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Having a Beer With October

December 30, 2020

By October Staff, December 30, 2020

In honor of the end of October, the team gathered via Zoom over the beers of their choice to reflect on three-plus years of beer journalism.

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and heavily edited for length. The October team would also like to express deep gratitude to Adam Waito, who illustrated this article and countless others.

Matthew Zuras:  Okay, we’re all here. Welcome to Having a Beer I want us to go around and say who we are and what we’re drinking, and then we’ll get into it. I’m Matthew Zuras. I am the Editor-in-Chief of the beer web log I am drinking a Transmitter TH7 sour ale with nectarines, and it’s delicious. 

Sarah Freeman:  I’m Sarah Freeman, Managing Editor of the sinking ship SS October

MZ:  I’m going to edit that out, you know.

SF:  I don’t think you should. First one on, last one off. 

MZ:  True.

SF:  I am drinking a Collective Arts Stranger Than Fiction porter. It is also delicious.

Diana Hubbell:  I’m Diana. I’m the staff writer at October. And I am indecisive, so I brought out two beers, because I’m not sure what one I should drink, but they are both from Grimm. And look how beautiful this is. 

MZ:  So pretty. 

DH:  Just delightful.

MZ:  I also have two beers. I scored a 3 Fonteinen Armand & Gaston too. What was the one you’re drinking? 

DH:  This is a spontaneously fermented ale. It’s a wine-beer hybrid with merlot grapes. 

MZ:  And Chris?

CK:  Oh, I’m Chris Kaye. I’m the social media editor, and I am drinking Golden State Cider, because I’m being a contrarian. Although, I do have some cream ale and some other stuff in my fridge that I may switch to, but it’s also three hours earlier here, so I’m going to be drunk most of the afternoon apparently. 

MZ:  Great. I guess that’s maybe a segue into one of the first things I want to talk about, which is: how are we all doing in quarantine? Which is an interesting question for us, because we were already working fairly remotely before the pandemic hit.

CK:  I mean I think I have a couple of things to say about that. One, I would say that I think the way you all shifted the content was really impressive and just felt relevant. I think partially because world events didn’t really affect our content too much prior to that, right? There would be like an anti-Trump beer or something, but it wasn’t until Covid happened that the impact of what was going on in the world was actually felt in the beer world and on the site. So, there was that. 

On the other hand, before this we would have one meeting a week unless we needed to speak to each other, and we would hop on Zoom. And now, we all basically have been talking for an hour every morning every day, which I think has been important for sanity purposes, right? I mean, we talk about work for like half of it. You know, the four of us, we’ll spend some time just talking about what’s going on in our lives, which is good, because I think a lot of people don’t have that. And because I think we’re small, it’s an intimate group in a certain way. Like, we’re able to discuss things, because there’s only four of us. 

MZ:  I think it’s helped that we have all worked together in some capacity or another. Not necessarily all together. Sarah and Diana hadn’t worked together before, but I had worked with both of them when they were writing for me at VICE. Obviously, I had worked with you before, Chris. And it’s all going to sound very nepotistic when you put it on the page, but I think that that helped a lot, too. 

And I think that in trying to run a site remotely, having those relationships with one another, being able to sort of implicitly trust one another, is really, really helpful. Obviously I’ve had differences of opinion on headlines and social copy and pitches, but that’s my job. But I think one of the things I really value about you as a team is that you have been able to interpret my probably not-very-clear direction and perspective on what I want this beer blog to look like. So, that makes me happy. 

SF:  I had jotted down in my little notes for today about how we kind of seamlessly switched gears when everything started going crazy in March and April. I was just looking back at some of that content, and it really was all-encompassing for a few weeks there. Like, no one wanted to know about anything else except for how the pandemic was going to affect their lives and businesses, and we found and turned around so many stories from all over the world that touched on all these different parts of the pandemic and how people are reacting to it, from beer delivery to bar closings to making bread at home using beer. Looking at it as a package, it’s this really nice body of work that I’m really proud of, and I think we all should be proud of, for being able to take such a horrible situation that was thrust on everyone so quickly and really adapt to it. 

