Hopportunity Awaits is a brew on a mission to help highlight careers in craft beer, and inspire more of us to hold the door for the unique talent among us, creating more pathways for diversity, in every sense, across every role. Partial proceeds will benefit Craft x EDU as we work together to launch an educational grant for emerging professionals in craft beer.
On the cans, you will meet 10 industry professionals who are ready to tell their remarkable stories of how they got their start and paved their own path in craft, rules be damned.
Without further ado…
Meet Aadam Soorma, an award-winning beer columnist turned head of marketing who’s proud to pour in Pittsburgh.
Tell us your origin story. How did you discover the world of craft beer, or what inspired you to join?
I went to college at Ohio University. At that time, our only local brewery was Jackie O’s – that was my first introduction to craft beer. They had these awesome event nights with live music. This was 2007, and there seemed to be a lot of wheat beers and stouts rotating through the menu. At the time I didn’t think too deeply about the craft, but loved the vibe.
Fast forward a bunch, the first time I started working in craft beer was as a tour guide. My buddy Andy here in Pittsburgh found a decommissioned school bus that he bought and renovated. He added a vinyl wrap, re-arranged the seating and we called it Porter Tours. It was a craft beer tour bus. We’re seeing a bit of a renaissance in craft beer in Pittsburgh; with new, smaller breweries opening pretty much every month.
Although Andy was super thoughtful and strategic, I could tell he didn’t love talking all day while giving tours. On the other hand, I’m a wildly extroverted Libra and I can’t stop talking.
So, I got my commercial driver’s license and gave tours with the Porter crew from 2017 – 2020. We had relationships with about two dozen craft breweries, and our guests would get to stop at a selection of three Pittsburgh-area breweries per tour.
We started winding things down in late 2019 and unfortunately, with the onset of COVID-19, our business was basically all but done.
When that ended, I reconnected with my journalism side. Our local TV station, WTAE, is owned by Hearst; they were working on rolling out a segment called Very Local in Pittsburgh.
I was tasked with running a chunk of their digital presence. Doing the tour guide stuff, I asked if I could publish a beer column. Before COVID-19, I wrote about events and can releases throughout Pittsburgh. It kept ramping up, and I was surprised with its consistency.
In September 2020, my column won a Western Pennsylvania Press Club Golden Quill award for excellence in non-daily journalism, and I was pretty impressed and surprised. They noted a few of my pieces around breweries revitalizing small communities.
For years, I was adjacent to the beer industry as a tour guide and writer. Finally, I began making moves that led me to my first job IN the beer industry – at Trace.
Dave Kushner, the founder, was my neighbor. We would chat over some beers on our front porches. And he always said, if he opened a brewery, he would call me.
We joked about it, but in 2019 it got more serious. At the end of 2020, I joined, picking up bartending shifts and helping to launch the brewery’s digital and social channels.
What do you love about the craft beer community?
From the perspective of Pittsburgh, it’s the collaborative camaraderie. When I think about places like my hometown in Ohio, there’s a very different way of approaching community. Here in Pittsburgh, everyone is willing to jump in, help out.
For example, recently a new immigrant-led food truck launched and another brewery suggested we give them a try. We immediately connected with their team and started them on a weekly homebase retainer here at Trace. They’ve been a hit with our staff and guests at Trace. A rising tide lifts all boats.
Where would you love to see it grow or improve?
Honestly, just seeing more folks like me. Seeing more people of color, more women and more of the LGBTQ community coming into the taproom.
Our General Manager, Katie, comes from event production. When we started Trace, our top focus was on inclusion.
Beer is a fun beverage, and it should be fun for everyone. Whether they’re working in beer, or just enjoying a taproom and feeling comfortable. It’s rad to see the diverse, multicultural type of vibe.
Outreach is the name of the game. We’ve had a drag brunch series, we’ve hosted hip hop parties, we’ve hosted artists of color doing live canvas paintings, we’ve hosted a transgender stand up comedian, we’ve hosted local knitting meetups and we work with several food trucks that are minority-owned. The city took note, and Trace was one of the 2021 host sites for Pittsburgh Pride back in June.
One of the unintended consequences of doing minority outreach is that our regular, day to day guests end up supporting these minority-led businesses by default.
Selfishly, I’m proud that we have more people of color on staff at Trace than most breweries. We’re a holistic staff that thinks and reflects on that a lot. We love looking at photos our guests post on social media and seeing the diversity reflected back.
Tap Takeaway >> When planning events for your community, think beyond your brewery’s walls, and tap into the local scene to engage community members from all backgrounds.
When these one-time guests become regulars, it showcases our focus on diversity and inclusion. We try our best to walk the walk.
There’s a lot of elderly folks here too. One of the locals, Ms. Kim, who’s approaching 80, came by for the first time and saw that we have a wood burning fireplace in the taproom. All she wanted to do is sit by the fireplace, and that’s totally cool. She’s not the biggest spender, but she talks to the other folks in her community, and we try to give her a memorable brewery experience.
What types of skills have helped you personally succeed in this industry?
Coming from writing and content production, it’s the storytelling that works.
I really like having the skill set to take information, and parse it into a story. Then, using social media as the vehicle to tell those stories.
Another skill is understanding comparative advantage. I’m not the best photographer, but I can prepare the shot list, and work with our freelance photographers to capture the right visuals for each campaign. The skills can actually complement one another if we each do what we respectively do well.
Who in the craft beer industry do you admire?
I have many heroes but one person I especially admire is Rafael Arsuaga – he is a professional brewer at Pint House in Austin, T. We grew up together in Ohio and his family is native to Puerto Rico. About 10 years ago, he started professionally brewing at JAFB in Wooster, Ohio. After that, he headed west to Chicago and worked his way up to being a head brewer at one of the Pint House breweries in Austin.
Last year, one of Rafael’s beers won gold at the Great American Beer Festival. It was a pretty surreal moment, both for him and for me. I’ve looked up to him since we were kids and it’s great to see him having such success in the craft beer industry.
What is the most memorable brew you’ve ever had?
I live a few blocks from a brewery here in Pittsburgh called Dancing Gnome. They’ve pushed our whole city to new heights and have inspired and guided huge chunks of my career in beer.
Last summer, they brewed a beer called Sassafras. It was a 2.8% petite hazy IPA. They absolutely nailed it with the combination of flavor and hop expression in a beer with ULTRA low ABV. It was easily the most memorable beer I’ve ever had in my life and it was a neat part of their year-long collaboration with Tree Pittsburgh. I’m not sure if they’ll ever brew it again, but to be honest I’ll get down with anything below 4% ABV.
Tap Takeaway >> Collaborations are always a good idea. Read about this ale to pine over here.
See what’s happening at Trace Brewing here.
Say hi on Social!
You can follow Aadam at @asoorma on Instagram and Twitter
And keep up with Trace Brewing on Instagram @tracebrewing
Click here to meet more of our talented rule-makers and read their remarkable stories. Once you hear what they have to say, you will realize that yes, you can brew it too.