on the beer-flavored-beer staples that made them an institution. Maybe you turn to these classics often, or maybe, remembering to come back to them is a lovely blast of nostalgia, taking you back to everything that made you fall in love with craft beer. Maybe a bit of both. In any case, it’s something special. And it’s really cool to be able to spend an entire day getting lost in the details of the extreme measures a brewery like Sierra Nevada goes to in order to ensure consistency and the quality expected of them. I am always excited about the arrival of Celebration every year, but I no doubt appreciate it even more now with a fuller-than-ever understanding of everything that goes into it.
Meet the Creator of the Coming ~Beer Tarot Deck~!
When I started brainstorming some promotion and marketing paths for my Beer Tarot Zine from Bean to Barstool, I happened upon a very intriguing Kickstarter. It is, my friends, for the creation of a beer Tarot deck. That’s right, a Tarot deck crossed over into craft beer. I nearly screamed—how perfect is this? Not since the creation of TRVE Brewing’s deck has something so neatly aligned come along for this newsletter, I gotta say. And while I surely was kicking myself for not discovering this Kickstarter before writing the zine, like the other amazing people and projects that are indeed featured in the zine, this deck is yet another exciting example of craft beer merging with Tarot—really, of craft beer merging with any other world—as this continues to open up new paths of inclusivity. More craft-beer-meets-X opportunities means more invitations to more community members.
Thanks to friend of the newsletter Chris Cohen, aka the Beer Scholar, the creator of the beer Tarot deck actually reached out to me right as I was geeking out and thinking of ways we could collaborate. And so, I am absolutely thrilled to present what is hopefully just the start of that collaboration, which is an interview with that creator, Kelsey Seay! Check it out, and then go head to the deck’s Kickstarter page here.
You have a substantial background in both the craft beer industry and in all things creative. Can you tell us a bit about that background and what came first—how did your creative endeavors evolve, and how did you start working with beer?
I grew up in a super creative household. My dad and his dad were both carpenters. Actually, my college degree is in woodworking and metalworking…My mom was a teacher, and then my dad did a lot of these projects, he was a photographer by love, [and] also does videography, which sometimes he'll get paid for. So I kind of grew up around those dabbling outside of “here's just what I do for my 9:00 to 5:00, and then I go home.” So I think I picked up my love of photography from him…I’ve been a photographer since probably I would say 2007 or so. I’ve worked in both corporate settings, like JCPenney…and I’ve also had my own business for a long time. I’ve done weddings. I’ve done families. Most of the time now, I’m shooting live shows. I’m in the burlesque world and the circus world, too. So I shoot a lot of those shows, and I shoot a lot of headshots or minis for people in those industries, as well…that they can use for promotional stuff.
I’ve dabbled, too, in drawing. I’ve dabbled in painting and all these kinds of things. I did pick up digital not that long ago in my other job, that is not a taproom manager, where I do a lot of design work. So I’ve been able to kind of kind of go back to that when I had moved away from it.
In terms of beer, I’ve been in some form of restaurant service industry almost forever. But I really delved into more so wine than beer back in about 2014, 2015 I moved back [to Iowa]. We have a [market that’s] a little bit higher-end, niche kind of products. I was the assistant manager in the wine and beer department for a couple of years. I took over as buyer. I’ve kind of fluctuated back-and-forth between wine and beer for a long time. I’ve been a wine sales rep. I worked with the Iowa Brewers Guild, so I was a little bit more in the industry association side of things as opposed to full-blown beer for about four years. And then I ended up picking up bartending mid-pandemic when people were starting to kind of come back out. And I was needing to talk to people besides my dog. So I picked up bartending and I kind of have “oops”-ed—I tend to “oops” into managerial stuff a lot and did it again there. I’ve been the taproom manager at 515 Brewing since March of this year. I’ve been there for almost three years.
What about the Tarot piece of this—how did you start getting interested in that?
In high school, you have that interest in a sense of mysticism and almost like a forbidden-ness following it. So, I did kind of dabble [in Tarot] even back in high school more so because it was taboo. And you wanted to be the cool kid. I did a little bit of self-reading. I had never actually had somebody else read for me until really not that long ago. I still only read for me. Like, I can read and I can infer from cards, but I do really like to have those companion booklets because I know that there's a lot more behind that card, from somebody who’s specifically designed it. So, I usually don’t read without a booklet anyways just because I want that insight as well. The basics I'm okay at, in terms of self-reading. I would never sit down and purport to read for someone for money, basically. I have enough friends who do that, and I can send them that way.
I think I kind of fell back really hard into Tarot, though, within the past few years. Like I said, the circus and burlesque community is that performing community in and of itself. We do have a number of people who do Tarot either for a full-time job or pretty heavy side gig. [Someone from that community and I] started having these conversations about different decks…We've read back-and-forth for each other or at least shared our own readings and been like, “Is this what you're seeing or are you seeing something that I'm not looking at on these cards together?” So that’s been really helpful for me and has fueled the fire a little bit because hearing where I’m looking at something and where she’s looking at something got me thinking a lot about specific cards. [I sketched a card in the suit of Cups] just to get it out of my brain, and then I was like, “Oh I've got six other cards that I could do right now laid out in my head.”