CK:  We weirdly foreshadowed it with that Chinese brewpub piece in February.

SF:  Yeah. 

CK:  I don’t think any of us realized that that’s what we were going to be looking at. I don’t think any of us assumed we had a competent government in place, but I don’t think any of us expected it to be like what it turned out to be like. Because the week before, we had the shutdown here which was mid-March. I think you guys in New York had it pretty bad. I don’t know what it was like in Chicago. Diana, I think you were in Germany still. But we had the mandatory stay-at-home, and our big story that week was about the Juggalo beer festival. And then, just all of a sudden, that was the last—I don’t want to say “normal” October story, but that was the last typical October story. But from then on, everything was just touched with a corona lens. 

MZ:  I think one of the things that outside observers probably don’t understand is how much consideration did go into thinking about how we covered the coronavirus. “Is this exploitative? Is this too much of a downer? Is this out of touch if we’re not talking about it? Are we being service-y enough by saying here’s the breweries that are closing down, here’s the breweries that you can order from? Here’s the stories about the breweries that are struggling because of it. Here’s distraction content. Here’s how to make sourdough at home with your beer. Here’s your projects to keep you sane.” 

I think it was, for me at least, not just service journalism. It was also my own kind of mental health project. I feel like if we had only done the running list of every brewery that closed, that would have been mentally very hard on me and all of us. Like, is that what October has become? When I joined, October’s mandate was to be “beer positive" and how do you remain beer positive when the industry is reeling from this pandemic? 

CK:  There’s a lot of misconceptions about our publication, but one of the things that I think people should know is that we literally had hours-long conversations about how to cover this. Almost on a daily basis during the beginning. Just as we had so many conversations in late May and June with the protests and everything about how we should respond. I think any editorial team that doesn’t have those kind of conversations is pretty much doomed to fail.

DH:  “Beer positivity” is sort of a very broad umbrella and has always been subject to our interpretation. And while we did talk about the layoffs and the closings and whatnot, I appreciated that our angle hasn’t always been pure doom, because sometimes it has been hard for people in this business to see the interesting, uplifting stories in all of that. 

MZ:  That was why we decided to do Women’s Week again. We had that conversation several times about the timing of it, because it was something that we had been planning to do before lockdown happened. And we delayed it a couple of times, because it just didn’t feel right, but then at a certain point, we made the decision that this is something that we want to do and need to do regardless, and it feels like a tonic for what’s happening right now when every article we’re reading is about businesses shuttering and the fallout of the pandemic. 

I feel like the beer world is kind of like the internet world in that sometimes the loudest voices are the voices that kind of become the representation of what you think that industry is.”

CK:  I think another thing grew out of those discussions is we largely ignored Pride this year. 

SF:  But so did the rest of the world, unfortunately. 

CK:  Not to out anyone on the staff, but for a staff that’s pretty queer-friendly and -adjacent, I think we did one or two stories, right? We didn’t really do a lot, and it felt right not to do it, because there was so much other shit going on.

SF:  I think we as a team and as a publication made a lot of really smart decisions in terms of the direction we took the site. Whereas I feel like some other websites definitely did that too, but others were probably not as dynamic and thoughtful in their choices as we were. 

CK:  This is the sad thing, because this is one of my favorite publications to read. So, it’s a bummer for us to end like this—separate, where we can’t actually even have a beer all together. It just blows.

