With time and beer consumption, the truth gets a little hard to define. I will try to speak honestly about my first summer in the beer biz.
It started over some margaritas in Longmont, CO at a Mexican restaurant in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. Dirty Wayne, as he is called, who sold the first can of Dale’s Pale Ale out of a backpack, told me I was born for beer. I asked him, why? He replied that I look every man in the eye and make him (or her I suppose) feel that he’s the only person in the world that matters. That he knew I had it better than anyone, because he had it too, and it’s what he used to sell Dale’s Pale Ale, the first beer with flavor and soul, all over the nation to folks who had laughed at him for “good beer in a redneck vessel.” From there, he sold me, and made me feel like I was the only woman in the room who mattered. Right there, I agreed to leave a great job at a female-owned biz another former Yale swimmer founded, profit-sharing, and professional athletics to live on a Dale’s Pale Ale RV without $ or a job title with a 31-year-old bike rat whom I’d never met.
So began the best spring and summer of my life. I had no idea how definitive my time with Dirty Wayne, Dale (dishwasher), Dale’s family (including his hot son, NEARLY 18 now), Chad (the bike rat), Dave (head brewer/lunatic), Marty (now at Ninkasi!) and Jeremy (still in my phone from one hot drunk night as “Jerem Cans Beer”) would be in the formative years in my career and path to Golden Road. The Oskar Blues boys, just months after graduating top of the class at Yale, taught me there’s not an education or dollar amount in the world that can prepare you for running a business like experience (sink or swim!), drive, bravery, and most importantly, soul.
Though probably the first time I’ve admitted it, I worked/sweated for Dale for 3 months before he officially “hired” me. Chad and I spun off with the Dale’s Pale Ale RV with Jeremy behind us a few weeks later, meeting us with a refrigerated truck of cans in a new state we didn’t distribute in, without a real plan or knowledge of the beer business, other than a crash-course training in the brewery on how beer was made and PACKAGED in cans. Everything in that company is about a love of aluminum and passion for the packaging. Without that passion, or soul, Oskar Blues wouldn’t be Oskar Blues, and potentially none of those delicious beers, now both national and small brands like Sierra Nevada Pale, Fat Tire, and Golden Road would be in these glorious devices. We learned about oxidation of bottles, light strike, and most notable for us, PORTABILITY and taking beer with you in our athletic, outdoor lifestyles. Everyone who works for Dale is an athlete, like it or not. In fact, he started Bootcamp Training, 3X/week, while I was at the company. Employees are encouraged to exercise together 3 mornings per week with a trainer. Even as a world class swimmer, these work-outs still make me puke.
Back to me not really being fully hired… that ended with Jeremy meeting me and Chad in Vegas with a truck full of beer for us for a bunch of cycling races we talked our way into “kinda” (not really) sponsoring. We didn’t have a big budget, so we used a little charm, a little good-looks, and A LOT of canned beer, to get us through security on roof-tops in Vegas, through parks, and into bike VIP events for the company. Dale decided it sounded like fun without him, so he drove a boat on the back of a truck to meet us and drag us out to Lake Mead for some lessons in “fun.” The culmination of “doing what you love, loving what you do” ended in a wild pursuit of “fun.” Tied to the back of Dale’s boat with hundreds of pounds of water bags weighing down the right side of the boat (to create a huge wave), I was doing what the boys did (as usual, Tom Boy Meggie). For this boy’s club, what was required was surfing on the back of this wave, surfing up through the boat, grabbing a Dale’s Pale Ale, and finishing the beer while doing tricks on the board. Last thing I remember was tossing the empty can back on the boat, hitting the surf-board through my chin, and waking up in a pool of blood face down in the water. The first person jumping after me was Dale, telling me he was taking me to the hospital. I told him I wanted the scar, that it would make me legitimate enough to sell his beer. He asked me where I wanted to go sell his beer. I said, “California.” He told me to pack my things and get out there as soon as I could. Whether it was out of affection, sympathy, or soul, Dale gave me a chance in a business I can’t imagine living without. Every day I feel fortunate for those who brought me here, and for the road ahead of learning, growing, and building Golden Road. It is my hope that my soul for beer one day affects the Los Angeles community in the way Dale and Oskar Blues has inspired me.
– Meg Gill
Photos courtesy of Meg Gil, and Brett Padelford