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 Kenny Gould, Creative Director at Untappd and founder of Hop Culture Magazine.
How did you discover the world of craft beer, or what inspired you to join?
I’m one of four siblings, and grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I became interested in craft beer as a hobby. My friends and I would get together, hang out, try beers, and talk about our weeks. I remember La Fin Du Monde, a Belgian-style beer, was my favorite.
Someone told me about a Belgian-style brewery in the United States called Allagash, and I’m one of the many people in this industry who fell in love with Allagash White. That was my first real craft beer experience where I said, “Wow, this is evocative. This is something. This is a gateway to another world.”
Once I graduated, I went to Manhattan to work for a magazine called Gear Patrol. The founder, Eric Yang, said I could pitch anything after completing my assignments for the day.
I listed everything I knew a bit about, and because I listed beer, he said Cool. Write us some beer pieces.
At the time, Gear Patrol was strictly digital, so I could see exactly how many people were reading my articles in real time. In 2013, I noticed the traffic would spike for every beer piece, and I wondered if I could do a magazine just based on beer. And eventually, that’s what I did.
I launched Hop Culture in January 2017, to very little fanfare. It was my friend who came up with the name, Hop Culture, and she’s still on the masthead as “muse.”
Now, I had zero experience running a business. And I spent eight months trying to figure out how we were going to build a revenue model.
At the end of 2017, I thought, What if we looked at everything we hated about beer festivals and changed all of those things?
Once we ironed out the details, and put the ticket site live, the whole thing sold out in ten seconds. I had a business partner at the time, and he couldn’t believe it. He thought I didn’t set up the tickets correctly. He said — pardon my French — “What the f*ck did you do?”
But it worked! And that was a turning point for us. Because of our success, we threw another festival two months later in New York City. Then we went to Ohio. Then Tucson, Arizona. Then Richmond, VA. And so on.
Four years later, we’ve thrown over 40 beer festivals, including three digital events. And we just hit 100K followers on Instagram. It’s one of those things that, when you hit it, you realize how arbitrary it is. But it’s a nice thing to have done.
It’s funny, because business isn’t something I ever thought I would do. My dad always thought I’d start a business and I said no way. I was always the weird creative one in my family. But damn it, he was right.
Tap Takeaway >> Sometimes, your parents are wrong. But most of the time, they’re right.
What do you love about the craft beer community? Where would you love to see it grow or improve?
I love the people. Anywhere I go in the country, the world, I have friends to talk to and connect with.
But I know not everyone feels like that. When I walk into a brewery, I just think about hanging out with my friends, or what beer I’m going to get. But there are a lot of people who don’t look like me, and when they go into a brewery, they have to think about other things. In that sense, I have tremendous privilege. I’d like to see more people feel accepted in beer. And I think it’s happening. This June, we threw our first Queer Beer Digital Craft Beer Festival, spearheaded by our Managing Editor, Grace Weitz. Grace has been on the team for years and is super excited about sharing ways to create safe spaces within craft beer.
Craft beer gives you an opportunity to meet people with different personalities, and hear new ideas from the synthesis of cultures of ideas and experiences. And I’d like to see more people feeling welcomed.
What types of skills have helped you personally succeed in this industry?
Creativity. I started as a journalist, I have my MFA in fiction, and I’m really interested in storytelling and the creative world. I also think flexibility is important, as well as professionalism and solid business skills.
Who in the craft beer industry do you admire?
Where do I start? When I think about impact, I have a tremendous respect for Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada, Rob Tod of Allagash, Jim Koch of Samuel Adams. Jim is a great example — he not only built an enduring company, but when you dig into what Sam Adams is doing, they’re showing up for the queer community and others who have been historically marginalized. I think it’s awesome how he built his values into the Boston Beer ecosystem.
John and Jen Kimmich from the Alchemist, have something really similar, and I have a lot of respect for them. I have a lot of respect for people who show up even when it’s not comfortable.
Dr. J Jackson-Beckham is someone else I admire. She helped our company develop our values.
The list goes on. Latiesha Cook from Beer Kulture, Khris Johnson from Green Bench. He actually made the best damn beer I had this year. His lagers are impeccable. He’s also just a rad dude.
Averie Swanson was my first ever interview. I was 23 or 24 and I don’t think she was much older. I asked her about being a female brewer, and she said, I think that’s part of the problem. Why can’t I just be a brewer?
Very early in my career, that shifted the way I thought. It made me rethink the questions I was asking. And I feel that if I’m in a position where I’m asking questions, there’s a responsibility that comes with that. And Averie pointed that out with humility and grace, even when she probably wanted to tear my head off. But her answer really made me reflect on my responsibility, and how I was showing up. And, she makes great beer, too.
What is the most memorable brew you’ve ever had?
Allagash White. You always remember your first. My house is decked out in Allagash gear. Heck, I have a set of hand-painted Allagash-themed Russian nesting dolls.
Dive deeper into the craft beer scene at HopCulture here.
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