MZ:  Well, at the time of this call, it has not yet publicly been announced, but by the time this runs, it will. October is ending. I know we all have a lot of thoughts about that. And I don’t want to start, because obviously I have given a lot of thought in terms of our editorial direction, but what is October to each of us? Like, why is October? Who needs October? What is the point of October

SF:  I can start just chronologically, since I’ve been here the longest, and I’m most familiar with the early days and the early iterations of the site. I started writing for it almost immediately, and then, I was brought on as a vague, general “editor” about six months in. And then, I think maybe six months after that, I slid into the managing editor role, and Matt, you came on as editor-in-chief. 

But the site that I inherited is day and night to what it is today. I feel like the motive is still the same. It was always designed to be a site that brings beer and beer stories to people who are sometimes left out of the beer conversation or who feel like beer’s not for them, because maybe they’ve been told too many times that beer is a drink for men or for working-class guys, or it’s too lowbrow. 

I think one thing that I started doing—and Matt when you came on, we continued to do this—was just to build a team, both the core team and a team of writers that embodied what we wanted the site to be and the stories that we wanted to tell and making sure those stories were being told by people who we wanted to be the voice of that site. Whether it was more women or people of color or LGBTQ—I think we’ve really tried to be that site that does beer a little differently and speaks to a wider audience. 

CK:  I think beer is traditionally just thought of as a cis white dude kind of thing, right, and that perception is still there, but I feel like you all actively try to dismantle that notion by who you chose to cover and how you chose to cover them. 

DH:  I will say I had been writing about food and drinks for a very long time before this site, and I had interviewed and profiled a number of breweries, but I am amazed how much working with this site has changed my perceptions of the craft beer world. Especially in the United States, but everywhere. You know, we all know that this industry has a long way to go in terms of diversity, but I think by choosing to lift up the voices of people who don’t fit the profile of the flannel-wearing bearded guy, white male person—you know, choosing to lift up other kinds of voices—I’ve realized just how many women and BIPOC are doing amazing work within this sphere. I think there’s room in the future for a more inclusive craft beer scene both in terms of who makes it and who drinks it. 

SF:  I feel like the beer world is kind of like the internet world in that sometimes the loudest voices are the voices that kind of become the representation of what you think that industry is. I think what we’ve done is really try to offer a microphone to those quieter voices, and it’s not always easy to find those people and those stories and those breweries that don’t look like what beer is “supposed” to look like. But we’ve really been true to that mission of telling those stories that don’t always get told. 

DH:  Also, slight tangent, but I love how weird we have been able to get with this site. Like, I did a deep dive about if we can brew beer in space and hallucinogens in beer. Those are not stories that would have had a home everywhere. 

CK:  No. 

DH:  It’s not a beer nerd site—in the sense that I feel like some of that culture is about putting off outsiders or excluding people with terminology and just kind of going, “oh, if you don’t know this obscure brewery or the name of this microbe then you don’t belong in this club.” And I feel like we’ve tried to demystify some of that stuff. But we’ve still gone on some super-nerdy, super-in-depth, really interesting side routes which I wouldn’t have expected at the start of this little journey.

CK:  Without gatekeeping, right?

DH:  Without gatekeeping. 

CK:  That’s kind of crucial, because that’s what other publications really feel like sometimes. You know, it’s like the guy who quizzes the woman on the street wearing a Ramones T-shirt to name one of their albums, right? It’s that kind of bullshit that you see. When Matt first talked to me about this, knowing Matt and knowing what he did at VICE and his taste previously, I knew we would be able to do weird things, and I think some of that stuff is some of my favorite stuff we published, probably. Dan Sheehan’s choose-your-own-adventure thing, which was so dark and bizarre. Getting drunk with Animal Crossing, the GWAR interview. There’s been a bunch of just things that were so wild that—like, I don’t know who would publish them, you know. 

MZ:  I don’t know if that’s an indictment of me?

CK:  No, no, it’s a compliment.

