Are you Board with the Same Old Brew?

Walking in the door of Fairhope Roasting Company, I was greeted by Roast Master Hanson Eskridge and Mackenzie Chandler, his marketing expert and logo designer. I wandered around, pumped a cup of coffee into a logo-ed mug, and got caught up with the personal and creative lives of my Southern Bloggers Jubilee friends.

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A graduate of Fairhope High, Hanson went off to “experience” college, and then headed north to pursue his passion to roast coffee. A talkative, animated, and single guy, Hanson worked at Bull Run Roasting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Last summer he was back in Fairhope pitching his investment idea of a roaster, the first on the Eastern Shore, to Will Carlton. It turned into a “good combination” with Hanson as owner/roaster, Carlton the local investor, and Mackenzie, Will’s daughter, handling all the marketing.

Three roasts were available, and I sampled them all. Morning (light), Medium (Fairhope), and dark roast were all delicious, and I found myself going back for the Fairhope, as it seemed to have the viscosity of a stout, a beer style I’ve been enjoying lately.

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Hanson led us to the roaster, which is located in the more industrial wing of the operation. We heard the Probat 1989 roaster whir to life. If Hanson had a nickname for his roaster, he didn’t mention it, so I’ll refer to her as Brassy, as that’s the way she looks, and may be what she’s made of.

“Timing and temperature,” Hanson said are critical in the roasting process. As the gas-fired roaster reaches the correct temperature, it’s filled with Honduran beans. During the roasting, he pulled samples at intervals to show us the darkening of  the bean. During the early part of the roast, the aroma filling the air was not the familiar scent of coffee. It seemed a bit more dank, a little peanut like, actually. Then we heard Brassy. Not a “pop” but a tiny blast. Hanson called it, “First Crack,” and it sounded like damp wood burning in the fireplace. After he spilled the beans from Brassy, the more familiar smell of coffee vapors filled the air. After cooling in Brassy’s spinner, he transferred the beans in a high-tech Rubbermaid bucket to the grinding and packaging area.

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Fairhope Roasting plans on doing cupping sessions soon, according to Hanson, and they already have plans to purchase a sample roaster specifically for these sessions. Cupping sessions are like wine tastings. Hanson will take people through each roast taste by taste, and encourage feedback and discussion. Until then, he plans to post dates and times on social media when he’s roasting so current and future customers can see how the green bean is transformed.

I was surprised to learn that, like a peanut has a red shell, a coffee bean (it’s really a seed) has a chaff. During the roasting of 20 pounds, Hanson said he loses about 15% of the weight in chaff and water. We each got a bag of Fairhope Roasting to go, which was very generous.

Fairhope Roasting Company coffee is delicious, fresh, and available locally or you stop by their location at 361A Commercial Park Drive. If you want to learn more and sip some local roasts, Hanson will be at Mobile Green Drinks at Fairhope Brewing tomorrow from 5-7. The two companies have fused their brews and a Coffee Painted Black India Pale Ale will be available.

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In my mailbox at the library later that day was a manila envelope. At first, I thought it was something from a coworker. Then I noticed it was addressed to me. I still love sending and receiving handwritten mail.

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The couple at the flea market saw me eyeing it.

“It still works,” the woman said, adding that it originally belonged to her mother. Her husband showed me how it collapsed and even included a wedge to make sure the contraption didn’t spring open in transport. Patricia said she had no room for the ironing board now that she and her husband were full-time RVers.

“Thanks for the story behind the board,” I told her before slipping it under my arm and carrying it away like a surfboard. I didn’t think much about the scraps of paper that lingered on the bottom. Until she mailed the label to me!

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The Rid-Jid ironing board, also from Minneapolis sits open in front of my office window.  Yes, I also use it to iron my clothes. I even went out and bought the most manly looking cover I could find. As advertised, the board still does not, “wiggle, wobble, jiggle, joggle, slip or slide.”

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On Saturday morning I brewed Fairhope Roasting’s coffee through my new Hario V60 slow pour coffee kit. When I visited Stumptown Coffee in Portland, my appreciation for the taste of coffee, not the cream, truly evolved. Since then I’ve become a big fan of slow coffee. The slow coffee movement is where you, the drinker, control the ingredients, time, and temperature of the brewing.

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I didn’t roast the coffee. I didn’t make the iron or the board, but there is something satisfying in participating in these rituals with new tools and techniques that harken back to old ways. I brewed a quality, fresh cup of coffee from beans roasted locally. My shirts are ironed on a board made in the 1930s. Whether you use new, bright, and shiny, or antique, dull, and rusty, the way we get things done affects us emotionally and opens us to change. As I pour the coffee, press the wrinkles, or push the ink onto the page, I think about the people who  made the coldest day of the year quite personal, comfortable, and warm.

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Is Parody the Sincerest Form of Flattery?

Our group of bloggers attended the Social Media Conference earlier this week on the Baldwin County campus of the University of South Alabama.

After the conference, the Southern Bloggers Jubilee party sat outside for lunch at Panini Pete’s. Karyn got an email from Cal Tech’s swim coach about her son attending college on the west coast.

“Do you know who else went there?” I asked from across two tables.

“No,” she said, shaking her head, “Who?”

