For this week’s NightCap we chatted with Christian Blake, the US brand representative for Erdinger Weissbier. For over 130 years, Erdinger’s outstanding quality of wheat beers has been rooted in their passion for Bavarian brewing skills. Erdinger has been brewing exclusively in Erding since 1886 – every single bottle – and they’ve never brewed anything other than the Bavarian specialty “weissbier.”
NightOwl: How did you get your start in the beverage industry?
Christian: My interest in beer started in college (whose doesn’t?) and I got more excited when I turned 21 and could buy beer. I started buying IPAs and moving away from my old standard which was Keystone Light. After I went to that level of beer, it just started that search for me: the adventure of finding new beer and somehow I was able to turn it into a career. I started a waiter gig at a restaurant that had craft beer and that’s where I started to get into the business side of it – talking to customers and selling it. I managed a small liquor store, then I got my first gig at a distributor years ago, worked with them for two and a half years doing sales, and moved to New York City to work with Union Beer Distributors. I was a route rep, and a brand manager, then decided to go out on my own. On the beer side, I work exclusively with Erdinger. I have a consulting company and act as representative for the brewery. I manage their sales, events, and forecasting. It’s a small operation at the moment, but we’re looking to change that.
NightOwl: You recently celebrated Oktoberfest, the celebration of all things German. Tell us about the preparation, what went into it, and all the events you had.
Christian: The brewery is located just outside Munich, in the metro area. We celebrate German beer around Oktoberfest, because we’re not one of the official Oktoberfest breweries. We made a fest beer that is enjoyed during the season, which is a wheat beer, but it’s not a sanctioned festival beer, since you have to be in Munich proper. We go around and promote the idea of drinking and general merriment through German beer. In the states, Oktoberfest is a little misconstrued. People start drinking it in August all the way through the end of October. The actual German celebration is much shorter, and much more focused. Americans like the idea of drinking low ABV beers all day long outside, so we help them do that.
NightOwl: Tell us about the history of Erdinger
Christian: Erdinger is a 130-year-old independent brewery. They only produce wheat beers, and variations of wheat beers (classic Hefeweizen, dark Hefeweizen, filtered Hefeweizen), and the non-alcoholic is also a wheat beer, which is a unique non-alcoholic. It’s still owned by Mr. Brombach who is from Erdinger lineage. We’re one of the larger privately-owned breweries in Germany, and around the world.
NightOwl: You’re in a unique position as a consultant in the industry, do you have any other clients?
Christian: I just started working with a new client based out of Colorado called Strongwater. They do bitters and shrubs, American style shrubs (shrubs are classic colonial-style cocktail mixers made from apple cider vinegar infused with fruit, herbs and honey.) With my set-up, I’m not only able to visit all the good beer bars, but also spend time at all the cocktail bars.
NightOwl: What advice would you have for someone getting into the industry?
Christian: It’s just like any other industry. You have to start at the bottom, take a personal interest in it, and make it your lifestyle. I was engrossed in the industry and did so much research on my own outside of the workday. It’s not a typical workday either. Some days it can be 9-3 or noon to midnight. Depending on what’s going on, you just have to go get the sales. You’re not always on the clock, so you have to own it, and be into the product. You make your own niche in this thing, so you really have to go out and get it.
NightOwl: Do you have a bucket list of beer?
Christian: I think a lot of people at home who are fans of beers have lists, and read lists. They think about cool breweries to go to and trade beers. For me, after being in the industry for so long, it’s become demystified. For me, the best beer is the one I have in front of me.
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