SF:  I was going to give you more credit, Matt. You know, we have different iterations of the same idea that you really helped strengthen, which is, what did we call it? It’s “beer and a shot,” or always making sure that it’s not just a beer story. “It’s not just a beer nerd story.” I think I’ve described it to a lot of writers over the years is, “Tell me a story that’s about beer, but that someone who doesn't even drink beer or like beer would still want to read and still learn something from or laugh at or just be interested in.” And I think that editorial philosophy has given us this huge array of things and stories and people that we could cover that I think someone who had a more linear, beer-nerdy approach to this website would not even have considered.

MZ:  I mean, I appreciate all that, and I guess when I asked what is October to all of you, I appreciate that everybody is talking about the social justice and equity perspective that we’ve had in terms of raising up voices of people who’ve been historically ignored in the beer world, or in the beer media world. And that’s obviously something that is very important to me, but I guess if you get down to first principles, for me it’s just, like...don’t be fucking boring. That’s my editorial point of view. I’m pretty sure you told this to me, Chris, when I was a wee intern at Surface magazine, which was “quit dancing and start fucking.”

CK:  Yeah. That is one of my maxims.

MZ:  I approach beer as a type of food, you know—I didn’t come to this job as a beer nerd. I knew about beer, and I’ve certainly learned a lot more about beer being here, but I came to this job from the perspective of a food writer, and I looked at beer like I look at wine or tofu or oranges or anything else. And that is it can be tremendously boring if you write about it in the same way over and over and over, if you are writing for a very narrow audience.

My first experience with drinks writing was as a copy editor for a small wine magazine. And I remember very clearly editing one of their wine writers who described in her tasting notes—I think it was a pinot noir—as tasting like “a crow cawing in a silent mist,” and I was just like, “what the fuck is that?” I appreciated very much the poetic appeal of that in trying to find language to describe this thing that sort of transcends language, this experience of eating and drinking. But it didn’t work. It came across as just horrible. And I think that that really influenced me in terms of editing writers when they talk about food and drink. The vocabulary most of them use to talk about beer is actually quite narrow, but there’s so many different ways to talk about beer. 

This is a site where you can get a brewery guide, but it’s also a site where you can also learn about the weird yeast on a wasp’s ass that’s helping a scientist to create a new kind of beer.”

SF:  I hope that a piece of October lives on whether it’s through the writers we worked with, or how we approached stories. I hope that we have—even if it’s a tiny one—had an impact on the state or structure or just how beer writing works. I know it was really hard at the beginning— and sometimes we did not make friends doing this—trying to explain to people who had been writing about beer for a long time that we don’t want you to write about beer like a beer writer and having to really break some habits. 

MZ:  I definitely feel like if I accomplished anything it was getting the writers who pitch us to start rethinking what it is they pitch us. Early on, it was a lot of “here’s a listicle of beers to drink for whatever NBA team you support” and those kind of roundups, or it was very, very narrow travel guides to drinking your way through a brewing district, which are valuable, and we certainly continued to do those. But you know as we expanded our focus, that was when I started getting writers like Jenny Morber pitching a piece on the wasps helping scientists to create a new kind of beer, or Andrew Russeth’s piece on beer and contemporary art. This is a site where you can get a brewery guide, but it’s also a site where you can also learn about the weird yeast on a wasp’s ass that’s helping a scientist to create a new kind of beer. And those were the stories that always just got me really excited. 

SF:  I think that other publications could also learn from our approach to even more traditional articles, like Miles Liebtag’s piece on coolships, which we’ve talked about a lot. We kept going back to this piece, because it is a quintessential beer nerd piece. It is about a super-obscure brewing technique that, unless you really care about beer, you probably wouldn’t care about. But Miles was able to deliver a piece that was both informative and interesting to read. 

And it’s the same thing with some brewery profiles we did, like Eric Ginsburg’s piece about Brown Truck Brewing in North Carolina. At first glance, it’s a brewery profile, but what he did was write this beautiful piece that was a snapshot of this small town and the characters in it and there just happens to be this brewery at the center of it. You know, things don’t have to be so formulaic. A brewery profile can be a lot of different things. It can be approached in a lot of different ways. An informative piece about a beer or a brewing technique does not have to be bland. 