So, you get motivated to create your own designs for these cards then, which snowballs into the concept for a whole deck. Why craft beer, though? Why fuse those two worlds?
I think I fell in love with the beer and wine side of the serving industry because I was selling beer and wine, not necessarily because I was serving at a table and then having to up-sell or whatever. I got deeply interested in beer. I connected with the culture around it a lot. And so when I took that job with the guild, it was a pay cut, but it was like, I actually feel really fired up about this. I don't want to take my toes out of wine completely, but I feel really fired up about beer. And I think immersing myself in the culture, especially in Iowa—I would say in the last maybe five years, it’s exploded. In terms of Iowa and brewing, just as a background, we hit a hundred breweries when I was with the guild probably in like 2019, 2020. We had hit a hundred open breweries in Iowa, so it's not super-saturated; the community's still pretty close…But so being so immersed in that culture, I feel like I saw a lot of connections going to my other [interests] like Tarot and circus and all that kind of mysticism, all kind of tied together.
Maybe that's because I was looking at it with a little bit of a wine background, where people like to talk up the romance of whatever winery or whatever wine region. I feel like I brought a lot of that to beer, and maybe this is just kind of a holdover of that for me. So, the deck is about being able to kind of tie beer back to the history or the fact that it was pretty mystical: I mean, fermentation in and of itself is mystical, especially to people who had never experienced it before.
Let’s get into the aesthetics of the deck, then. How did you settle on the overall design?
I had that one card that I just drew initially, the Ace of Cups, and I wanted to incorporate a Teku or some pretty stemmed glass. And I will attribute it—there's a brewery in Iowa called Wise I Brewing. They're in Le Mars and they have this imagery, he’s not The Hermit, but he’s like The Hermit; they call him the “wise man.” And I think maybe that all had kind of planted a seed in my head a little bit. I’m going to assume that I was probably drinking out of one of their Tekus, which are beautiful. And they have a lot of that kind of aesthetic to them.
Working with digital drawing has been interesting to me because it’s not something I necessarily jumped on the bandwagon with, especially even in college when I was in the fine arts department because they did push a lot more for traditional methods, traditional processes, and things like that. And part of it might have just been my wanting to mess around with different things that I could do, that lent itself a little bit more to a woodwork or a woodblock style. Once I stumbled on that, I liked it. It was a little bit more minimalist than what I’m used to, but it was minimalist in a way that I felt like I could kind of recreate that style and that feel multiple times and not get sucked into the weeds of a realistic drawing or something like that.
Real people from the craft beer industry are featured on your cards. How did that aspect evolve?
When I first started this project about a year and a half ago, I was pretty heavily involved in Pink Boots for Iowa…A number of the people that I was talking to in there, I was like, “Oh shit, can I use you as a model?” Because I have ideas of things that I want. And I don’t want to pull a bunch of stock stuff, where it’s like, “I don't know who this person is.” I thought, “I think I might want to pull people that I know”…Because I know so many really cool people in the industry, I would love to use them.
Especially working with the guild, we were pretty close with a lot of the other guild directors. So I was the associate director. And then actually the director, when I was there, is a brewer now. And he will be in the deck as well. But we had a lot of connections with guild leaders across the state. And so I reached out to them in a group message and said, “Hey guys, here's what I'm thinking. Obviously you know your breweries in your state a lot more than I do. Do you have anybody that you think would really want to get in on this? Or resonate with this project in that I could use them as models?” So, I had a couple guild leaders throw people my way or throw it out to patrons or whatnot. And so I've had a lot of responses from those, which is helpful.
Especially for people who may not be familiar with this aspect of Tarot decks, what is your companion booklet going to look like?
I'm going to have the traditional, “here's the card. Here's a very small bit about the card in terms of upright and inverted, just basic meanings.” The meat of it is, I really want to talk about how it relates to tarot, but also how it relates to the brewing industry. So, for example, The Fool is a homebrew kettle. And it's not saying that homebrewers are fools, but that it is the start of the journey. It is that wide-eyed, “the world is your oyster” kind of thing that people feel when they get into homebrewing. I mean, when you get into homebrewing, you fall down that rabbit hole real fast usually. And generally, when you see The Fool in Tarot, it's on the edge of a cliff or about to step off of a cliff. And that is kind of how it feels when you're opening a brewery, too. It’s not just when you’re homebrewing. It’s like, “Here we go. I hope I land.”
So, I want to be able to, in that booklet, keep very close to that kind of original or classic Tarot explanation. But I think tying it into the brewing industry and tying it into that imagery on the card also might be a little helpful for somebody who might be coming for the beer side of things and doesn't have the background of how Tarot is laid out. I'm hoping to make it accessible to people coming from the beer side, but also making it accessible to people coming from the Tarot side where this is pretty classic—here’s some insight into this industry that maybe you aren’t as familiar with.
