Iron Horse Brewery is unique in the craft beer space. According to the Brewers Association, millennials are the majority of weekly craft beer drinkers. Think hipster types who like listening to bands like The Black Keys and watching movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The average craft beer drinker is likely to be interested in organic foods, get a liberal arts degree and use their phones to purchase beer before going into an actual store.
Although Iron Horse Brewery has a hipster audience we are different from many other breweries around the country because the hipster crowd does not make up the bulk of our audience. No, our research shows us that the largest segment of our fans would belong in what one might call the “blue collar” category.
These are guys (and gals) who wear boots to work. They work with their hands. They tend to be patriotic. They change their own oil and know how to drive a stick shift. They value common sense over intellectual nuance. They carry a knife at all times and know how to actually use it. They value marriage. They like classic rock. They don’t drink beer to experiment. They find what they like and they stick to it. And for whatever reason, many of these folks have chosen to stick with Irish Death.
Something else that’s inherent in the “blue collar” crowd is fierce loyalty. So even when IHB runs out of beer or we do something that some may construe as offensive or are just generally immature they stick with us. They’re not interested in trying the most recent Strawberry Pumpkin Nitro Imperial Northwest Porter, they’re interested in consistent quality. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I am grateful for “working people” because they make up such a huge portion of our customer base but my appreciation goes deeper than that. As I sit here typing this, headphones plugged in, air conditioning blasting, in a comfortable chair, I know this isn’t actually “work.” My muscles don’t ache when I get home, I don’t get dirt on me, I don’t even know why I put on deodorant in the morning cause we all know I’m not gonna sweat sitting on my ass looking at a computer screen all day.
I was fortunate to have parents that were obsessed with teaching my brother and me what hard work really looks like. My father owns a ranch and made us spend countless weekends with him working with horses, fixing fences and scooping tons and tons…and TONS of manure. A day on the ranch meant waking up before 6 a.m. and getting home after 7 p.m. I hated it. As soon as I was 16 I got another job. That was my dad’s rule: “You don’t have to work for me, but you need to have a job.”
Those times on the ranch did two things: motivate me to acquire skills so I would never have to physically work like that again and made everything else seem easy.
Even when I spent all day standing as a lifeguard, I would think “well at least I’m not digging post holes for eight hours straight.” Even when I was taking 19 credits, running track and working two part-time jobs I knew the exhaustion I felt didn’t compare to the exhaustion of laying brick or cleaning windows or fishing on a crab boat all day. I didn’t want to do those jobs but the thing is, someone has to do them and we all benefit as a result. When you think about it, it’s rather miraculous that some folks do this kind of hard labor their entire life. If that doesn’t deserve respect, I don’t know what does.
It’s astonishing to me what my fellow millennials often consider “hard work.” Most of us have no idea. Most of us have never had to do something physically uncomfortable for eight hours straight. And that’s really a testament to the advancements our society has made but at the same time I wonder if this is actually a good thing. Work gives you dignity and hard work gives your body purpose. What happens when a generation grows up knowing more about operating Tinder than handling timber?
So here’s to the working man. Here’s to the guy who spends all day under a car. Here’s to the gal that spends all day with a needle and thread. Here’s to the steelworker and the forest firefighter. Here’s to the people who work for a living. Thank you for drinking our beer and thank you for being the backbone of every community in America.