MZ:  I mean, to be fair, we have done our share of formulaic roundups.

CK:  Sure, sure. 

SF:  It’s a balance. 

MZ:  I mean, this might again be an indictment of my editorial sensibility, but it’s a little bit all over the place. The bad metaphor I always give is that I want our coverage to be like a Las Vegas buffet—the crab legs, the mac and cheese, the Black Forest cake all make sense together on your plate, because that’s what you want to eat at that moment even if it really makes no fucking sense whatsoever. 

CK:  But it does make aesthetic sense. Especially because Adam Waito’s illustrations kind of tie a lot of those pieces and themes together in a way. I think if you look at a couple different pieces that Adam has illustrated, they feel like they’re part of the same thing even if they’re wildly different stories.

I’m going to get another beer if that’s okay. I have switched to a Mother Earth Cali Creamin'.

DH:  I will say one of the things I’m most bummed about not happening this year was spending a lot of time in Belgian lambic breweries. I’ve heard the opposite of “the crow in the mist” descriptions of lambics this week. There’s been a lot of how “if you open up a barrel too soon, it might taste like a used diaper or battery acid.” And you just have to trust that it will become something else.

MZ:  I think a lot of the time when you write about drinks, there’s a lot of pressure writers put on themselves to sound very writerly and very poetic and to try and communicate this feeling that is hard to communicate. And maybe sometimes it does actually smell like cat piss or an old diaper or something. That makes me think of Max Falkowitz’s piece on natural cider. And as much as it was a pretty abrasive lede, I loved that he put in his lede a quote talking about how this one type of cider smells like sweaty balls and the other one is more like taint sweat. And you know, that is an appreciable difference.

DH:  True. I don’t think I’ve ever seen “taint sweat” in a drinks publication. 

MZ:  Again, maybe this is an indictment of me as an editor and what I’m willing to put on this beer blog, but that to me is both funny and evocative. And gross, sure, but–

CK:  In the hands of a writer who can write. 

MZ:  Fermented foods smell very bad sometimes! And sometimes bad in a good way. Part of developing an appreciation of the wide world of fermentation is understanding and appreciating those funky flavors and aromas, and being able to parse the difference between a good funky aroma and a bad funky aroma, and how a natural cider that smells like sweaty taint can be a good thing. 

CK:  Yeah, and it’s one line in a piece that’s really well written. So, it’s not like “this tastes like ass” and that’s the end of the story, right?

MZ:  It was a very judiciously deployed line. Sarah, you said something about my approach, like tricking readers into getting interested in something. I don’t know if I’d call it tricking, but I’m a food nerd, and I like the science of fermentation. I like getting into the weeds with this stuff. But I do think that there needs to be that “something else” that draws readers in to get them interested in the nerdy differences that can distinguish a ball sweaty cider from a taint sweaty cider, and that may have to do with provenance or apple cultivar or brewing technique or whatever. But you should be able to balance both those things. I mean, we write about and cover a product that is essentially—and this is heretical to say—but it’s essentially pointless. Nobody needs this stuff to get through their day to day lives, you know. 

CK:  I take umbrage with that. 

MZ:  I’m not talking about alcohol. I’m talking about its expressions. I’m drinking a rare beer right now—at a time when everybody is out of work. We’re about to be out of work! It’s not really a time to be celebrating extravagance but I do want to be able to appreciate the work that goes into these products. I think you need to have a foot in the real world, and you need to have a foot in the beer world. You need to be able to remain grounded and sort of appreciate the things that we do. And maybe talking about taint sweat brings this lofty thing back down to the real world for a minute, even with gross-out humor.

