Josh Noel

Beer, travel, other things.

Josh Noel is the author of "Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch and How Craft Beer Became Big Business" and writes about travel and beer for the Chicago Tribune.

"Now,let me begin to speak about Josh Noel's magnificent book,Barrel Aged Stout And Selling Out"

I hadn't heard of the Grynder Report until a couple of weeks ago, when a brewery founder texted to ask if he could give my number to a beer blogger by the name of Grynder, who had read "Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out" and quite liked it.

Sure, I said.

I soon learned why I'd never heard of the Grynder Report: it's not even a website — it's an email, sent weekly by Tom Ciula, a 69-year-old father of four and grandfather of 12 who lives in Muskego, Wis., southwest of Milwaukee.

Under the pen name Grynder (because he became a devoted listener of grindcore while jogging — yes, really), he began writing the email to his sons and their friends 10 years ago about his explorations through craft beer.

He tended to visit breweries in the middle of the day, when "owners and brewers had a little more time to talk about plans and aspirations," Grynder said by email. "I started to include this info in my reports and it wasn't long till breweries starting sending me info to include in my letter. It's all very low key and informal." 

Grynder's email has grown to more than 300 subscribers, including, he says, a large number of Midwest brewers, brewery owners and sales reps.

His love of beer — like Goose Island founder John Hall's — traces to a tastebud awakening on the other side of the Atlantic. While in the Army between 1969 and 1971, he took a four-day leave in London where he discovered "wonderful British ales." He went on to work at Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation for 41 years, first as a heat treater and then as a millwright "which entailed moving large equipment in and out of the factory." He retired in 2009.

With extra time on his hands, Grynder joined the Milwaukee Beer Barons Club and studied for, and ultimately passed, the Beer Judge Certification Program test. He spent several years judging home-brew competitions, but "as I got into my 60s, I decided it was more fun tasting all the new beers coming out of the expanding number of new breweries, as opposed to constantly analyzing homebrews made by brewers of questionable abilities."

What else do you need to know about Grynder?

"Currently, I still do a lot of babysitting (for my grandchildren), am a huge Packer and Badger fan, love Fantasy Football, try to visit one pub and one brewery each week, read when I can and start out most mornings with at least an hour walk."

As for "Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out," Grynder was very kind. He told me that for a typical 350 page book, "I have about 30 to 40 underlines and parentheses. In your book, I have 459. I've recommended it to everyone."

His writeup of the book was published in this week's Grynder Report. I appreciate it not just for the comparison to Grynder's wife's favorite soap operas. Or his charming disregard for spacing and punctuation. I appreciate his enthusiasm and insight, especially this sentiment: "You get the impression that Josh is going to expose all the big breweries as ogres and insensitive bullies, and just as he is on his way to doing that, he brings forth another person or opinion that makes you think, well yes, that's the way it's done in America, you really can't bitch at them."

Though the Anheuser-Busch InBev overlords probably doesn't love the book, I did work hard to do the very thing that Tom — ahem, Grynder — suggested: humanize and explain not only Goose Island's motivations, but Anheuser-Busch's. Both parties, as well as the breweries that subsequently sold to Anheuser-Busch, had needs to address. For better or worse — or both — the sales resolved those issues for both buyer and sellers.

Grynder's writing isn't available beyond the email, so I asked his permission to reproduce his review here. He agreed. I'm leaving it formatted just as it arrived (from his AOL account, naturally) with original spacing and punctuation intact. It's part of the charm.

Now,let me begin to speak about Josh Noel's magnificent book,Barrel Aged Stout And Selling Out. It reads almost like one of my wifes favorite Soap Operas. It goes into detail about the loves,passions,deceits and secrets of the following characters,the Halls,Goose Island,Anhueser -Bush,AB InBev, and some hot blooded South Americans with money,good looks ,and ambition that would lead to romance ,jealousy,suspicion and brutal breakups. I could see this book having that long haired blonde guy who was on the cover of every Romance novel,standing on a hill ,hair blowing in the wind,clutching at his big bosomed temptress  named Ann Heiser. The only reason I ever put the book down was because I had to. I read the entire book on my Washington Island vacation,and basically reread it when I got home. 

  The title of the book is smart,the names of the chapters are clever, your infatuated,intrigued and yet your smiling the entire time your reading the book. Its so fascinating because most of you know the personalities involved. 

 You get the impression that Josh is going to expose all the big breweries as ogres and insensitive bullies,and just as he is on his way to doing that,he brings forth another person or opinion that makes you think, well yes,thats the way its done in America,you really cant bitch at them. Its a book about people,true,but mostly its a business book. That sounds incredibly boring. I can however state it may be the best book Ive read in 20-30 years. (Books I remember racing right through were Ian Flemings Goldfinger,the Godfather,The Exorcist,and True Grit). 

Heres the thing,I personally know a number of people who get this report who don't have the patience to sit down a read an entire book. Blame it on easy to get movies,and the concentration busters known as I-phones. I want them to enjoy some of the great moments in this book as I did. So its to them,the people who will never ever buy a book and read it ,that I put forth some of my favorite moments of this masterpiece. I absolutely encourage each and every one of you to buy this book,becuase I will never be able to match the exhilarating flow of the story as Josh lays out the tale. For those of you to stubborn to do that ,here is some nuggets.

• Many breweries tell the story of craft beer in U.S. Only one brewery IS the story of craft beer: Goose Island

• Goose Island sold to a company that had spent decades thwarting the American Beer Industry  with confusion,trickery and dullness. To AB,less choice was less competition. When American beer was nothing but stadium sponsorships and Superbowl commercials,AB was able to account for one of every two beers sold in U.S.(This is in Prologue,how can you not want to race on and continue)

• Announcement of GI's 38.8 million sale to AB functionally ended an era for craft beer,an era of collaboration and cooperation,growth and good vibes,and the shared cause of building a lifeboat in the sea of Big Beer banality(Award winning sentence)

• AB and its parent company Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate AB InBev, kept buying breweries,as they did,divisions grew starker and more rancorous.The classic American success story-nurturing a business that changed an industry,then selling it for millions,became heresy in craft beer.( A statement of neutrality,you cant be sure which side Josh is taking ,if any,by this statement)

• Selling to the largest beer company in the world assured growth for Goose Island and a big payday for John Hall.(this is a good thing right?) However,from then on,no matter how good the beer,no matter how many awards,no matter how innovative GI would become,someone deep in the crowd would always boo. 

All of the above is before the start of the actual book. If Im not stopped,I'll continue to post excerpts

Keep posting Grynder! Keep posting.

If you want to subscribe to the Grynder Report, drop Tom a line at grynder33@aol.com.

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