“Weird Al Yankovic.”

A couple days later, I emailed Karyn. It turns out Cal State, not Cal Poly had emailed about her son. Can you guess what song’s stuck in my head?

Dare to be Stupid. It’s so easy now.

Chuck Klosterman said. “Nothing is ever in and of itself.” We are constantly looking for connections. That’s why I’ve decided that everything that happened during and after the conference can be summed up with two words. Weird Al.

AL

Angela Rand

I’ve been to lots of sessions led by Angela, the University of South Alabama’s Baldwin County Librarian. She does a great job of presenting and hosting. In fact, she’s Like a Surgeon. Using her scalpel, forceps, and retractors she brought a surgical team of librarians and a marketing company founder to the OR.

Dr. John Burgess

In “Classical Rhetoric for the Digital Age,” Burgess defined rhetoric and talked about Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. Obviously that triangle is the last one I think about when I post a photo of my grinning, glasses faced self in a cardboard cutout of Drew Daywalt’s book The Days the Crayon Quit. I was inspired by Weird Al, who has his own picture books, When I Grow Up, and My New Teacher and Me. (Also relevant for woman in the audience writing children’s books.) As a rhetorician, John said I should think about whether Facebook, blog, and Instagram posts project a persuasive message. Being a skeptical librarian, I probably don’t need to worry too much, since I only have 5 followers on Instagram and only 12 people like my Facebook post.

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Gump came to mind too, and not because it rhymes with stump, and leaves me a leg up on no legs, Lt. Dan. Burgess is an instructor at Alabama, and Winston Groom, the author of Forrest Gump, lives down the road in Point Clear. I remembered another Gump-ism and as it turns out, a circular argument: stupid is as stupid does. My wife Susan is always telling her second graders that you can’t use the word you are defining in the definition. I liked Burgess. He reminded me of a younger Dr. Demento, except Burgess had a red beard any Portlandian hipster would be proud to groom. He was no pirate though, more White and Nerdy, like me. Maybe next year we can bowl with the gangstas.

Beth Shepard

Angela built up such an introduction to Shepard that I was nervous that she wouldn’t deliver. She didn’t disappoint. Shepard had lots of useful information on Instagram and the most interactive audience session of the conference. For her efforts, she gets I Perform This Way because some of us went Gaga for her content and delivery on all things Instagram. Even better, I never imagined or saw photos of Shepard draped in a shawl of raw red meat. She said yoga so many times, I began to sing Y.O.D.A Yoda.Ya ya ya ya ya Yoda. I’m following Yoda on Instagram now. #yoda.

Paula Webb

Anyone who follows Shepard has to be comfortable in her own skin. Paula was, even as she was pointing out all the apps for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the game called Solve the Outbreak. Webb’s focus was on government apps, including Smithsonian, which has an app called MEanderthal.

“I’ll have to download that app in the man cave,” I said, which got a good laugh, and reminded me of Bedrock Anthem. Yabba dabba dabba doo now. That’s Flintstone for post something will ya! Preferably, with your phone in one hand and your baby elephant vacuum cleaner in the other.

There’s even an app for Fat. When I walk out to get the mail (U.S. Postal Service), it measures on the Richter scale (FEMA). Down at the beach (Healthy Swimming), I’m a lucky man; I’m the only one who gets a tan (UV Index).

Melissa Hoffman

I loved how Hoffman described social media marketing as the “Million-legged Beast.” Where does that leave me? As the one-legged guy in an ass kicking contest, that’s where. Hoffman’s the marketing director of SixDegrees (not from Kevin Bacon), but has a few peeves about email. The fact that she doesn’t read spam, leads me to believe that for Hoffman, It’s all about the Pentiums, and it’s important to stay current. Your laptop is a month old, Well, that’s great, if you could use it as a, paperweight.

Our time is valuable, so Hoffman had some sage advice for us: Stop Forwarding that Crap to Me. If you do send or forward mail, companies with IT hackers, code crackers are blocking all your Mail Chimp and PicMonkey business.

Audience

Glasses, Guy, Glasses Guy, or Marcus was the social media guru turned heckler, and chamber of commerce blasphemer. However, Mr. Bluefish had lots of relevant comments and suggestions, just like CNR, (Charles Nelson Riley). Most important for the guys in attendance was his information about the men’s version of Instagram’s @whatsinmybag. @everydaycarry is what are you carrying for dudes. Glasses Guy reached into his pocket and pulled out a Lego Stars Wars character keychain. I think it was a stormtrooper, so let me just say, The Saga Continues.

Lunch

During the Southern Bloggers Jubilee feed session, AKA Eat It, we rehashed the conference. None of our bloggers were living in an Amish Paradise, acting technologically impaired.

We all got the message at the conference that if you “do” social media, you should never be Inactive.

My bloggers would never do anything Tacky, like live-tweet a funeral, take selfies with the deceased.

And we always own up to and immediately correct our Word Crimes. Most Bloggers could care less, which means we do care.

In fact, we love social media so much we’ve got the chutzpah, nay the Gump-tion to have our own social media and blogging conference. It’s still early on, and I’m optimistic that we have a better shot of holding a conference than Weird Al headlining halftime at Super Bowl XLIX. I definitely don’t want to be his Foil.