DH:  There are great beer writers in the beer writing world. We worked with a lot of them, but it traditionally has been a somewhat insular space, and I really appreciated the fact that you had an art critic writing for us who reached out, because he loved one of our stories. We’ve had James Beard award-winning food writers writing for us. We’ve had people who, you know, maybe are interested in beer personally, but they didn’t consider themselves part of that world, and we’ve gotten some really cool contributors over the years. And I think they’ve made the site richer by bringing in outside knowledge of history and art and food and other genres into the beer world. 

An informative piece about a beer or a brewing technique does not have to be bland.”

MZ:  Another thing I want to say is that I’ve just been so happy with the “Having a Beer with” series, because it has given us the opportunity to reach out to people who are not necessarily part of the beer world. Sometimes they say, “I drank Miller High Life, because that’s what my dad drank, and that’s all I really know about.” But then they give us an anecdote about their dad. And it’s these stories that are sort of told through the lens of beer, and then segue into something else.

I have lots and lots of favorite “Having a Beer with” interviews but certainly I think one of my tiptop favorites was your interview with Natalie Wynn, Chris. That kind of ticked every single one of those boxes, because Natalie is not a beer nerd, but Natalie certainly had things to say about beer, ways of describing beer that are exactly how I want writers to talk about beer on this website. Talking about sea water with a squeeze of lime in it is a perfect way to describe SeaQuench. 

CK:  Yeah. It was not surprising that she would be funny. I think the idea came from you to talk to her. I had been a fan, and it was great to talk to her, because she’s a person who can talk about a lot of different subjects. I think we talked before the election, but we published after. But it was also nice to see a queer socialist person be like, “fuck yeah, I’m voting for Biden,” you know. Whereas I feel like a lot of people in their 20s and early 30s were not going to say that.

MZ:  Not to put too fine a point on it, but one of the reasons that I’m also really happy with that piece is that—and you know, I’m saying this as a cis man—the discussion that you two had about representation of trans and nonbinary folks in media is not something that you would expect to see on a beer website. And I can appreciate that some people came to the website that day and were like, “what the fuck is this?” But it was such a touching and insightful and intelligent conversation, both with Natalie talking about her experience as a trans person and celebrity on the internet, but also as just a trans person reckoning with representations in mass media. 

I don’t think that our readership necessarily overlaps with her fanbase, and the fact that we can sort of make that cross pollination happen that we could get maybe some her fanbase interested in what we do, but also to get our readership interested in who she is and what she has to say, that to me goes to the heart of what Having a Beer with does on its best days. 

CK:  I think one of the benefits was when we both showed up on Zoom, she probably was like, “Oh, okay. You’re trans. We don’t necessarily have to code switch like you would talk to a cis person.” I think that’s what we were talking about before—trying to make sure that we have diverse voices. If anything, that’s one of the things I’ll miss about October, that it’s one less place for a trans writer to do a story on another trans person, right?

MZ:  Right. Sarah, what do you think about “Having a Beer with”?

SF:  It just was a platform that gave us the excuse to talk to anyone that we wanted to, in an almost selfish way. If we had a subject that didn’t necessarily fit into a traditional feature on the site, we could do it as a “Having a Beer with.” It’s what allowed me to interview Krista Scruggs from Zafa. You know, she was a really cool winemaker who’s one of the few Black winemakers in the country, but she was able to talk a lot about beer and the parallels between the wine and the beer industry and some of the challenges that are happening across both of those worlds. And that story wouldn’t really have made sense in any other platform or any other format except for “Having a Beer with.” 

CK:  And you got some great quotes out of her for that story too. 

SF:  They’re also some of our consistently best performing stories. So, it’s really just a testament to the site when it’s doing what it’s supposed to do and doing it well. 

