cinqque5tion with Nick Purdy
Nick Purdy shares his craft beer lifestyle over at pairingwithbeer.com. He looks at breweries, brews, the culture of beer, local, artisan businesses, and how together they create community, culture, and lifestyle. I sat down with Nick Purdy with craft beer in hand to discuss craft beer, photography, and more.
1. What can you tell us about your craft beer lifestyle so far?
A craft beer lifestyle is really about a few things, I’ve learned: (1) exploring flavours, (2) community, (3) people, and (4) supporting local. Since engraining myself in this community for the past couple of years, I cannot explain how inclusive the craft beer community is – I have not met this many friends in such a short period of time since my first year of university!
(I should say that as inclusive as it is, there is always more work to be done in this regard, and, thankfully, in Ontario, we have Ren Navarro at Beer Diversity, keeping that important discussion going.)
Craft breweries work with their community, building the neighbourhood around them as much as they build their own brands – every great craft brewery understands that their immediate neighbourhood is who they are to serve first, and they represent their community to the world of craft beer. It’s very much about friendships, passion, and supporting communal projects.
In summary, I’d say it is about discovering new experiences and meeting new people; learning about flavours and the processes that produce them, and growing one’s community from the ground up.
2. Nick Purdy, what breweries have you visited and what did you learn from them?
I have been to countless breweries in the last year, and all have added in their own unique ways to my understanding of the ‘craft beer lifestyle’ I articulated above. I have learned a lot about the beer itself, of course, and I have been blessed to try a lot of rare products. Each brewery visit though really produces more friendships – people that I then bump into at industry events and beyond. I often go to said events by myself, but I am never alone at these events because of the many friendships I have made. What’s particularly important about these friendships, is that they are always a proper 2-way street: I do my best to do whatever I can to support their projects, and they return the favour by supporting mine.
In the end, they’ve taught me that if you dive into the deep end (as I have here), you’ll figure out how to swim – and there’s a lot of great people out there willing to provide you with swimming lessons.
3. Can you tell us about the culture of craft beer?
Well, I’ve somewhat answered this above, but I’ll take the opportunity to offer some criticism of the culture instead. The obvious: there are those in the industry that are snobby, pretentious, and act as if craft beer is really exclusive to those who are also stuck-up, and those people need to park their massive heads outside, as it is, in fact, counterproductive to the industry – but that’s going to be the case no matter what, and the same in any industry.
A certain side of craft beer culture is somewhat caught up in materialism, and what I mean by that is an obsession to have tried every beer and been to every brewery possible (a sort of ‘I did it first’ mentality). Some people focus on this as if the quantity is more important to them than the quality, which, of course, is a direct contradiction to what craft beer really is: craft beer is supposed to be about high quality – it’s the macro breweries who are most worried about quantities. I find that some craft beer drinkers get lost in the game of trying everything and being everywhere, such that they lose a portion of the culture they are trying to celebrate (the more important side of the culture: the people). An app like Untappd helps make this more prevalent, even though it is a great app for other reasons.
Individuals who worry about how much craft beer they’ve tried somewhat bother me because of this, although I also get where they are coming from and why they think the way they do – in all fairness to them, it is a part of the culture, but it’s one that has some negative byproducts, I believe.
4. Nick Purdy, you have added the element of black and white photos and making the beer the star. How did you come up with this idea?
When I began, I simply took a picture of a beer and I would create a collage with some other “paired” item I would usually steal an image of from the internet (I have all the original-style photos in a gallery on the website if you would like to take a look). I was adamant, at first, to remain anonymous. I quickly (as in like 3-quarters-of-a-year-quick) realized that what people really want is the person behind the photography/beer drinking/pairing – anyone can take a picture of a beer, but only I can take one with me in it.
To do this though, the project had to change dramatically. While I now needed to be in the photo. I also knew that it wasn’t actually me I wanted to show off in the picture. I wanted to show off the beer and the item it was being “paired” with – they’re the “stars,” as you say. What better way to do this than have the black and white with the beer and “paired” item pop in colour? I can’t recall the moment I recognized that this should be my strategy, but once I did, I knew this concept would make the posts stand out. Standing out on Instagram is perhaps the greatest challenge on a medium so full of all sorts of content.
5. Nick Purdy, just for fun. did your passion for beer get you closer to your community?
If you mean the craft beer community, then it certainly did! Before I began all of this, I was reasonably connected. I had been managing bars and restaurants in downtown Toronto for a number of years, and had a lot of contacts with beer reps, and was kept informed of the industry this way.
I actually really didn’t know much back then – I thought I knew some things, but I didn’t know a tenth of it! Do I think I know all of it now – absolutely not! I could name 20 people right now without having to think who knows more than I do. The amount of knowledge I’ve soaked up over this journey thus far is almost as rich as my university degrees. Probably a similar amount of beer drinking though.
I’ll add that it has also gotten me closer to my community, as in the Toronto and Ontario communities. Pairing beers with local artisans, businesses, and historical landmarks have had me meet a lot of new people and learn a lot of new things – all about the community around me. I still know very little (as far as I’m concerned), but continue to expand my connection to the community and knowledge of it through this project on an almost daily basis.
I make no money doing this. However, I have gained way more in friendships and in knowledge. It is such an incredible community. The truth is, that, in the back of my head, a ‘craft beer lifestyle’ is really a ‘craft lifestyle’ or a ‘support local lifestyle’ – the difference, I believe, is that regardless of your craft. We will all get together to celebrate our accomplishments over a pint of craft beer – and that thought keeps me committed to calling it a ‘craft beer lifestyle.’ But the discussion is (thankfully) an ongoing one…