This past weekend at #BBC15 the amazing Kim Jordan gave the keynote speech. Oh, and I met her! Listening to her describe what it was like starting New Belgium and what their future holds was definitely one of the biggest highlights of the weekend and conference.
New Belgium started small like many breweries, in this case they were making and packaging beer in their basement. Many scoffed at their Belgian-style brews, and Jordan says it was always an uphill battle, but one she wasn’t going to give up. She shared a story of Michael Jackson visiting the early stages of the brewery and advising against some of their Belgian sours. She shared the story of entering their beer at GABF and there wasn’t a category of Belgian beers. They pushed onward, and look at where they are now.
In a life before New Belgium, Jordan was a social worker, and she’s not scared to tell you that New Belgium didn’t have a business plan when they started.
“If we can just sell 90 cases a week, I think we can make this thing work. Making beer in the basement. You just keep plugging away. What are we going to do, give up and go back to day jobs?”
When New Belgium did their first collaboration, the TTB didn’t know what to do. There had been no precedent set for this. Breweries in the US weren’t collaborating yet, let alone working with Belgian breweries like Oud Beersel. Now, Transatlantique Kriek tells the story of how they forged away the way they wanted to do it.
Jordan says they like to tell a variety of stories through beer, but they always do it with integrity. Their business has core company values, and Jordan says:
“We have the voice to be an advocate for things we think are important. We try not to be too preachy about it (their company values) but it’s important to us”
Specifically, their focus revolves around renewable energy, proudly being employee-owned, and supporting and advancing marriage equality. Jordan says they have been providing domestic partnership benefits for 20 years, because it meant that much to them.
She seemed to be as grateful to talk to us as we were to hear her. She commended us on our unyielding dedication and passion for craft beer.”You guys are the ones connecting the dots, creating a story collectively.” In her eyes,
“we are collectively making this brand of craft beer as a whole. Local and small is really compelling for people, and competition makes each brewery stronger. It’s a good thing. It makes us say ‘what do we need to do that’s fresh and promising our customers a really good beer experience.'”
When asked about the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in a a sea of men, Jordan was concise on what her thoughts were on the current state of affairs:
[It’s] subtle yet pervasive in a way that well-meaning men don’t even realize that they just said something that … ‘you didn’t really just say that did you’. I have a personality that lively and outspoken. I have no regrets. But, I don’t want to discount that sometimes women are sitting there thinking ‘wow we just kind of got shoved aside’.”
At the end of the session I was delighted to be able to shake hands with a true pioneer in our industry. I consider Jordan to be a positive role model for many girls and women alike regardless of whether you’re a beer-lover or not. It was an honor to hear her speak so highly of us all, and an even greater honor to meet her personally.