MZ:  It’s handing the microphone to somebody else as much as possible, and we were able to do that very easily with “Having a Beer with.” We tried to do that I think in a lot of other stories too. And to your point about gatekeeping, Chris, I think that’s something that’s always been in the back of my mind—are we being gatekeepers? It was something that we did during the first Women’s Week when we had Ren Navarro talk to Airie Peters. It was edited for length and clarity, but there was no moderator. It was just a conversation between the two of them about their experiences in the industry. It’s a perspective that’s completely different from what you will read from a lot of other beer publications. I’m so glad that that story happened. I’m so glad that that story is out there.

SF:  I was just going to say, that same week gave us the piece from Samantha Lee at Hopewell. I have this flagged in one of my 17 million tabs—her wonderful piece about the very purposeful decisions that she made on the path to opening Hopewell and designing a brewery that was sort of the opposite of all of the places she had been going to where she felt like it wasn’t made for her. 

MZ:  I mean, it’s always been a bit of an awkward thing for me to be sort “rah, rah, rah” about Women’s Week as a male editor, but I’m glad, Sarah, that when we talked about this, it was just a no-brainer for us. Obviously we were going to do this. 

It was weird to us that no other beer publication has ever devoted time to highlighting the hard work and experiences and struggles of women in this overwhelmingly male-dominated industry. And Sarah, the care that you really put into it in making sure that it didn’t feel tokenizing, that it didn’t feel like we’re just covering women for a week, and then, we’re going to go back to covering “real” beer—that really spoke to the DNA of what I wanted October to be. 

SF:  Women's Week will always be probably the feather in my cap when it comes to how I look back on this site, and I’m so proud of it and so proud that we were able to really commit to doing that and the stories that came out of it. It’s also something I do worry about looking forward, looking at what’s left and who’s left in the beer media field, and it’s a lot of dudes. 

That’s true even throughout the past few years, trying to navigate this industry as a woman and navigating some of the events that we went to. Whether it was GABF or a press trip or whatever, the problems surrounding how the beer industry treats women and treats minorities are so deeply ingrained into this industry. I think we did an amazing job trying to chisel away at some of those problems or shine a light on people who are often overlooked, because they don’t look like the traditional beer drinker or beermaker. And I don’t know if that is a priority of the remaining dedicated beer publications out there. I think a lot say they do, but saying it and doing it are two different things. 

MZ:  I think that’s why you need to have people from all backgrounds on your editorial staff. So that you do have somebody saying, “Wait, let’s not use that headline. Wait, let’s not cover this story that way.” Working with women, working with LGBTQ+ folks like on this staff has made our editorial perspective sharper in that respect.

It was sort of like imposter syndrome—‘Are the bros going to see me for the queer fraud that I am?’ But then quickly it became ‘I can do a beer website however I want to, because they don’t own beer.’”

CK:  You know, it’s funny. You’ll probably cut this out, but obviously, there’s been a perception of who we are and how we operate and who is pulling our strings, which is just fucking hilarious to me.

MZ:  Hilarious.

CK:  But I always wonder, if people saw the four of us, they’d be like, “Wait, it’s you that’s writing this...?”

SF:  I was put out there pretty early on, thinking “you need to be the face of this website.” Go to these events. Do these things. Network. And it didn’t matter that I was a woman. I was still treated horribly, because of those misconceptions. I think it actually made it worse that I— 

CK:  You couldn’t bro down?

SF:  I could bro down, but I was also seen as the secret Anheuser-Busch spy, so I wasn’t welcome on that front. And I wasn’t welcome because I was a woman. 

MZ:  I mean, you know that I can’t bro down. When I went to GABF the first year, I was like, “I feel unsafe here.”

SF:  And you and I have talked about this, Matt. I can bro down. 

MZ:  Oh yeah, you can bro down harder than I can. 

SF:  And this is what I mean when I say  these issues are so deeply ingrained. Like, we should have been this really welcomed, breath of fresh air in this industry, but I couldn’t even walk into a room without feeling excluded. And I have never experienced that in any other industry except beer. 

CK:  That fucking sucks. 

DH:  I hate that.  

