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Kristen Kuchar's picture

Big Beards in Beer

big beards beer

Not all great brewers sport facial hair, but there seems to be a link between craft beer and beards. Take Großen Bart Brewery in Longmont, Colorado for instance. The brewery – its name literally meaning Big Beard in German – is devoted to all types of facial hair. A majority of the brewery’s award-winning beers have beard-related names, including Chin Curtain IPA, Stubble Kölsch, Friendly Mutton Chop Marzen, and Hulihee Irish Ale.

Head Brewer Walter Bourque points out that brewing is a busy and physically demanding job, so since brewers don’t need to shave, many opt not to. “We could spend 10 extra minutes shaving or 10 minutes sleeping before going in,” he says. The brewery hosts a beard competition each year in July, with categories ranging from mustaches to a lady’s category, where participants create a beard to sport out of beer boxes, feathers, yarn and more. There’s also an award for beard of the month, beard oil for sale and a barber who is available every Thursdays for customers to have a pint while they get a trim.

We wanted to get input straight from the source on why brewers opt to grow beards. Read on to hear what they had to say.

Brian Hink Cape May Brewing Company

Brian Hink | Cape May Brewing Company

Why do you sport a beard? I've always been a big fan of beards and facial hair. It probably has something to do with being a big hockey fan growing up and seeing the guys rocking their sick playoff beards. Once I was able to grow a beard, I was hardly ever clean-shaven, and once I decided to really let the beard grow out, around 12 years ago when I was 22, I never looked back. I let it go for 5 years, keeping it shaped and groomed but always longer in length. But I was working at a corporate retail coffee shop and, on a whim, they decided it was too much of a beard for their image and requested I shaved it. Not being one to sell out my personal values, I opted to part ways with the company instead of shaving, and a week later landed a gig behind the bar working here at Cape May Brewing Company. Working my way over to the production side and climbing my way up to head brewer and production manager before transitioning over to my current role of Innovation Director. My beard and I have never looked back!

What is the link between brewing and beards?
I think the industry has always been very accepting of individuality and letting people express themselves. My approach to brewing has always been as that of an artist or a pastry chef: have fun with flavors, try new things, experiment, don't be afraid to take risks -- and freedom of expression is a big part of why the craft beer industry has grown into the beautiful scene it is today. How can we be so expressive with our art and not be expressive ourselves? That's freeing. Much like a painter or a guitarist doesn't have to wear a uniform or adhere to a dress code, we brewers can rock our own look. 

John Maier Rogue Ales & Spirits

John Maier | Rogue Ales & Spirits

Why do you sport a beard? The inspiration to sport my beard came from when I was living in Los Angeles working for Hughes Aircraft, working swing shift on the radar systems for the F-14. It was the 70s, and men had facial hair. The guys would go out after work, drink beer and play foosball. I started sporting a beard in 1978 and has never shaved it since - it's the original one I started with.

What is the link between brewing and beards? You might have to ask the brewers of yore when most men sported beards. Look up any brewer from the 1800s or prior and, like today, most have beards. It is also said that the hops and barley in beer contribute to lustrous hair growth so I may have my craft to thank for the facial hair.

Andy Coates Ozark Beer Company

Andy Coates | Ozark Beer Company

Why do you sport a beard? I sported a beard before I got into brewing, but was living in Colorado, where beards seem to have been popular for years.  Miners, explorers, outlaws, deadbeats and the like all migrated west, and I feel akin to that spirit in some way.  When I got my first job in brewing, I had been a raft guide and short-term ski bum, and a beard just fit into that lifestyle easily.  Having a beard meant less fuss, especially when you spend most of your time outdoors, or live in a tent for the summer. I’d usually just let it grow for at least a year, then trim it into a fantastic mustache or other look each Spring.

What is the link between brewing and beards? I think beards in brewing follow what I described about the culture of the West and the mountains; less fuss and concern about appearance, and more people interested in enjoying the finer things is life. Not being required to shave or have a specific dress code mirrors the paths of brewers, with many leaving other professions or more corporate environments and choosing to sweat and work hard in a warehouse or brewpub. It should also be noted that I am fairly bald, so sporting a beard falls naturally into having some sort of hair in my appearance, and that some of the finest beers I’ve had are made by people without any facial hair at all. 

Mark Theisen Coronado Brewing

Mark Theisen | Coronado Brewing

Why do you sport a beard? I personally have a beard because I have had one since long before I worked in this industry and now when I don't, I feel like my chin disappeared and I don't recognize myself when I look in the mirror.  It's very strange.

What is the link between brewing and beards? I could make some ubiquitous joke like "you can't say beard without beer" but I'm sure you'll get more than a few of those responses.  The reality is I really never understood the connection. I bet Freakonomics could pore over the data and make some correlation between interest and appearance but it might just be as simple as this: It's a dirty job.  You spend most of your day filthy and damp so being meticulously quaffed seems less important.

Guy Bartmess Garage Brewing Co.

Guy Bartmess | Garage Brewing Co.

