Daily Cosmonaut #12: Making What’s Familiar vs Making What You Want.

Stamping our logo on a piece of paperIn 2014 at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) trade show, as Microcosm was debuting Erik Spellmeyer and Jamie Floyd’s Brew It Yourself: Professional Craft Blueprints for Home Brewing. A woman came up to us excitedly, saying, this is exactly what my customers want, something that tells you how to design your own beers rather than how to recreate a popular beer recipe at home. “Great!” I exclaimed. Many other store buyers echoed these sentiments.

Admittedly, I had never given the issue much thought. Microcosm had distributed a series of very successful zines about how to make your own beers but they had been focused around how to save money or how to use beer as a fundraiser or how to make very simple alcohol in your cupboard without any experience. When Erik started working in sales at Microcosm, he was an experienced brewer after his years working at Ninkasi. He had more technical knowledge about fermentation and brewing than anyone else at Microcosm so he reviewed the zine that we were about to republish. He called me, concerned.

“Joe, we can’t publish this. There’s a lot of information that’s incorrect. It’s just not…coherent. I should just talk to [Ninkasi founder] Jamie Floyd and we’ll write a new book.”

It was a good idea so I accepted. What I hadn’t counted on was just how many books existed about how to brew beer and how many of those were “official” books from a certain brewery or another. Ours was the only book that was designed to give the reader the necessary information to design the kind of beers they wanted based on their tastes. And I realized in that moment at PNBA that a vital aspect of Microcosm’s mission had always been to give readers enough information for them to make the choices about what they wanted instead of replicating their favorite familiar flavors.