MZ:  I do too. And maybe I have the privilege to do this as a man, but I realized early on that this is not a party I was necessarily invited to, and that’s not exactly an experience that’s totally alien to me as a homosexual. And I was able to sort of say, “Alright, well, I’m going to make this beer website the way that I want to make it, and whether or not the bros get it is not really that important to me.” I mean, it was a concern in the beginning. It was sort of like imposter syndrome—”are the bros going to see me for the queer fraud that I am?” But then quickly it became “I can do a beer website however I want to, because they don’t own beer.” They’re just, as you were saying, “the loudest voices.”

SF:  Yeah. Despite the animosity, we never faltered on our vision and never changed ourselves in order to appease them or in order to fit in.

MZ:  Fuck the haters. 

CK:  If they don’t pay your rent, don’t pay them no mind, right? 

MZ:  Maybe this is an awkward transition but I think in this next part of the conversation we should just devote to snaps to Diana. Like, I’m just scrolling through your stories, and it’s just everything. I think we share a point of view. Flaming rocks in beer? Cool story. Let’s do it. Jester King Goat Park? Awesome story, let’s do it. Dogs that deliver beer to your door? Beer and sourdough? You deeply mined the intersection between beer and something else, and you always have. I’m in awe of research that you’ve done and the connections that you’ve made in this industry and the level of sophistication in writing about beer that you have.

SF:  And for all future employers out there, she’s also very quick and efficient.

DH:  And very available!

MZ:  I think that you have made our readers smarter. I think you have made people who might not have been interested in beer more interested in beer than they might have before, because your stories have that way of covering all of the necessary bases for a given subject. But just being so accessible and so fun and full of zippy one-liners. It works really, really well. 

You know, one of the things that gives me solace about October not continuing into 2021 is a lot of stuff isn’t continuing into 2021. And you know, I think we had such an interesting and fun year in 2019. We had a great OctFest. We did some great stories that year. And we had all these big plans for 2020 like everybody did. And 2020, just, you know. We all experienced various forms of tragedy, and it was not the year that anybody was expecting. But we got through it. I think we did some of our best work in 2020 despite all of these hurdles, despite being physically distant from one another for ten months out of the year.

CK:  Yeah, we should probably underline that for the story. I mean the fact that we were in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Germany. That’s where the staff works. Like none of us were ever in the same spot really. 

DH:  I think we had less to prove to people in a way, and I think we sort of did it anyway. These Zoom meetings have certainly helped my sanity quite a lot, because I think there were times where we had a lot of time alone in our respective apartments in our respective time zones. But maybe just the touching base from Los Angeles to Berlin kind of brought things together somehow. This is a really good square we’ve got here. 

CK:  Yeah, it’s good. I mean Matt and I, Sarah and I, have worked together in other contexts before. I hope, and I’m almost 100-percent certain we will probably work together in some other context again, who knows, given where we all wind up. 

MZ:  I don’t want to say our work here is done, and 2021 would have been an even greater year for October. That being said, I agree with Diana. I think that 2020, despite all of its myriad hurdles, was a really, really good year for us, and we turned out some amazing stories and did some experimental stuff, some weird stuff, some stuff that just maybe only made us personally very happy but worked. I think it certainly made me a better editor. And you know, I hope that we taught people a little bit more about beer in a fun way. I think my biggest regret is not being able to talk to all of you for an hour a day, every day, going into 2021. And we will certainly, obviously, stay in touch, and we can have these little squares again in the future in a non-October context. But you know, it won’t be quite the same, so I will miss that. 

CK:  Yeah, like you said, it’s hard to do the George W. Bush “Mission Accomplished.” But it doesn’t feel like we’re done, right? Even though we are.

MZ:  I think we should wrap this up. Does anybody have any final parting thoughts, or were those our parting thoughts? 

SF:  I’m super bummed, but this was really nice. 

MZ:  Alright. Well, in that case—

SF:  Goodnight.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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