As of writing this (it’s Wednesday, October 25), Kelsey’s Kickstarter has 16 days left and is at $8,705 of her $10,000 goal. You can find all kinds of information at that Kickstarter page, and, of course, that’s also where you can go to invest in this rad project. Kelsey’s got all kinds of different levels of funding available with so many different fun rewards, from Tarot sticker sheets to the deck itself to—holy moly, did this sound cool when she told me about it—a beer flight board that has a dedicated space for Tarot readings.
Have You Ordered Your ~Beer Tarot Zine~ Yet?
Speaking of beer and Tarot…! My Beer Tarot Zine from Bean to Barstool officially launched October 18 and she is off to the races, baby! Do you like craft beer, Tarot, cool beer people, fun beer trends, all of the above? Want to know more about Tarot? Want to indulge in the revival of punk-art-DIY zine coolness? Pony up ten bones and getcher’ copy now!
There are also starting to be some spots you can get your issue irl, which…the places supporting this project are causing me to have a serious I’m-not-crying-you’re-crying moment. Wild East Brewing, for example, is one of my favorite breweries, and one of my regular go-to’s, and they have stocked the zine. This is very cool! It means you can mosey on in for a delicious beer or two and grab a zine while you’re at it. There will be more exciting announcements on stockists and events coming up very soon, so stay tuned here—there may have to be a quick special edition of Hugging the Bar between regular issues to update you!
The Share Community Is Live!
Big, exciting news for the craft beer community: Stephanie Grant’s The Share Community has officially launched. Major congratulations to Stephanie on this incredible endeavor. The Share Community is a platform for networking, socializing, career development and advancement, and much more, geared toward supporting and uplifting BIPOC women and non-binary people in craft beer. You can join as a member or as a supporter—go find out more now!
This week, I pulled the King of Cups.
Cups is the suit of love, emotions, and relationships. The King of Cups, therefore, is a master of emotional balance, and also represents strong compassion. This card coming up tends to mean we’re on a journey—or need to be on a journey—of learning emotional control. Importantly, that does not mean control in the sense of keeping everything to yourself or not expressing anything. Instead, it means learning to take emotions as they come, give them time—give yourself time, process them, understand them, express them in healthy ways, and be able to move on when you’re ready in, again, healthy ways.
With everything going on right now in the world, on top of the unique menageries of shit-storms we all tango with on the daily, it’s very easy to become filled with rage, or drowned by despair, or both. The King of Cups represents how very normal that is—do not feel the need to stuff that down. But, it’s also not a good idea for anyone, least of all you, to let these emotions fly off the handle unchecked. That won’t serve you, and it certainly won’t put you on even a slow path toward healing. The King of Cups is about developing and calling on tools: therapy, support groups, support systems with friends and family, meditation, time for yourself and maybe a hobby, time to reflect, time to talk, the ability to take this life one day at a time and, as cheesy as it sounds, find joy in the little things. Figure out what you can afford, what you have access to, and, most vitally, what truly works for you, and build your tool set.
I found out that Trophy Brewing Company in Raleigh, North Carolina makes a table beer called Support System. I’m not sure if it’s still available, and usually I like to do so before highlighting a beer in these readings, but this one is just too perfect. “Support system” is truly the name of the game here as we learn how to best process our emotions, and a table beer? It’s the picture of balance, reliable in its refreshing deliciousness, and low-ABV, meaning low-fog, low-chaos, low-drama.
This Week’s Boozy Media Rec
More Stephanie Grant appreciation here: I just caught up on her Good Beer Hunting podcast episode, “Running on Empty—Beer’s Burnout Problem.” We talk about burnout a lot here, especially in light of Infinite Ingredient’s vital work in this field, and, more lately, due to the burnout so many of us have been feeling more generally in regard to the craft beer industry. I am seeing people make big moves to take some control over their lives and march toward futures that are more rewarding, fulfilling, and less punishing and exhausting, whatever that looks like for each individual, and that is super inspiring. You can hear that kind of trajectory from a few different industry members Stephanie interviews here. The episode delivers moments of feeling seen, moments of learning, and moments of motivation. 13/10 would recommend—and thanks to this, by the way, I have started watercolor painting. I am very bad at it but I do not care!
Ex-BEER-ience of the Week
As cheesy as it sounds, there was actually a moment during last Saturday’s Dogtoberfest at Bridge & Tunnel Brewery where my friend and I looked around and said, “This is what a brewery should be.” From the moment we arrived, owners Rich and Lisa Castagna were actively greeting and welcoming patrons—even while juggling approximately 14 different tasks—like we were all members of an extended family arriving for the yearly barbecue. The vibes were peak, peak, peak wonderful, y’all. Everyone was psyched to be drinking Bridge & Tunnel’s stellar and creative beer, surrounded by very good doggos dressed to impress for the Halloween costume and parade. There was even a food truck for dogs on hand, WoofBowl. Money was raised for charity, doggos got goodie bags—it was all incredibly sweet and lovely. This kind of event, this kind of brewery leadership, it should set an example for all breweries on how to be a community staple.
Until next week, here is Darby chugging her dog beer from WoofBowl.