What is your inspiration to sport your facial hair? Years ago, in college, it was always a fun experiment and I’d grow out a beard in the winter. It never really turned out too well. As I moved into my brewing career, I was often in the public eye and wanted a little more of a clean-cut look.  The beard never really came back, but recently I decided to give it another shot. Lo and behold it is looking quite a bit better than back in college.

What is the link between beards and brewing and beer? Brewers have always been a little irreverent and nonconformist.  We often set ourselves apart from others with the beers we make and love. Grooming choices are another way for many of us to show our uniqueness. Quite often we spend so much time in the brewery and away from the public that we don’t have to be concerned with what the public might think. You don’t see a lot of bankers with beards, and we are far from being bankers.

Brannon Radicke Independence Brewing Co.

Brannon Radicke | Independence Brewing Co.

What is your inspiration to sport your facial hair?  I first started growing my beard when I quit my day job, where I had to shave every day, and started working for a brewery full-time. After a while of growing it out, I found that it just works for my face and adds to the wizardry of brewing.

What is the link between brewing and beer and beards?  
A beard just feels magical, similar to how I feel about the magic of the brewing process. My face spontaneously produces hair and yeast spontaneously produces alcohol—seems like there's a metaphor there. 

Peter Kruger Bear Republic Company

Peter Kruger | Bear Republic Company

Why do you sport a beard? You don't want to see what's underneath. In all seriousness, my first brewing boss and mentor, John Harris, now owner and Brewmaster at Ecliptic Brewing in Portland sported a huge Viking style beard.  I guess when I was cutting my brewing teeth I made the association that beards and brewing are like peanut butter and chocolate.

What is the link between brewing and beards? The craft brewing industry since the beginning has attracted individuals. We could just as easily be talking about tattoos as beards. Plus, time spent shaving takes valuable time away from drinking. Also, the tactile sensation of whiskers in a pint is divine. 

Zak Siddle Motorworks Brewing

Zak Siddle | Motorworks Brewing

Why do you sport a beard? Largely from past generations of skilled tradesmen who all wore great beards.

What is the link between brewing and beards? There’s something very organic about both beer and beards. I think beards are popular in brewing because the beer speaks for itself; it’s not like it’s some corporate job where being clean cut is super important. As long as the beer is made with care and tastes great, who cares if you look a little rougher around the edges?  

Nick Crandall Redhook Brewery

Nick Crandall | Redhook Brewery

Why do you sport a beard? It's just a part of me at this point. I'm sure there was some inspiration long ago, but now I just look weird without it.

What is the link between brewing and beards? Maybe it has something do with the kind of people that are willing to put in long days in the brewery but don't have time for antiquated grooming techniques – like shaving. We'd rather spend our free time sipping on pilsner.

John Harris Ecliptic Brewing

John Harris | Ecliptic Brewing

What is your inspiration to sport your facial hair? Men were born to have hair on their faces.

What is the link between beards and brewing and beer? Brewers with beards have way more time to devote to brewing, formulation and tasting. Those without, well they just waste their precious time shaving when they could be thinking about beer. I’ve been brewing for 33-1/3 years. At 10 minutes a day that's 1444.3 more hours I have had to spend my time on beer instead of shaving. So, grow a beard!

Jack Pitts Holy City Brewing

Jack Pitts | Holy City Brewing

What is the link between beards and brewing? I think the beard phenomenon probably stems from the counterculture attitude a lot of brewers and breweries have. Some of us have transitioned from corporate careers where beards were looked down upon and now we get to prance around all sweaty and bearded while the suits come in to the taproom. For some, it's a great way to thumb their nose at the mainstream societal norm. For others it's simply another way to express their inner artistic self. Self-expression is such a key for any brewery. That's also evident with as much ink as you see in employees and owners.

Why do you personally sport a beard? For me though it's much simpler; the last time I shaved my wife said: "I don’t like your face." 

Lance Chavez Boise Brewing

Lance Chavez | Boise Brewing

Why do you sport a beard?  I actually refused to grow a beard for the first several years of by brewing career. My boss at the time, along with other head brewers around town, used to give me crap about it so when I got the opportunity to become a head brewer, I decided to sport a beard. I also play the bass guitar so I think there is some sort of unwritten rule that if you make craft beer and play the bass you better have some chin whiskers otherwise people may question your credibility. 

What is the link between brewing and beards? I don't think you need a beard to make great beer, but it is fun to play a role that reminds me that I still need to buy some coveralls.

Do you sport an impressively coiffed beard and love beer? Let us know in the comments or on social media!


velo.mitrovich's picture
Due to a fight with oral cancer in my mouth and neck, my beard of 22-years had to go and remain off as of July 5. I feel too naked to go into a brewery now. Even my dog still looks at me a bit funny.
Editorial Dept.'s picture
Hey velo.mitrovich, That's tough, man, but you're still you. Your dog will come around, as they always do. You can't let that stop you from going into a brewery though! They're always welcoming -- with or without facial whiskers.

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