There are many things I learned from my dad, many great things, but the one thing that he taught me that has brought the most success to our brewery and overall business is the concept of transparency and honesty. Be open with people, and they will respect you more. Be honest with people, own your mistakes, and people will support you even when you make more mistakes. This rule has, for better or worse, been a driving principle at Broken Goblet. So, on what would have been his 85th Birthday, and on the annual release of his namesake beer, I am choosing to be very transparent and very honest, and perhaps clear the air a bit. On that note – let’s begin with the most recent email I received on the subject –
November 1st, 2022, 10:38pm
You guys go bankrupt yet? Only a matter of time because you (sic) business and your people are awful. NCBC is such a better brewery and business, maybe you should have tried to copy them sooner then you did. At least you can make your dead dad beer again and make some money lol
This is a follow-up to several on the same theme, albeit from different people each time. One recent email sent to a media outlet – can you imagine emailing a media outlet this stuff? – conjured up a few similar themes, which include the following:
We are going bankrupt… We make shitty beer…All we have is Heavy Metal music….
So, let’s take these all in, in no particular order, starting with my deceased father.
THE DEAD DAD
You, sir or madame, are 100% correct. My dad is dead. Quick backstory to hopefully help you flesh out your next email a little better - he was a captain in the US Air Force, serving during the Korean War. He spent a long time overseas, specifically in the Azores, and had an incredible aptitude for chemistry and engineering. Upon discharge, he worked the rest of his life overseeing global responses to HazMat emergencies, no doubt indirectly saving hundreds of thousands of lives over his 35 year career. He was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and he died Christmas Night, 2012. You probably are not aware, but military service increases your chances of getting ALS by 40%, and they have no idea why. Sir – I am going with sir for this email writer – have you ever seen ALS up close? Do you know what it looks like? What it sounds like? Have you ever sat in a room, unable to do anything but listen to the sound of a pulse oximeter, beeping…..beeping, waiting for the alarm so you could spring into action and clear an airway so that your loved one can breathe again? I do. I was forming the plan for Broken Goblet in that room, creating floor plans, and coming up with membership clubs, quite often with Jay. My dad never got to meet my daughters.
He never got to see me open those brewery doors in Bristol in 2014, and again in Bensalem in 2022. Nope, he didn’t because he is, like you so explicitly noted, dead.
So, a group of my friends decided to pitch in toward a kickstarter, and they elected to name a beer after my Dad, one that would be made every year that we would be open. And today, the 8th version releases, and we are selling it for a super fair $18 a 22oz bottle. I hate to disappoint you, or perhaps you will be glad to know, we aren’t getting rich on this beer.
This is a funny one, because of all the different permutations on this theme that we have heard or been sent, they all seem to either be coming from someone with a different reality, or I guess just trying to will it into existence. Let me ask you – if we didn’t fold during COVID, as a business that was predicated on lots of people being in very close proximity inside our facility, do you really think we are on the verge now? You think, as was stated in one email, that joining up and forming the Co-op is a sign of financial ruin? Do you not comprehend that businesses merge all the time to create economies of scale that better serve the whole? This one is just silly, but I suppose I needed to remind everyone that we are doing ok.
When we first started, our beer was unquestionably hit or miss.. We admit this, we spoke and continue to speak openly about it. There were issues with our brewhouse and we were desperate to fix them, and couple that with sheer inexperience, and there you go. But, unlike many of our contemporaries, who would never admit there was something wrong (and most who are no longer in business), we had to be honest. So, we pounded the pavement, asking for and getting help from anyone with the experience that would listen. And we tripled down with our customers, making them aware when we screwed up, owning it, rectifying it. And we swore that we would get better. And we have, by LEAPS. The liquid coming out of our brewhouse in the last 2 years is unbelievably good. And you know how I know this? We are one of the only breweries with an Untappd score that has climbed, and that is exceedingly difficult to do with the volume of reviews you accrue over 8 plus years. So, yes, Sir or Madame, some of the beer we made in the past is shitty, we have always owned that, and we have worked unbelievably hard to improve that.
But, allow me to dig a little deeper, because there is a huge difference between a “shitty beer” and a ”beer I think is shitty”.
When we first opened, we decided that we were going to make beers that others did NOT make, styles that others did not even attempt to push in a bar setting. Things like Belgian Tripels with Lavender, IPAs with Chai Teas, Black Ryes, 9% Saisons, and an entire portfolio of beer made with loose leaf fruit tea. For fucks sake, we made a Belgian Pale Ale with Fresh Basil. This was a system shock to the beer aficionados who’s “experimental” delights were Victory Dirt Wolf, or World Wide Stout. You have to understand – 9 years ago we were pushing beer recipes over a bar that 99.9% of every other brewery in the country would reserve as a special bottle release or a one-time deal. This was not expected, and there are very many who claimed the beer was shitty simply because it was so non-traditional. And, candidly, that really hurt our reputation in some ways, although I would not have changed much given how much loyalty it built amongst our regulars and Irregulars. Did we screw up along the way? Absolutely. Is your blanket assessment unfair? Absolutely. Are you entitled to that? Absolutely. Just like I am entitled to explain. We can agree to disagree here.
COPYING OTHER BREWERIES
I am so very sorry to burst you and everyone elses bubble here, but the breweries we copied are not in PA. They are not even on the East Coast of the US. Let me provide a backstory – in 2014, when we opened, breweries in PA were NOT allowed to sell beers like a bar, or “pull pints” as the lingo goes. This is why all the breweries would have a sampling room, and you could get a small sample of beers, and you would then purchase take out, or some of these new-fangled refillable “growlers” of beer. The only breweries in the area that were open and were selling beer like a bar had what is called a GP license at the time, a “pub” license. They were bars with restaurants, with oversight from the Department of Health. However, I spent a lot of time in other parts of the country doing research, and what I wanted to emulate was what I found in Northern Cali…. Bear Republic, Russian River, etc. In fact, when I sat in Russian River’s tap room, I texted Jay and said “this is what we are going to do, we have to figure out how”. The answer was, obviously, to get a GP license. Our other brewery owner friends told me we were insane. Jeremy at NCBC, Jim at Naked, they all said that the brewery model was different, and what we were attempting to do was not going to work. No one was coming to an industrial park and treating it like a bar. In addition, Jeremy had been working with lawmakers and was seeing that a loophole was on the horizon, one that might allow pints to be pulled without that “pub” part, and that we should just wait and do what everyone else did. Nope, we had a different idea. And guess what – it worked. It worked so well, that others began to copy us. Yep, so sorry to be that bearer of bad news, but we changed the game. We showed others how to inject personality into the system, how to run full entertainment schedules. In fact, there are so many “firsts” that I could cite that it would come off as obnoxious, and that’s not what this is about. Sir or madame, copying NCBC earlier? Unless you mean attempting to copy their undeniable success and great beer, then yes, we tried, otherwise I wouldn’t have copied them if my life depended on it, and we obviously didn’t. You might want to do a little digging on entertainment, especially music at breweries. As for anything else, you will need a plane ticket and a knowledge of Wine Country before you can come at me with that.
IT'S ALL HEAVY METAL
This is an easy one – of the roughly estimated 160 yearly music events we have hosted over almost 9 years, or about 1400 and change, the percent that would be characterized as Metal, Heavy Metal, or even hard rock is…. ? Any guesses? 26. Let me help you with the math… that is 1.8%, rounded up. And while we are on the subject, of those 1400, do you know how many have been ticketed, or otherwise known as “not free to waltz in and see a show”?? – 30, and that is counting 8 beer fests and 8 comedy shows. Our first ticketed event? Jeffrey Gaines with Mike Estabrook and Shawn Byrne - you know, real metal powerhouses. You sound silly, stop it.
In the end, I really do not know what would possess someone to become this angry, angry and salty enough to send emails to us or to journalists about us. Most are anonymous, but at least some signed their full names so we would know EXACTLY who despised us because we simply exist and get a little coverage now and again. In closing, I must admit that this might sound like a little whining, and you know what? Maybe it is. I apologize to the tens of thousands that support us so much, but I do wear my heart on my sleeve. As business owners, we are expected to take everything in stride, and never to even think about questioning or sometimes correcting someone. But – and it’s a big but – you sent this email directly to me, my personal address. You came for my Dad, and I find it hard to let that one pass. RIP to a real one, Carle the Great.